Shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, in a small rural Southwestern Iowa town, a boy was born to Elmer and Mattie Lou Miller. The date was March 1, 1904 and the town was Clarinda. The boy that was born that night was named Alton Glen Miller (later changed to Glenn) and when he uttered his first cry, Clarinda heard Glenn Miller’s first "moonlight serenade." Glenn’s first serenade was not particularly unique as it had been sung by children for centuries and was barely heard across South 16th Street. However, his second Moonlight Serenade was a composition he wrote while studying music under Dr. Schillinger in New York City. Glenn’s second Moonlight Serenade was unique, becoming the theme song of his number one Big Band and heard literally all around the world.
Glenn’s grandparents were a part of the westward movement of people during the 1800's and moved to the Clarinda area around 1870. During their stay in Southwest Iowa, their son Elmer married Mattie Lou Cavender and before this young couple left Clarinda, their first son, Dean, was born; followed by a second son, Alton Glenn Miller, on March 1, 1904.
In hopes of a brighter future, the young couple decided to homestead and moved on west in 1907 to Tryon, Nebraska where they lived in a sod house. In the evenings, Glenn’s mother, Mattie Lou, would play a simple pump organ which helped ease the lonesome existence on the flatlands of Nebraska. If you think it is a long lonely drive across Nebraska today, you can imagine what it was like to be there in 1907. Mattie Lou started a school called Happy Hollow and her children would sing songs as they rode in a wagon on their way to school. The soothing music of his mother in their sod house and the uplifting songs on the way to school must have given Glenn a greater meaning and appreciation for music. Before leaving the sod house, Mattie Lou gave birth to a third son, Herb, in 1913.
In 1915, Glenn’s family moved to Grant City, Missouri where he went to grade school, worked for the town bandsman John Mosbarger, was given his first trombone and then played in the town band.
In 1918, Glenn’s family, including an infant daughter, Irene, moved again to Fort Morgan, Colorado where Glenn went to high school. During his senior year, Glenn decided to try the game of football, and by the end of the season, he was chosen by the Colorado High School Sports Association as "the best left end in Colorado." Football wasn’t Glenn’s only interest, however, as he had become very interested in a new sound called dance band music. Glenn enjoyed this music so much that he and some classmates decided to start their own band. In fact, Glenn was so excited about this new music that when it came time for his graduation in 1921, he decided to skip his graduation ceremonies and instead traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to play in a band. Meanwhile, back home, Glenn’s mother had to accept his diploma and the principal commented, "Maybe you’re the one who should get it anyway; you probably worked harder on it than he did!"