Any discs with BBC labels on them that you would have seen at the Library
of Congress Sound Lab in the 1970s were definitely not the OWI "Music From
The OWI operated ABSIE (The American Broadcasting Station in Europe) in
London which was their European Service Headquarters. During October 1944
and November 1944, Major Glenn Miller and the American Band of the AEF (as
it was rebranded following transfer to the ETO) recorded at least eight
programs for ABSIE in the German language for broadcast over ABSIE. The
programs were used for the ABSIE "Wehrmacht Hour" broadcast and targeted
to German service personnel. They were recorded at Abbey Road Studios
using EMI discs and were later fully cataloged in the EMI vaults. We have
copies of the original paperwork and session sheets for the EMI discs that
were made. Most of six programs exist from copies made of the EMI discs
and circulated as early as the early 1950s in the United Kingdom. Alan
Mandell (Alan Dell) had obtained one of the (unauthorized) copies and thus
the also misleadingly titled "Lost Recordings" issue that was put out
first by Conifer and later acquired by BMG. Again, these issues came from
Mandell's copy of the original discs. At the time of the ABSIE
recordings, first-generation disc copies of the 10" EMI masters were flown
to the United States for broadcast over the leased OWI transmitters.
Those copies were broadcast by the OWI from over here. Sort of a reverse
lend-lease. These copies remain today in the United States and are
superior to what Mandell, et. al. obtained and were later released. We
have the detailed broadcast dates and times in our files. Again, these
are EMI-produced discs. The orchestra performs as normal with Miller
reading from a German-language script and being led by a native German
speaking OWI female announcer. Ballads are performed by Sgt. Johnny
Desmond in the German language.
Please do not confuse these recordings with the OWI "Music from America"
discs which were produced and duplicated by NBC, New York, not the BBC.
ABSIE also recorded Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Marlene Dietrich, Morton
Downey, Fred Astaire, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, M1C Sam Donahue
and the US Navy Dance Band, the Washington, DC AAF Band conducted by Capt.
George Howard and others for the "Wehrmacht Hour" while they were on tours
in the ETO. Dietrich had zero problems of course with the German language
introductions. This appears to have been the source for German service
personnel calling Bing "Der Bingle". There is no known evidence of what
they thought of Spike Jones and his City Slickers or if they performed
"Der Fuehrer's Face", which most likely they certainly did not.
Any discs including Major Miller and his ABAEF before or following his
disappearance with a BBC label on them are performances recorded for
broadcast by the SHAEF "Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme" (AEFP),
which was technically operated for SHAEF as the BBC Violet Network by
mostly BBC engineers and originally using one of the BBC Start Point
transmitters. Major Miller insisted on being able to record broadcasts so
that he and his men could travel around and perform concerts for air base
and other allied personnel. To this point, BBC were against recorded
broadcasts and favored live performances only. Later, when Miller's
orchestra was being transferred to the then-under construction AEFP
"Forward" studios in Paris, he was able to lean on EMI for discs to fill a
six-week schedule of broadcasts by the full orchestra and its sub-units to
fill the gap if transmission lines were not available from France to
BBC-London for their regular broadcasts. Staffing AEFP was the reason
that gen. Dwight Eisenhower requested the Miller AAFTC Orchestra from Gen.
H. H. Arnold and the Army Air Forces. The AAF "loaned" the Miller unit
to SHAEF and never gave up formal custody of it.
Please do not confuse AEFP/BBC discs with the OWI "Music from America"
series and discs, either.
AEFP recordings were passed to AFN-London for broadcast over AFN as well.
AFRS discs flown to the UK and used by AFN were passed to AEFP for
broadcast as well. The program content of AEFP was supposed to be
representative of the percentage of American, British and Canadian forces
within SHAEF's command. AFN relied upon AFRS for programming but
pre-dated AFRS and operated as a semi-autonomous organization to the end
of the war in Europe and beyond. Most of the AEFP programming ended up
being American and included AFRS transcription discs of the AFRS original
productions and off-network programs. AEFP produced their own programs,
including the utilization of three "house" bands, the American Band of the
AEF (Miller), The British Band of the AEF (RSM George Melachrino) and the
Canadian Band of the AEF (Capt. Bob Farnon). AEFP hosts and announcers
were American, British and Canadian, including mainly female British
announcers during breaks and for introductions. We have an AEFP audience
research study from January 1945 which shows that the American forces
wanted only American programs but the British and Canadian forces wanted
their own programs and American programs. The British civilian audience,
who could received AEFP in and around southeast England and London,
particularly younger people, favored AEFP over the BBC which certainly had
an affect on the BBC. The AEFP signal was readily available whereas AFN
was restricted to 250 watt transmitters around bases and not generally
heard by the British public.
