Glenn Miller was one of the biggest names around during the the big band era, and he remained an iconic figure even after his tragic death near the end of World War II. But he was also a good friend to many, as Hal McIntye could have attested. Miller not only encouraged his band-mate to form his own outfit but also helped with the financing, and the Hal McIntye Orchestra became a solid success for a number of years.
Harold William McIntyre was a Connecticut native who grew up pointed toward music, learning to play both clarinet and sax at a level that allowed him to work professionally even as a teenager. In fact, he was still in his late teens when he began leading his own small band in the early 1930s, and within a couple of years had logged enough experience to work his way into a spot with Benny Goodman. Even though it was just temporary it allowed him to catch the attention of Glenn Miller, who was in the process of putting together his own band, one that would become a juggernaut.
As one of the original members of Miller’s group McIntyre was a valuable part of the band’s success during the four years he stayed, but in 1941 he decided to try his luck as the leader of his own outfit. His boss and friend encouraged him, helped with financial support, and paved the way for McIntyre to make his debut leading ‘The Band That America Loves’ at one of Miller’s favorite spots, New York’s prestigious Glen Island Casino.
It was the beginning of over a decade of success for McIntyre, as his band became one of the most popular around. During the war years it appeared in most of the big venues, including major hotel ballrooms and the Hollywood Palladium, and also spent a lot of time entertaining the troops overseas. Along the way the band made a lot of well-received records and continued to do so in the post-war years, but as the 1950s began the big band era was drawing to a close. McIntyre’s group made one more big splash by providing the backing for the Mills Brothers’ huge hit record of “Glow Worm,” but things went downhill after that. Tragically, McIntyre was killed in a home fire in 1959. He was just 44 when he died.
Hal McIntyre Orchestra – “I Get a Kick Out Of You”
A while back we featured singer/songwriter Jimmie Skinner, who was a force in country music during the 1950s and 1960s, not only as a performer but also behind the scenes. Today we’re spotlighting Connie Hall, a lady who got her start as Skinner’s singing partner but went on to a brief but successful career as a solo star.
Being born in rural Kentucky but growing up in Cincinnati meant that Connie Hall (b. Inez Kerr) had a lot in common with Skinner, who’d followed the same route a couple of decades earlier. That might have helped her get a job at his Cincinnati music center while still in her teens, but she didn’t get a chance to get into the performing side of things in those early days. Instead she built her experience up by working in radio and occasionally on local TV, sometimes as a weathergirl. After a few years the now-married singer became a regular on Skinner’s own radio station, and then finally made her record debut in 1957 as part of a singing duo with her mentor.
But even though her recording career began as part of a duet, it was as a soloist that Connie Hall made her mark. Although none of her records hit the top of the charts, she had several solid hits over the next few years. Among her biggest records were “It’s Not Wrong,” “Fool Me Once,” and “Sleep Baby Sleep.” She was also a skilled songwriter, and a popular guest on the Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hayride.
Things inevitably began winding down in the late 1960s, and she eventually retired from performing and moved with her husband to Louisville. If she’s still around she would now be in her eighties.
Connie Hall – “Fool Me Once”
One of the longest-lasting professional — and personal — collaborations in music was the one enjoyed by the jazz duo of Jackie & Roy. It began in the late 1940s, when singer Jackie Cain and singer/pianist Roy Kral first met up and began what would be well over a half-century as a couple, along the way becoming one of the most respected musical acts around.
The twosome hailed from the same part of the country — Cain from Milwaukee and Kral from Chicago — but that probably didn’t have a lot to do with them ending up in Charlie Ventura‘s band in the late 1940s. Cain was still in her teens and relatively inexperienced at the time, while Kral was a few years older but also early in his career. (His younger sister Irene Kral would later have a very successful career of her own, although it ended prematurely when she died at age 46.)
It wasn’t long before the canny Ventura was spotlighting the duo as a featured act, not only on stage but also in the recording studio, where they were front and center on some of the band’s best-selling records. Eventually the now-married pair moved on to other opportunities, including hosting a Chicago TV show in the early 1950s, before finally relocating to Las Vegas later in the decade.
After spending a few years entertaining in Vegas, the twosome made what would probably be the most significant move of their lives when they relocated to New York in 1963. It would be their home base for decades to come, as the couple became a familiar and beloved part of the music scene. As the years passed they appeared in a number of venues, while continuing to make records for their many fans. They even found the time to do some TV commercials, continuing to work until Kral’s death in 2002 at age 80. At last report, Jackie Cain is still around and is now in her eighties.
Jackie & Roy w/ Charlie Ventura’s Band – “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”