Ghosts of yesterday ADD Tex Beneke to the ranks of...

NOTES AND COMMENTS

June 03, 2000

Ghosts of yesterday

ADD Tex Beneke to the ranks of swing-era stars who have gone to that big bandstand in the sky. He died this week at 86.

Arthritis had robbed him of his ability to play the saxophone. But he could still sing "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," "Kalamazoo" and other of his standards.

His Tex Beneke Orchestra will go on performing, joining dozens of other "ghost bands" that are much in demand despite the demise of their founders.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra, which catapulted Tex Beneke into stardom, is the granddaddy of them all. It is still going strong -- 56 years after its leader's plane disappeared during World War II.

Staffed by sidemen in their 20s, the Miller band maintains a busy schedule, visiting Maryland several times a year. Its next appearance here will be Aug. 4 at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center.

At the moment, the Miller band is on a six-week tour of Japan -- an annual event.

The roster of ghost bands is quite amazing.

Among them are outfits operating under the names of Tommy Dorsey (died in 1956), Duke Ellington (1974), Guy Lombardo (1977), Harry James (1983), Count Basie (1974), Buddy Rich and Woody Herman (1987). Even the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, which accompanied Frank Sinatra, is still performing. Its founder died in 1985.

The Internet makes tracking these bands' itineraries quite easy. Various Web sites also peddle records, videotapes, T-shirts and other memorabilia.

There are big-band cruises, too. One of them will roam the Caribbean later this year to the music of four nostalgia bands. Past sailings have sold out.

-- Antero Pietila

In a word

HIGH-TECH trickle-down effect: Linguistics, once an unmarketable profession, is one of the hottest fields for Internet businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal.

These trained wordworkers help e-businesses improve their databases to respond to site users' requests for information. They create "natural language processing systems" that relate words by concept and pose questions to site visitors.

This being the age of snazzy titles, the jobs are termed "knowledge engineers" and "vocabulary resource managers." There's snazzy pay to match -- $60,000 with stock to start. Those with advanced degrees in linguistics and computer studies are looking at upward of $130,000. It must feel like hitting the lottery to folks who often earn doctorates only to make a high-end salary in the mid-$30,000s -- if they can land a job in the field at all.

Hope springs anew for liberal arts graduates.

-- Lane Harvey Brown

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