As far as union agreements, once program discs got into the field content
did indeed overlap. As I also mentioned, OWI circulated many programs
during 1942 and 1943 for the fledgling SSD (Special Services Division) and
the AFRS (as rebranded in November 1943). SSD and then AFRS chief Lt. Co.
Thomas H. A. Lewis knew from the get-go in May 1942 that he could not rely
on shortwave transmissions and developed the now famous 16 inch
transcription disc program of original AFRS content and off-network
programs which were distributed worldwide from Los Angeles. However,
until mid-1944 at minimum, programs such as "Uncle Sam Presents" were
recorded at NBC, aired by OWI but broadcast to allied service personnel.
These discs were passed from OWI to SSD/AFRS where the latter had
facilities, such as those commanded by Maj. Andre Baruch in North Africa.
There was indeed sharing that occurred in the field and no one ever
complained so far as extant documentation demonstrates.
As you very correctly point out, the OWI Foreign Division indeed had a
distinct and separate mission from the United States Armed Forces radio
mission, in short, foreign audiences as opposed to allied, mainly
American, military personnel. Carrying the message of the United States
as "the Voice of America" was certainly different from bringing service
personnel a touch of home to each and every air base, ship or forward
ground unit and everyone in between. AFRS Los Angeles did not receive
copies of the designated OWI recordings made by NBC. However, overseas
stations run by AFRS and AFN personnel definitely did have them passed to
them. The music-only discs were not inappropriate to the military mission
and in some cases were used for expediency until the AFRS Basic Music
Libraries became widely circulated. Stations all over the planet certainly
had to improvise!
When Major Miller disappeared December 15, 1944, the pre-recorded ABSIE
German language programs along with pre-recorded AEFP ABAEF programs were
on the air with Miller's voice included. This presented a touchy
situation for SHAEF and the BBC as the Eighth Air Force went about trying
to ascertain what happened to the VIII AF Service Command aircraft that
Miller was aboard. Upon the public announcement that Miller was missing,
AEFP edited out his voice as best they could substituting Sgt. Keith
Jameson (formerly of WMAL, Washington). Due to the nature of the
programs, ABSIE was not able to fit out Miller's terse and stumbling
German language voice overs and did not air programs 7 and 8. They
substituted other pre-recorded items featuring different artists.
Therefore, in addition to the series that I detailed in my previous
message, please add the following:
ABSIE (OWI) "WEHRMACHT HOUR" RECORDING SESSIONS
Programs 1-6 (7-8 withheld)
EMI ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS
AEFP (BBC VIOLET) - VARIOUS PROGRAM RECORDINGS FOR BROADCAST
"THE AMERICAN BAND OF THE AEF" ("MOONLIGHT SERENADE") (full band led by
Maj. A. G. Miller)
"THE SWING SHIFT" ("AMERICAN DANCE BAND") (no strings led by Sgt. Ray
"UPTOWN HALL" ("SWING SEXTETTE") (small groups led by Sgt. Mel Powell)
"STRINGS WITH WINGS" (strings only led by Sgt. George Ockner)
"SONGS BY SGT. JOHNNY DESMOND ("A SOLDIER AND A SONG") (full band or
strings with vocals)
"PIANO PARADE" (solos by Pvy. Jack Russin)
The ABAEF kept a very busy schedule. Following Miller's disappearance the
ABAEF program was conducted by Sgt. Jerry Gray.
It would be very helpful to learn what original discs you saw at the
Library of Congress Recording Lab in the 1970s.
Dennis M. Spragg
Glenn Miller Archive
University of Colorado Boulder
On 6/12/12 4:16 PM, "Gray, Mike" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>As I recall, the original discs were recorded by the BBC - and I also
>recall seeing the originals in the Library of Congress Recording Lab in
>the 1970s. BTW, I very much doubt that the AFRS would have obtained
>the recordings from OWI - for one thing, the each organization's
>contracts with unions and performers and other parties defined the rights
>and assumed audiences, which did not overlap.