Tex Beneke Tributes to botto
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|Tributes to Tex from Around the World|
age for me
From Alan Glasscock
When I was around the age of 10, I began what eventually became a life-long involvement in big band music. I recall the first Glenn Miller record I ever heard, "In the Mood." It somewhat annoyed me at first, but then began to grow on me. Soon I was collecting anything and everything Glenn Miller. By the time I was a teenager, I had a large collection of records and memorabilia, and wanted to play music-in particular-Big Band music professionally. I had played piano already for some years, and hoped one day to lead my own big band.
As I pursued that dream, I created many friendships with local Dallas, TX musicians. One of my friends, a bandleader for some 40 years at that time, was a close personal friend of one Tex Beneke. My friend Harvey had grown up in a musical family, and his father was also a bandleader. His father had a young kid named Gordon Beneke who played with his band. When Harvey formed his own band, he continued his friendship with Gordon (Tex), and when Gordon left town for the "big time," he became known as "Tex," as per Glenn Miller's fond nickname for him.
After Tex had achieved fame with the Miller band, he continued touring and when he would arrive in a given city, he would contact a band contractor who would actually put together a band for him, composed mostly of local musicians. By then (the 1960s) it was not economically feasible for a band of 15 or more players to travel as an "intact" unit. At times Tex would bring along a few key people, like a drummer, lead saxophonist or vocalist, with the other chairs filled in by the local union roster members. This was, and still is, a very common practice.
Here is where I come in: One day, Harvey asked if I would like to meet Tex Beneke. Of course, at age 18, I was beside myself! Here was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet one of the living legends of the big band era. I was finally going to meet the same person who made over 200 records with the Glenn Miller Orchestra I loved so very well. The same person who made the tune "Chattanooga Choo Choo" world-famous. I quickly accepted the invitation, and was told to call up Tex at a local hotel.
I found Tex to be one of the most gracious and pleasant people I have ever known. I visited with him for around an hour and a half, during which time I was able to ask him many questions about the Miller band. Mostly musical theory questions, as I was also interested in arranging. He told me many of the rehearsal techniques Glenn used and made many comments about the individual tunes. He recalled that the band hated "Chattanooga Choo Choo," calling it a silly, going nowhere tune. The band never realized what a hit that tune would make, least of all Tex himself! He said that he was, in retrospect, glad they recorded it, as it had became somewhat of a signature tune for him.
I also asked Tex why he was never mentioned in the motion picture, The Glenn Miller Story, and he explained that when the Miller Estate broke ties with him in the late-40s, they apparently held a grudge and was, for all purposes, blacklisted from any promotions (even to this day) relating to Glenn Miller.
Tex also asked if I would like to see his saxophone. He pulled out a very beautiful horn, telling me that this Martin-brand sax is the very same one he played in Miller's band, adding that it had had much repair work over the years. I couldn't believe my eyes--the same horn that blended so well within the Miller saxophone section, and the same one that played so many classic solos over the years.
A couple of years after our first meeting, Tex married a lady named Sandra, who was a waitress in a coffee shop he frequented in the Los Angeles area. Tex had been widowed for a number of years, and was very lonely. Sandra later traveled with him across the USA, and helped manage his library.
As I became older, I realized my dream of leading a big band, which I have done for some 20 years now. And I also became a well-known arranger. My abilities also spread to Tex's ears on the California coast, and he hired me to recreate a few of the old Miller tunes for his own library. He explained that after the WW2, the demand for the old Miller tunes did not occur until The Glenn Miller Story was released in the early-50s. By then, he had no original Miller tunes in his library, and had to hire arrangers to transcribe them off the old records so he could handle the audience's requests. The cheque he paid me with is framed and hanging on my wall to this day.
I last saw Tex in the summer of 1998. He arrived in Dallas for a big band festival. I had not seen Tex for over 10 years at that point, and I was, quite honestly, shocked at his physical appearance. I had heard that under his doctor's advice he had given up playing his sax, but I had no idea how ill he must have been. When he appeared on stage, he was given a very rousing standing ovation--the only standing ovation given to any performer that evening! I felt so glad that some 50 years later, Tex was still appreciated for his place in swing history. He sang the obligatory "Chattanooga," plus "Ida," "Kalamazoo," and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree." I didn't know it, but that would be the last time I would ever see Tex. I had the presence of mind to take a few photos that night, which I look upon as one of my most cherished possessions.
Three days ago I heard the news that Tex had died. How fortunate I am for having known one of the greats of the music world. And what honor I feel in having him value my talents enough to hire me as an arranger--especially when he has had his pick of the litter in Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan, Norman Leydon and Henry Mancini!
I type this as I listen to the Chesterfield broadcast version of "Solitude." What poetic irony this makes me feel.
***In about 1982, I played piano on a gig backing up Tex in Dallas. After the gig, Tex and my friend, Harvey, were talking about Harvey's new alto saxophone. Tex wanted to try it out, and asked that I back him up on piano, playing an ad lib "blues." What an experience--perhaps I was the only person to hear Tex play an alto saxophone since 1941, when Tex subbed in the lead alto chair with Miller (upon Hal McIntyre's departure)!
***(During my last visit with Tex in the summer of 1998, at the Dallas Big Band Festival,) I told Tex that if he needed any more musical arrangements, I would be happy to write some more for him. He looked at me rather sadly and said, "Alan, I'm not adding anything else to the book. I won't be around much longer...: How sad to hear those words. How sad to think that he would not be making music too much longer, and he already had a premonition of things to come.
Keep swingin'! Alan Glasscock <Gbigbandswing@aol.com>
Dear Peter, Thanks for sending
me the sad news. I always felt that Tex was the closest link we had
to GM these past few decades. And now he's gone. As I told a friend,
I can just hear Glenn Miller up there now .... "Hello there Texas,
whatchu say?" Sincerely, Joanne
Please e.mail me with your comments.