Listening to the Big Bands

You name 'em-UB had 'em: the musicians and vocalists of the Big Band Era of the late thirties, forties and fifties...everybody from Glenn Miller's Orchestra, which played for the 18th Annual Junior Prom (Feb. 25, 1939) to Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (Sept. 22, 1941).

Dancing was big at UB where students could count on at least one dance a week at Norton Union, from informal "matinee" or afternoon tea dances to semiformal theme and formal dances. Swing music, only about a decade old in the 1940s, shocked the older generation much as Elvis did in the 1950s.

At the Moving Up Day dance May 2, 1942, Eddie Charon and his 12-piece orchestra played at a cost of $70, according to careful records kept at the time. What would today's students think of the refreshments served at the dance: Skippy Cups, pop and cookies? The faculty was treated to tea and cake (two cakes cost $1).

In a front page article published March 3, 1939, The Buffalo Bee, the student newspaper, reported favorably on events of the Junior Prom and Glenn Miller's orchestra, "whose refreshing new style features his four sax-floating clarinet arrangement, an innovation in swing style. On every hand one heard enthusiastic eulogies about 'the killers,' which included One O'Clock Jump, King Porter Stomp and Big John Special. The ladies attending the dance received as favors gold pendants bearing the university seal."

The Reporter thanks UB Archives for their assistance in obtaining background information and photos for the Sesquicentennial Time Capsules.

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