Paul Tanner Dies: Legendary Musician Was 95

    February 6, 2013
    Amanda Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Paul Tanner, who was the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, has died of complications from pneumonia. He was 95 years old.

Tanner played trombone for the popular jazz ensemble from 1938-1942 before moving on to play at movie studios; he later had a successful career as a music professor at UCLA, and in the late ’50s famously partnered with inventor Bob Whitsell to create a new musical instrument called the Electro-Theremin. This version of the theremin–an instrument which can be played without touch due to sensitive antennae on top–allowed the musician to have greater control over the sounds and pitches it produced, and was used to great effect on the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations”.

Tanner’s second wife, Jeanette, said that he had a profound influence on his music students and often received letters from them years after graduation, thanking him for his time.

“He used to crowd the auditorium area where he had his classes, and it got so full that the fire department closed the doors and wouldn’t let any more in. I still get letters from people that were his students. They said that he changed their life,” she said.

All in all, not a bad career for a boy from Skunk Hollow, Kentucky. Tanner is survived by his wife and two stepsons.

  • Joanne Eberle (Mrs. Ray Eberle)

    God bless you all in your loss. Paul left a great legacy.


  • Joseoh W.Pettit


    Wonderful column,and sorry to hear about the passing of Paul Tanner.
    I first heard that wonderful Glenn Miller sound when I was in high school.
    Later,like millions of GI’s in world War II,his music bouyed our
    spirits,and when Glenn Miller was reported missing,and later confirmed dead,I was crushed;That wonderful Musical genius was gone,
    and with his passing,a little bit of light went out in my heart.

    Joe Pettit

  • Vicki Blakeman

    I was a student of Dr. Tanner at UCLA, and enjoyed his classes immensely. So sorry to hear he is gone but glad to know you are reminding people of him.

  • James Mitchell

    I took Dr. Tanner’s class while attending UCLA in the seventies. He was a warm and gracious man. He made the world a better place.

  • James Mitchell

    I took Dr. Tanner’s class while attending UCLA in the seventies. He was a warm and gracious man who made the world a better place. I used to joke with him about getting access to his outstanding collection of albums.

  • Larry Pizzicara

    I took Mr. Tanner’s jazz class at UCLA, and will always remember his droll wit and humor. Thank you Paul, for making learning fun. And don’t forget to say “hi” to “The Lonliest Monk!” Larry Pizzicara, Carlsbad

  • Joseph Brabander

    I took his class in 1974. Even if you had no interest in jazz, he made the class entertaining. When I missed the final he invited me to his apartment to take it. The amount of jazz memorabilia in his study was unbelievable. A truly nice person too.

  • Sara Goodman

    God bless you Mr. Tanner. You knew who every student was. On my grade card, you wrote how you loved the Daily Bruin, which was my home away from home at UCLA

  • Jo Reitkopp

    Paul Tanner was my Jazz Professor at U.C.L.A. in 1977. Throughout the years, I never forgot him and his first wife. They were both so warm and gracious. His Jazz 1 & 2 classes were very popular at U.C.L.A. To this day, I still recount some of the stories he told us about some of the greatest jazz musicians of our country. When I think back at all of my U.C.L.A. classes his class was the most memorable and definitely the most entertaining. He and his first wife were very special human beings and they will both remain in the memories of those that had the honor of meeting them. U.C.L.A. has lost one of its finest professors.

  • Bob Andrews

    Taking Mr. Tanner’s class in 1973-74 was one of the highlights of my years at UCLA. I still remember a lot from the class, including the 5 original members of Supersax, which he had us memorize. Whenever “Good Vibrations” comes on the radio, I tell whoever I am with about Mr, Tanner and his electro-theremin.