Musician Paul Tanner, the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, died Tuesday. He was 95.
Paul’s stepson, Richard Darnell, of Youngstown, Ohio, says Tanner died of pneumonia at an assisted living center in Carlsbad, California.
Born in Skunk Hollow, Kentucky, into a family of musicians, Tanner developed a passion for music as a youngster and in his teenage years, toured the country with his five brothers and their father in order to make a living.
“Everybody was trying to survive during the Great Depression,” Darnall said.
It was while on tour that Tanner, who played the trombone, was recruited by Glenn Miller to become part of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
After touring with the Miller band from 1938 until 1942, Tanner enrolled at UCLA, which offered him a teaching job and advanced degrees upon his graduation four years later; he went on to teach music there for 23 years, WMF-TV reports.
In addition to his trombonist skills, Tanner is known for helping develop the electro-theramin, a keyboard-style electronic instrument which created eerie sounds showcased by the Beach Boys in their hit song Good Vibrations and in science fiction films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Though Tanner did not invent the device, “He enhanced on it and made it easier to play,” his widow, Jeanette, told CNN in a telephone interview. “He made it more like piano keys.”
Tanner also wrote several books in his day, including Every Night Was New Year’s Eve, about life in the Miller band, and Conversations with a Musician, about his experiences as a session player.
In addition to his wife and stepson, Tanner is survived by another stepson, Doug Darnall.