With the exception of the Mills Brothers, the best-known vocal harmony group to appear on the Panoram screen was the Modernaires. Their association with Glenn Miller’s big band brought them fame and recognition, enough to allow for touring, recording, film and television appearances for many years.
The Modernaires were popular long before their association with Glenn Miller. The group started in 1934 as a high school trio, and one member, Hal Dickerson, was with the Modernaires for decades. The trio sang in Buffalo under a variety of names and was heard on local radio. A CBS executive brought them to New York and signed them to a 26-week contract.
While in New York the combo performed with the big bands of Ted Fio Rito and Ozzie Nelson. Adding a fourth voice, Ralph Brewster, they toured with Fred Waring, now billed as the “Modern-Aires.” While they performed and recorded with Charlie Barnet and Jack Teagarden, and then spent close to a year with Paul Whiteman, it was when they joined Glenn Miller in 1940 that they found fame in the music world. The Modernaires were heard on radio, record, stage and film with Miller, and their vocals were essential to the success of such recordings as “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “I Know Why,’ “Serenade in Blue,” “Perfidia” and many others.
After Miller’s death in 1942, the quartet added Paula Kelly as a permanent female voice. The female vocalist in this Soundie, however, is not Paula Kelly, but rather Harriet Clark, a big band singer who fit in well with the group and was with it for a short time in 1944.
“Juke Box Saturday Night” had been a big hit for Miller and the Modernaires. The version here is complete with the imitation of the Ink Spots – Ralph Brewster sings the solo part – and the Harry James big band. Jack Shaindlin probably led the off-screen orchestra, with an unknown studio musician tries his best to sound like Harry.