"Moonlight Serenade" is an American popular song composed by Glenn Miller with subsequent lyrics by Mitchell Parish. It was an immediate phenomenon when first released in May 1939 as an instrumental arrangement and was adopted as Miller's signature tune. In 1991, Miller's recording of "Moonlight Serenade" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The song, recorded on April 4, 1939 on RCA Bluebird, was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1939, reaching number three on the Billboard charts, where it stayed for fifteen weeks. It was the number 5 top pop hit of 1939 in the Billboard year-end tally. Glenn Miller had five records in the top 20 songs of 1939 on Billboard′s list.
In the UK, "Moonlight Serenade" was released as the A-side of a 78 on His Master's Voice, with "American Patrol" as the B-side. The recording reached number twelve in the UK in March, 1954, staying on the chart for one week. In a medley with "Little Brown Jug" and "In the Mood", "Moonlight Serenade" reached number thirteen on the UK charts in January, 1976, in a chart run of eight weeks.
The recording was also issued as a V-Disc, No. 39A, in November, 1943.
Between 1939 and 1942, Glenn Miller and his orchestra enjoyed amazing popularity and commercial success. The Glenn Miller Orchestra recorded 17 Top 10 Hits in 1939, 31 in 1940, and 11 each in 1941 and 1942. These songs included classic swing sensations like "In the Mood," "A String of Pearls," "Little Brown Jug" and "Moonlight Serenade." Miller's success led to other lucrative ventures, such as his radio series. Titled "Moonlight Serenade," this series aired on CBS three times a week. Miller and his band also worked on movies, introducing hits like "Chattanooga Choo Choo" in Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and "Kalamazoo" in Orchestra Wives (1942). By the 1940s, Glenn Miller was earning around $20,000 a week.
Glenn Miller's Orchestra attained its popularity because of the band's unique style and sound. Miller himself claimed, "A band ought to have a sound all of its own. It ought to have a personality." Indeed, Miller's orchestra distinguished itself from other big bands in many ways. While jazz music is characterized by its spontaneity and use of improvisation, The Glenn Miller Orchestra played swing music, an offshoot of jazz that favors orchestration rather than improvisation. Many jazz aficionados disapproved of this musical style, disliking the meticulous preparation and structure evident in the Glenn Miller Orchestra's music.
The signature sound of the orchestra set it apart even from other swing bands. By combining the sounds of the clarinet and the saxophone, Miller gave his band a distinctive resonance. In Miller's music, the clarinet and tenor saxophone contribute to the melody while saxophones play a complementary harmonic line. This aspect of the band's sound made the Glenn Miller Orchestra's music recognizable, distinguishing it from that of other groups.