Glenn Miller’s family moved from Iowa to Fort Morgan, Colorado in 1918, when he was 14. He played trombone in the high school band and missed his own 1921 graduation to try out for a band gig in Laramie, Wyoming. He landed a job in Denver with Boyd Senter’s band before enrolling at the University Of Colorado in 1923, where he spent more time playing in fellow student Holly Moyer’s band than attending class. He dropped out to join Ben Pollock’s band. After years of toil, Miller finally hit the big time with the songs “In the Mood,” “String of Pearls,” Pennsylvania 6-5000” and his theme-song “Moonlight Serenade.” In 1940 alone, the Glenn Miller Orchestra recorded 45 songs that made it into the top-seller charts. He was awarded the first-ever gold record in 1942 for selling more than one million copies of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” Though not a hit, a song titled “Boulder Buff” reflected his CU roots. When the U.S. entered World War II, Miller led a popular military band that went to England in 1944 to entertain the troops. On Dec. 15, Miller boarded a plane at Bedford and was never seen or heard from again. The Glenn Miller Ballroom at CU was named for him in 1953. Some scenes from the movie The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart were shot at CU at the urging of his widow.
Often referred to as the “King of Jazz,” Paul Whiteman was the biggest name in show business by the end of the 1920s and led the best-paying big band of the era. He was born in Denver in 1890 and learned music from his father Wilberforce, who was superintendent of musical education in the Denver public school system. Whiteman learned viola and played in 1916 with the Denver Symphony Orchestra as first chair. He led his first band in 1918 and helped usher in the “jazz age” with his engagement at the Palais Royal in New York. In 1924 he staged a concert at the Aeolian Hall where George Gershwin debuted his composition “Rhapsody in Blue,” which became Whiteman’s theme song. “Three O’Clock In The Morning” is reported to have sold nearly three million copies. Whiteman appeared with his band on radio and in movies. He passed away in 1967.
Max Morath was born Oct. 1, 1926 in Colorado Springs. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Colorado College. His mother taught him ragtime piano, the music of bygone heroes Eubie Blake and Scott Joplin. Morath entertained at the Gold Bar Room in Cripple Creek, and the early days of educational TV featured his popular 1960s TV show The Ragtime Era and later Turn of the Century. Dressed as a “dapper dan” with bowler hat and a garter on his sleeve, Morath performed songs of the Gay Nineties while talking about the social history of that time. He had an off-Broadway hit with Turn of the Century in 1969, followed by two other productions, Living a Ragtime Life and The Ragtime Years. He recorded many popular albums and continued into the 2000s with the one-man show Max Morath the Ragtime Man.