KØHWY - May 31, 2000 |
Gordon L. 'Tex' Beneke |
Fort Worth, TX
Gordon Lee Beneke, born February 12, 1914, in Fort Worth, TX, professionally known as "Tex" Beneke was an American saxophonist, singer, and bandleader. His career is a history of associations with bandleader Glenn Miller and former musicians and singers who worked with Miller. He also solos on the recording the Glenn Miller orchestra made of their popular song, "In The Mood" and sings on another popular Glenn Miller recording, "Chattanooga Choo Choo".
Beneke started playing saxophone when he was nine, going from soprano to alto to tenor saxophones and staying with the latter. His first professional work was with bandleader Ben Young in 1935, but it was when he joined Miller three years later that his career hit its stride. Beneke says: "It seems that Gene Krupa had left the Goodman band and was forming his own first band. He was flying all over the country looking for new talent and he stopped at our ballroom one night [to listen to the Ben Young band]. [...] Gene wound up taking two or three of our boys with him back to New York. [Krupa] wanted to take [Beneke] but his sax section was already filled." Krupa knew that Glenn Miller was forming a band and recomended Beneke to Miller.
On August 1, 1939, Tex Beneke soloed on the recording the Glenn Miller band made of the Andy Razaf song, "In The Mood". Beneke appears with the Miller band in the films Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Orchestra Wives (1942), both of which helped propel the singer/saxophonist to the top of the Metronome polls. Tex Beneke is listed in the personnel of the 1941 Metronome All-Star Band led by Benny Goodman. In 1942, Glenn Miller's orchestra won the first Gold Record for "Chattanooga Choo Choo", a song written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. The band first performed this song in the 1941 Twentieth Century Fox movie Sun Valley Serenade." Tex Beneke was the lead singer on this song with Paula Kelly and the Modernaires vocal group. "Chattanooga Choo Choo", catalogue number Bluebird 11230-B, was recorded by the Miller band at the Victor recording studios in Hollywood, California, May 7, 1941.
Beneke continued to perform under his own name with no official connection to Miller. He enjoyed less success in the early 1950s, partly because he was limited to smaller recording labels such as Coral Records and partly because of competition from other Miller alumni and imitators such as Jerry Gray, Ray Anthony and Ralph Flanagan. Singer Eydie Gorme sang with the Beneke band in 1950. Beneke appeared on "Cavalcade of Bands", a television show in 1950 on the DuMont television network.
In the latter part of that decade there was some revived interest in music of the swing era. Beneke joined a number of other leaders such as Larry Clinton and Glen Gray in making new high fidelity recordings of their earlier hits, often featuring many of the original musicians. Beneke and former Miller singers Ray Eberle, Paula Kelly, and The Modernaires first recorded the LP Reunion in Hi-Fi, which contained recreations of original Miller material. This album was followed by others featuring newer songs, some performed in the Miller style and others done in a more contemporary mode. The singer/saxophonist continued working in the coming decades, appearing periodically at Disneyland. He also made the rounds of various talk shows that had musical connections, including those hosted by Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson. His appearances on The Tonight Show sometimes included duos with fellow Miller veteran Al Klink who was by then a key member of the Tonight Show Band. Ray Eberle recovered from his earlier illness and resumed performing with Beneke and the Modernaires for a period in the early 1970s. In 1972, Beneke agreed to re-record some of his Miller vocals for Time-Life Records' set of big band recreations, The Swing Era, produced and conducted by yet another Miller alumnus, Billy May.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Beneke had a new band playing a style that resembled the classic Miller sound but with as much newer material as older. At one point he also toured with former Jimmy Dorsey vocalists Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberly Beneke suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s and was forced to give up the saxophone but continued to conduct and sing. He settled in Costa Mesa, California and remained active toward the end of that decade, mostly touring the U.S. West Coast and still playing in something resembling the Miller style. In 1998 he launched yet another tour paying tribute to the The Army Air Force Band. In 2000 Beneke died from respiratory failure at the age of 86.