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Gordon Beneke
Tex Beneke
May 30, 2000
Age 86 
Respiratory arrest 
 
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            Sax player, singer, bandleader ``Tex'' Beneke dies 
           
     LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - Singer, saxophonist and bandleader Gordon ``Tex'' Beneke, who 
     made hits of such songs as ''Chattanooga Choo Choo,'' and ``I Got A Gal in Kalamazoo'' for 
     the Glenn Miller Orchestra, died Tuesday at a convalescent home in nearby Orange County, 
     associates said. 

     He was 86 years old. 

     Beneke died at the Assured Horizons home in Costa Mesa where he had been for about a 
     month. ``It was an expected death,'' the home's owner, Sheryl Thompson, said. 

     Born in Fort Worth, Tex., on Feb. 12, 1914, Beneke shot to fame with the Glenn Miller 
     Orchestra during ``the Swing Era'' of the 1930s and early 1940s. As a featured vocalist and 
     saxophonist, he turned ``Chattanooga Choo Choo'' into the first certified gold record and also 
     made a hit of ``Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me).'' He had 
     saxophone solos on such songs as ``In the Mood'' and ``Moonlight Serenade.'' 

     Shortly after World War II started, Miller dissolved his band and joined the Army Air 
     Corps where he led the Army Air  Force Band. Miller's plane disappeared over the 
     English Channel during a flight to Paris in December 1944. 

     Beneke worked in Miller's Army band and led a band to continue his mentor's 
     name and style. Beneke also formed his own band in 1950 which made its last  
     appearance in November in Cleveland. 

     Miller gave Beneke the nickname ``Texas'' when he first saw him and the two haggled over 
     how much he would be paid a week. Miller wanted to pay him $50 while Beneke held out for 
     and won $52.50. Miller said, ``I'll give it to you, but you are going to have to prove you are 
     worth the extra $2.50.'' 

     Reuters/Variety 

    
            Bandleader Tex Beneke Dies at 86
                     By CHELSEA J. CARTER, Associated Press Writer  

                     SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Gordon ``Tex'' Beneke, a singer and sax player who took over the 
                     Glenn Miller Orchestra after the band leader's death during World War II, died Tuesday of 
                     respiratory arrest. He was 86. 

                     Beneke, who joined the orchestra in 1938, died at the Assured Horizons rest home in nearby Costa 
                     Mesa, said the facility's owner, Sheryl Thompson. 

     His sunny Southern voice helped make hits of Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo,'' ''(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo'' and ``Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree.''
     When Miller broke up the band in 1942 to join the military, Beneke played with other bands before joining the Navy during World War II. Although he played in the Navy Band, he never played in Miller's Air Force orchestra.
     Miller was killed in December 1944 when his plane disappeared during a flight from England to France.
                         In 1946, Miller's widow asked Beneke to take the Glenn Miller Orchestra back out on the road. 
                         Under Beneke's direction, the band again flourished. 

                         ``With Miller a fallen hero,'' big band author Leo Walker once wrote, "demand for the Miller 
                         sound was bigger than ever, and the band played to capacity audiences everywhere.'' 

      Postwar audiences went wild for the reconstituted group, which scored a string of Top 10 
     records. However, the band's manager and producer insisted Beneke keep the sounds as faithful to Miller's 
     pre-war work as possible, with no experiments. The frustrated Beneke broke with Miller's estate and formed 
     his own band.   
     A year later, he billed the performance as ``Tex Beneke and His Orchestra: Playing the Music Made 
     Famous by Glenn Miller.''   He released his own album - ``Shooting Star'' - in 1948 on the Magic Records label. 

     He still played Miller's hits, but he also laid down fresh sounds and followed his own musical instincts. 

     Born Gordon Beneke in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 12, 1914, he earned the nickname Tex early on. 

     Beneke began his big band career with the Ben Young Orchestra in 1935 and played with it until 1937. 
     In 1938, he joined Glenn Miller as a sideman earning $52.50 a week. 

     Although one of the most popular soloists with the Miller band, Beneke was left out of the 1953 movie 
     "The Glenn Miller Story.'' 

     He appeared in films like "Sun Valley Serenade'' (1941) and "Orchestra Wives'' (1942) that helped 
     propel him to the top of    the polls in Downbeat and Metronome magazines. 

     Beneke worked consistently through the 1960s, appearing on TV's ``Cavalcade of Big Bands.''  
     In the 1970s and 1980s,  Beneke continued to play his own music in a style closely resembling 
     the Miller orchestra. 

 
NY TIMES
        
           Tex Beneke, 86, a Leader of Glenn Miller's Band
                By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS  

                SANTA ANA, Calif., May 30 -- Tex Beneke, a singer and 
                saxophone player who took over the Glenn Miller Orchestra after 
                Miller's death in World War II, died today at a nursing home in 
                Costa Mesa, Calif. He was 86.  

                Mr. Beneke joined the Miller orchestra in 1938, and his sunny Southern 
                voice helped make hits of Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "I Got a Girl 
                in Kalamazoo" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."  

