Glenn Miller
Big Band Era Musician


Alton Glenn Miller was born March 1, 1904 in Clarinda, Iowa to L.E. and Mattie Lou Miller. By the Spring of 1906, the family had moved to North Platte. They made their home in North Platte for about a year. At that time, land was available for homesteading under the Kinkaid Act, so L.E. took the family to McPherson County, (just north of Lincoln County) and homesteaded two half-sections of land southwest of Tryon. The family lived in a sod house at the farm near Tryon. In 1912, the Millers left the soddie and returned to North Platte, where Mr. Miller had built a new house.

The Miller boys attended Washington Elementary (often referred to at that time as the 'West End' school). In 1916, the family moved on, this time to Grant City, Missouri, where he went to grade school, worked for the town bandsman John Mosbarger, was given his first trombone and then played in the town band. In 1918, Glenn's family, including an infant daughter, Irene, moved to Ft. Morgan, Colorado where Glenn graduated from high school. During his senior year, Glenn decided to try the game of football, and by the end of the season, he was chosen by the Colorado High School Sports Association as "the best left end in Colorado."

In 1928, after working in Los Angeles and Chicago, Glenn moved on to New York City where he worked with bands of Ben Pollack, Red Nichols and Paul Ash. In 1932, Glenn organized the Smith Ballew Band, and worked two years as manager, arranger and trombonist. In 1934, he helped the Dorsey brothers to organize their first full-time Big Band and in 1935, he organized Ray Noble's American band.

In 1937, Glenn decided to fulfill his dream and organize his own band. This first band soon ran into financial difficulties and had to disband, but Glenn tried again in 1938.

In 1942, at the peak of his civilian career, Glenn decided to serve those in uniform. Too old to be drafted at age 38, Glenn first volunteered for the Navy but was told that they didn't need his services. He then pursuaded the Army to accept him, and he soon became part of the Army Specialists Corps with the rank of captain. For the next year and a half, besides arranging music, Glenn created and directed his own 50-member band. In 1944, the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band went to England, where they became known as the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. In the first month they played at 35 different bases, while performing 40 radio broadcasts in their spare time.

Glenn Miller disappeared on December 15, 1944. His plane disappeared on a flight over the English Channel, and no trace was ever found.

Glenn Miller, the greatest of the Big Band era musicians is remembered in North Platte with a bronze memorial plaque located at Washington Elementary School. On June 25, 1999, the Nebraska State Highway Commission unanimously agreed to name Nebraska Highway 97 between North Platte and Tryon as Glenn Miller Memorial Highway.

An exhibit has been displayed in the Lincoln County Historical Museum with material about the Miller's years in the North Platte area, courtesy of the Glenn Miller Archives at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Source:
Jim Connor, North Platte, Nebraska
The Glenn Miller Birthplace Society, Clarinda, Iowa

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This page last modified: Friday, October 22, 1999