Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra

The Casa Loma Orchestra were already veterans by the start of the 1940s. The orchestra, which operated as a corporation, was formed in the late 20s and became one of the most prominent early white swing bands. Alto saxophonist Glen Gray had been been the president and musical leader of the band since 1929 but did not formally front the band until 1937.

Many of their best songs have been reissued on a set of excellent CDs by Hep, but their complete output has never been made digitally available (a fate they share with, among others, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Will Bradley, Les Brown and Jan Savitt).

Here I am featuring two lesser known songs from the 40s, when the band's popularity had started to fade. 'Rock Island Flag Stop' has a nice but brief alto saxophone solo by Murray McEachern (who also played the trombone – a quite unusual combination). The band corporation dissolved in 1942, but Glen Gray retained the Casa Loma name when he formed a new orchestra. 'Birmingham Special' is with the new band and is taken from a Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands broadcast in 1943. The same song was also recorded for V-Disc 118.

Discographical data from The Jazz Discography by Tom Lord:

Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra: Cy Baker, Grady Watts, Frank Ryerson (tp) Pee Wee Hunt (tb) Murray McEachern (tb,as) Billy Rauch (tb) Clarence Hutchinrider (cl,as,fl) Kenny Sargent (cl,as) Pat Davis (cl,ts,fl) Glen Gray (as,ldr) Art Ralston (as,oboe,bassoon) Danny D'Andrea (as) Joe Hall (p) Jack Blanchette (g) Stanley Dennis (b) Tony Briglia (d)

New York, April 17, 1940
67561-A      Rock Island Flag Stop      De 3143

Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra: Fritz Austin, Ray Grien, Johnny Owens (tp) Otto Alburn, George Jean, Jack Pageler (tb) Clarence Hutchinrider (cl,as) Glen Gray (as,ldr) Bunny Bardach, Conn Humphries (as) Lon Doty, Gus Jean (ts) Lou Carter (p) Herb Ellis (g) Morrie Rayman (b) Tony Briglia (d)

Broadcast "Spotlight Bands", Columbus, OH, November 19, 1943
                    Birmingham Special  

LP source: Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra – Swing Tonic (Swing Era LP1018)

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