Paul Tanner, trombonist and last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, dies. A non fiction article.
The era of the legendary Glenn Miller Orchestra, known throughout the world for hits such as A String of Pearls, Chatanooga Choo Choo, In the Mood and Little Brown Jug, finally came to an end on the 5 February 2013 with the death, from pneumonia complications, of 95 year-old trombonist, Paul Tanner – the last surviving member of the wartime dance band.
Paul Tanner, born in Skunk Hollow, Kentucky, on the 15 October 1917, had five brothers all of whom were musicians. And it was while playing with his brothers in a basement ‘strip joint’ known as the Swing Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that he was ‘discovered’ by Glenn Miller who offered him a position in his band. He played with the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1938-1942. When the famous band leader joined the American military, Tanner went on to play as a studio session musician in Hollywood.
It is interesting to note that Paul Tanner played himself in the 1954 film, ‘The Glenn Miller Story‘, starring James Stewart. He also appeared in two other films that featured the Glenn Miller Orchestra, ‘Sun Valley Serenade’ in 1941, and ‘Orchestra Wives’ in 1942.
As well as playing with Miller, Paul Tanner also played trombone with the likes of Charlie Spivak, Les Brown, Tex Beneke, Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle and many others.
During his busy life as a touring musician and music professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Paul Tanner somehow found the time to write several books on jazz and an autobiographical account of his time with the Glenn Miller Orchestra entitled, ‘Every Night was New Year’s Eve, on the Road with Glenn Miller’.
In the 1950’s the trombonist teamed-up with inventor Bob Whitsell, resulting in production of the Electro-Theremin, a modified and upgraded version of an earlier instrument.
In the 1960’s – an era that saw many pop groups experimenting with electronics in music – the Electro-Theremin was effectively used in the massive Beach Boys’ hit, ‘Good Vibrations’, where the machine created an unforgettable spacey sound.
The Electro-Theremin also featured in the successful US television series ‘My Favourite Martian’ (1963-66) where it was used to create space-age sound effects, and to build atmosphere and tension in the 1964 film ‘Strait Jacket’ starring Joan Crawford.
In the late 1960’s Paul Tanner, who came to consider the Electro-Theremin little more than a toy, sold the instrument to a hospital for use in hearing tests.
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