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15 October 2014
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Glenn Miller's Trombonisticon for Recommended story

by Glenn Miller Festival 2004

Contributed by 
Glenn Miller Festival 2004
People in story: 
Nat Peck, Glenn Miller
Location of story: 
Twinwoods, Bedford and Paris, France
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 September 2004

Nat Peck played trombone in the Glenn Miller orchestra during 1944 and 1945. When he returned to Twinwoods Airfield for the 2004 Festival, 60 years after he had played there, Nat told his story to Ian Pearce of BBC Three Counties Radio.

Paris, 1944

Glenn had gone ahead a week earlier to Paris to organise the billets, concerts and so on. We only heard he had gone missing when we arrived in Paris seven days later.

I can remember we were waiting on an airfield. It was a freezing cold December day, it was raining, and because the Allied bombers had knocked down most of the installations, we had to stay outside and all bodily functions had to be performed al fresco. It wasn't much fun.

We hadn't had any inkling that anything was wrong. Glenn had on odd occasions in the past disappeared for a few days, but this time that wasn't the case. He just didn't show up. It was a very grim atmosphere, we were very distressed. Not only did we not know what we would do without such a strong personality in front of the band, but it was also the time of the German breakthrough at the Battle of the Bulge, and there was very serious talk of us giving up our trombones and trumpets and taking up rifles to fight the Germans. This was hardly something that interested us as we had had very little basic training, even though we had been recruited as soldiers.

The system was that Glenn knew who was being called up, and he would make contact with them and could make them an offer they couldn't refuse - better being in the Glenn Miller Band than an infantry unit. I was only a kid aged 18, I had no Big Band experience at all, but I wrote him a letter telling him I would be very interested in joining the band.

I didn't think I would have the good fortune to be called, but I did get called and joined the band at Newhaven, and I have to say it was a thrilling experience for me right from the beginning. I was absolutely in awe of working with him. His was one of the biggest bands in the States at the time. It could be quite terrifying. He was a serious musician and he wanted things done properly, and we had to do it or all hell would break loose!

We avoided being sent to fight because we played a few concerts in Paris which were so incredibly successful that the Brass decided we could perform more usefully as musicians that as infantrymen. We were without Glenn, but we had Ray McKinley and Jerry Gray who were both experienced Big Band leaders. It was difficult. Paris was freezing and the venue had no heating. We had to play with our gloves on, but in spite of all this, it was very successful. From Paris, we did a big tour of Germany. After the war we all went home, though I continued to play in the Tex Beneke Band until I was able to return to Europe, which I had come to love.

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