                When Miller broke up the band in 1942 to join the military, Mr. Beneke 
                played with other bands before joining the Navy in World War II. Although 
                he played in the Navy Band, he never played in Miller's Air Force 
                orchestra.  

                Miller was killed in December 1944 after his plane disappeared on a flight 
                from England to France.  

                In 1946, his widow asked Mr. Beneke to take the Glenn Miller Orchestra 
                back on the road. Under Mr. Beneke's direction, the band flourished.  

                Postwar audiences went wild for the reconstituted group, which scored a 
                string of Top 10 records.  

                But the band's manager and producer insisted that Mr. Beneke keep the 
                sounds as faithful to Miller's pre-war work as possible, with no 
                experiments. The frustrated band leader broke with Miller's estate and 
                formed his own band.  

                A year later, Mr. Beneke billed the performance as Tex Beneke and His 
                Orchestra: Playing the Music Made Famous by Glenn Miller. He released 
                his own album, "Shooting Star," in 1948 on the Magic Records label.  

                He still played the great hits of Glenn Miller, but he also laid down fresh 
                sounds and followed his own musical instincts.  

                Born Gordon Beneke in Fort Worth on Feb. 12, 1914, he earned the 
                nickname Tex early on. Later, fellow band members also called him Tex.  

                Mr. Beneke began his big-band career with the Ben Young Orchestra in 
                1935 and played with it until 1937. In 1938, he joined Miller as a sideman, 
                earning $52.50 a week.  

                He appeared in films like "Sun Valley Serenade" (1941) and "Orchestra 
                Wives" (1942) that helped propel him to the top of the polls in Downbeat 
                and Metronome magazines.  

                Mr. Beneke worked consistently through the 1960's, appearing on 
                "Cavalcade of Big Bands" on television. Through the 1970's and 1980's, he 
                continued to play his own music in a style closely resembling the Miller 
                orchestra. 

 
 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
 Born: Gordon Beneke in Fort Worth, TX  on Feb. 12, 1914
 The name Tex Beneke is inevitably linked to that of Glenn Miller, despite the fact that Beneke has 
 outlived Miller by 54 years. As the most popular member of Miller's pre-World War II orchestra, 
 featured on songs such as "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree," Beneke 
 became a major fixture in the popular culture of the period, and following Miller's death in December 
 of 1944, and the reforming of the Glenn Miller Orchestra after World War II, he accepted the offer to 
 lead the new band.  

 Beneke, however, had a lot to offer the music world beyond his vocals on some fondly remembered hit 
 songs. He began playing the saxophone at age nine, first with the alto and then with the tenor, and 
 played in local and regional bands in Oklahoma and Texas during the early and middle 1930's. A gig 
 playing with a band led by Ben Young brought him to Detroit, where he was spotted by Sam Donahue, 
 then a saxman in Gene Krupa's band--Krupa was unable to hire Beneke but informed a friend of his in 
 New York of this promising new player. The friend was Glenn Miller, who'd recently begun forming a 
 band of his own, and Beneke was hired, joining the orchestra in the spring of 1938--it was with Miller's 
 band that Beneke picked up the nickname "Tex."  

 The Miller orchestra struggled until the summer of 1939, when an engagement at the Glen Island 
 Casino and a series of radio broadcasts made it a national sensation. Beneke played and sang with the 
 orchestra, and became a star in his own right. He stayed until 1942, when Miller broke up the band to 
 join the U.S. Army Air Force as a band leader. Beneke was drafted into the navy and led a military 
 dance outfit at a base in Oklahoma.  

 After the end of the war, when a new Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed, Beneke took on the 
 leadership, debuting in January of 1946 at the Capitol Theater in New York City. The orchestra, 
 formed under the auspices of Miller's widow and his estate, was intended to emulate the sounds of the 
 pre-war Miller band and his Army Air Force band--this included the presence of 13 string players in 
 the 31 piece outfit, making it, along with Harry James's orchestra, one of the few big bands to include 
 strings.  

 They were an immediate success, compiling an enviable array of hits for five years. One gig, in 
 particular, stood out--in December of 1947, a year after the near-collapse of the big-band business, at 
 the Hollywood Palladium, Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Orchestra played to a record-breaking 
 crowd of 6, 750 dancers. Despite this extraordinary popularity, however, Beneke wasn't entirely happy 
 with the restrictions placed by the estate on the band's music--they were required to stick entirely to 
 the familiar reed-centered sound that Glenn Miller had practically trademarked. Although a reed player 
 himself, Beneke saw other possibilities, but was never allowed to experiment, despite his protests that 
 Miller himself had always been open to the idea of experimentation, and had expressed his intention to 
 move away from his familiar reed sound after the war, having gone as far with it as he felt he could.  

 Finally, at the end of 1950, Beneke left the band and parted company also with Miller's estate. He later 
 organized his own band which, like similar reconstituted big-bands led by '40s music icons such as 
 Harry James, managed to thrive amid the rock 'n roll, folk-rock, psychedelia, disco, and punk eras, right 
 to the present day. More than 60 years after he became a professional musician, he still leads a 
 big-band doing the music that he helped popularized two generations ago. And he still plays the sax and 
 sings. -- Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

 
 
  
 
 

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