One of the most iconic songs from the big band era was Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood,” which became a national hit for the bandleader just before the start of World War II. But that wasn’t the only popular rendition of the song. According to ALLMUSIC, it has generated more than 2500 different recordings through the years, many featuring inventive reworkings of the song — like the version by country star Ray Stevens, who clucked it like a chicken. But the biggest hit record of the song in the ‘modern’ era was a 1959 version by bandleader Ernie Fields, who gave it a distinctly R&B flavor.
Fields was born in Texas but began his musical career in Oklahoma during the late 1920s. He was a trombonist who also played some piano, and in the early days he scuffled a little, at times playing in dives or leading small combos in road shows. Eventually he began to get some attention in the Tulsa area leading a band called the Royal Entertainers, and in 1939 caught the eye of producer John Hammond, who brought him to New York. (For many decades, Hammond was the most influential agent and producer around, but that’s a story for another day.)
Over the next decade Fields worked pretty regularly, mostly leading his own band on stage and in the studio, and even though major success eluded him, it was during this period that he began to refine what would be his signature style. By the 1950s he’d moved to California, trimmed the size of his band, and was beginning to play bouncing R&B versions of big band standards like “Begin The Beguine” and “Tuxedo Junction.” He began to sell a lot of records, but it was “In The Mood” that really hit the bullseye with fans and became a huge national best-seller.
Over the next few years Fields would continue in the same vein, but by the middle of the next decade he was in his sixties and starting to slow down. By then his son, saxophonist Ernie Fields, Jr., was beginning to make his own mark as a professional and Ernie Sr. decided to retire. His retirement would last for over thirty years — he was 91 when he died in 1997.