Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Gordon Beneke, 12 February 1914, Fort Worth TX; d 30 May 2000, Costa Mesa CA) Tenor sax, vocalist, bandleader. One of biggest stars of the Glenn Miller band '38-42; his tenor sax was favoured by Miller although Beneke was the first to admit that Al Klink was a better player. He played the 'chase' exchange with Al Klink on 'String Of Pearls', and his playing on Miller's 'Sunrise Serenade' was lovely. His likeable and distinctive Texas voice was featured on Miller hits included 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', 'Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree', 'I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo' etc and in both the band's films. After Miller's death he led the band with the sanction of the estate, then his own band. Post-war hits on RCA included 'Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop' and '(Give Me) Five Minutes More', rhythm tunes which were also big hits by Lionel Hampton and Frank Sinatra respectively; his Texas heritage may have equipped him to cover some R&B in those years when music was changing: one of his later RCA records was 'Lavender Coffin', a tune about the last wishes of a gambler, complete with hand-clapping and a small choir to send him on his way: written by Shirley Albert, it was recorded by Hampton, Joe Thomas (the former vocalist and reedman with Jimmie Lunceford), and a hit in the black chart '49 by Boston saxophonist Paul 'Fat Man' Robinson. Miller's cover was one of the hippest white records of its year, but did not chart.