Gordon Lee Beneke, professionally known as Tex Beneke, was an American saxophonist, singer, and bandleader. His career is a history of associations with bandleader Glenn Miller and former musicians and singers who worked with Miller. He also solos on the recording the Glenn Miller Orchestra made of their popular song, “In The Mood” and sings on another popular Glenn Miller recording, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.
Beneke was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He started playing saxophone when he was nine, going from soprano to alto to tenor saxophones and staying with the latter. His first professional work was with bandleader Ben Young in 1935, but it was when he joined Miller three years later that his career hit its stride. Beneke said: “It seems that Gene Krupa had left the Goodman band and was forming his own first band. He was flying all over the country looking for new talent and he stopped at our ballroom one night. Gene wound up taking two or three of our boys with him back to New York. wanted to take but his sax section was already filled.” Krupa knew that Glenn Miller was forming a band and recommended Beneke to Miller.
On August 1, 1939, Tex Beneke solos on the recording the Glenn Miller band made of the Andy Razaf song, “In The Mood”. Beneke appears with the Miller band in the films Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives, both of which helped propel the singer/saxophonist to the top of the Metronome polls. Tex Beneke is listed in the personnel of the 1941 Metronome All-Star Band led by Benny Goodman. In 1942, Glenn Miller’s orchestra won the first Gold Record for “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, a song written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. The band first performed this song in the 1941 Twentieth Century Fox movie Sun Valley Serenade.” Tex Beneke was the lead singer on this song with Paula Kelly and the Modernaires vocal group. “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, catalogue number Bluebird 11230-B, was recorded by the Miller band at the Victor recording studios in Hollywood, California, May 7, 1941.
When Miller broke up the band in late 1942 to join the Army Air Force, Beneke played very briefly with Horace Heidt before joining the Navy himself, leading a Navy band in Oklahoma. While employed with Miller, Beneke was offered his own band, as Miller had done with colleagues and employees like Hal McIntyre, Claude Thornhill and Charlie Spivak. Beneke wanted to come back to Miller after the war and learn more about leading a band before being given his own band. Beneke lead two bands in the navy and kept in touch with Glenn Miller while they were both serving in the military. By 1945, Beneke felt ready to lead his own orchestra.