"It's a tremendous responsibility," O'Brien said. "But I am happy to play the music of our Greatest Generation. Many forget that Glenn Miller's popularity was just tremendous in its day."
O'Brien was in Vermont earlier this summer for a special performance with the G.M. Orchestra We caught up with him between gigs.
In Vermont, O'Brien joined 19 other members of the orchestra to perform at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland. After the one-night stand, the big red G.M. Orchestra bus departed the Green Mountain State to points south, west, then back east again-to our region-earlier this week.
On Aug. 25, as a bookend to the Vermont performance, O'Brien and company appeared on stage in Lake Placid, N.Y. By O'Brien's rough calculations, it was his 7,425th public performance with the Glenn Miller Orchestra since 1981.
O'Brien has a direct link to Glenn Miller.
He first performed with the reactivated Miller band in the early 1960s, when Ray McKinley was the leader. McKinley served in Europe with Miller's Air Force band and then acted as its unofficial leader after Miller's death.
For the average person, the gruelling daily travel demands of a Glenn Miller musician are impossible to grasp. In fact, few band members lead normal lives, according to O'Brien, "You have to really dig the music." O'Brien remained single until, at age of 70, he finally met the woman of his dreams-Judy-on a cruise ship. Now he wants to settle down, content.
O'Brien is best known for bringing Glenn Miller's big band music into the digital-audio age with his outstanding performance on the classic album "In the Digital Mood".
The compact disc, now in a gold edition with accompanying photo-history booklet, remains in print; the album earned O'Brien a coveted Platinum Record-an award given to a performing artist for the sale of a million album units. The Platinum award was created after the Gold Record award was popular and as the industry saw the sales of individual singles and albums reach one million units.