That Gal in Kalamazoo

Sara Woolley

Sara Woolley
Source: Encore, March 1994. Used with permission.

 1/16th note A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I got a gal in Kalamazoo, don't wanna boast, but I know she's the toast of Kal-a-ma-zoo-zoo....1/16th note 

It was during World War II that a song helped immortalize Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Glenn Miller Orchestra introduced "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" in the 1942 musical Orchestra Wives (20th Century-Fox Pictures) starring George Montgomery, Ann Rutherford, Cesar Romero, a young Jackie Gleason, with a dance number by the Nicholas Brothers.

With a moderate swing tempo, writer Mack Gordon and composer Harry Warren produced a number one song capturing the wartime mood of a fella longing for his girl back home. Originally recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra with vocals by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton and the Modernaires, it was on the charts for 20 weeks--8 weeks in the top position--and garnered an Academy Award nomination as best song.

Glenn Miller Band with Tex Beneke from the 1942 movie "Orchestra Wives"

As a result of the popularity of the tune, there really was a gal here. Sara Woolley (later Knight) was selected by her hometown to represent the "Gal from Kalamazoo." Her outgoing personality and good looks made the 19-year-old Kalamazoo College student an ideal spokesperson for the city. Her picture and story were published in newspapers, and she became a celebrity. She received mail from her fans, including admiring servicemen, and made many public appearances to sell war bonds and to promote Kalamazoo. She married in 1948, had two children, and died here in 1981.

Sources

Books and Recordings

In the Digital Mood: the Glenn Miller Orchestra

  • GPR Records, Inc. Limited Gold Edition
  • Compact Disc: Jazz

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra

  • Simon, George T.
  • New York: T.Y. Crowell Co., 1974
  • 921 M6478S

Articles

“Who was that Gal?”

  • Scholly, Susan
  • Encore, March 1994, p. 38

“Popular song was indeed a real pip-a-roo for Kalamazoo”

  • Chmielewski, Tom.
  • Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 August 1995

Local History Room Files

Subject File: I’ve Got A Gal in Kalamazoo