Although he subsequently found himself in dispute with the bandleader’s estate, Tex Beneke played a major role in establishing the trademark Glenn Miller sound as one of the most successful inventions of the big band era. His tenor saxophone solos and amiable vocals featured prominently on many of Miller’s biggest hits, including ‘In The Mood’, ‘String of Pearls’, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, ‘I Got a Girl in Kalamazoo’ and ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’, and he was a key member of the saxophone section in his four years with the band.
He joined in 1938, having been recommended to Miller by drummer Gene Krupa, and remained in the band until the trombonist disbanded the unit when he entered the armed forces in 1942. Beneke was never a member of Miller’s final Army Air Force Band, which was based in England prior to the bandleader’s still mysterious death when his aircraft disappeared over the English Channel while on a flight to France in 1944. Instead, the saxophonist toured in the USA with The Modernaires, the vocal group formerly associated with the Miller band, then led a Navy band in Oklahoma.
Glenn Miller’s widow approached Beneke to lead a reformed version of the posthumous Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1946. The band was an immediate success, touring intensively to wildly enthusiastic audience responses and racking up a sequence of hit records, all in the classic Miller mould. He led the band until 1950, but eventually rebelled against the strict managerial insistence on playing Miller’s music exactly as the trombonist conceived it, and he broke his relationship with the estate to form his own band, touring under the banner “Tex Beneke and His Orchestra Playing the Music Made Famous by Glenn Miller”.