There's endless information about this song, its performers and its eponymous town. If you're interested, keep reading below, and if you feel as if you now know enough for all practical purposes, well, I guess you know what to do about that.
Glenn Miller had signed a contract with Columbia Pictures to do two films in which he would appear and which would include his music, with “Orchestra Wives” being the second and “Sun Valley Serenade” being the first. (That earlier movie introduced “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.”) He insisted that his band be an integral part of the story and not just provide musical numbers, and so this film is built around the trials and tribulations of being in a traveling band. I got rather tickled by the Wikipedia entry which said that the film “is notable among the many swing era musicals because its plot is more serious and realistic than the insubstantial storylines that were typical of the genre.” It's hard to imagine how the plot of OW could be less “serious and realistic,” but I suppose that anything is possible. Glenn Miller disappeared in 1944 while flying across the English Channel to a performance for Allied troops; his body and the crashed plane were never found, thus leading to all sorts of conspiracy theories. A later incarnation of the band (a so-called “official ghost band”) after the war was led by Tex Beneke, the vocalist and saxophonist who performs the solo in the movie.
As with so many exotic place names in America, Kalamazoo started out as a Native American word supposedly meaning “boiling water,” although the semantics are a bit murky. The name has popped up in a number of other popular songs. After the success of “Gal,” the city decided that they should capitalize on the publicity given them by the song and film and so decided to elect a real “Gal from Kalamazoo.” Nineteen-year-old Sara Woolley, a student at Kalamazoo College, was the chosen representative and enjoyed some measure of fame during the war years, making public appearances to promote both the city and the sale of war bonds.
I can't end this post without mentioning the fabulous Nicholas Brothers, who supply the climax to the song with what I thought must be their greatest dance number ever. They were part of a very select group who performed what was called “flash dancing,” a combination of tap dancing and gymnastics. (No reference to the Flashdance film is at all implied!) You'll note that I said I thought that their number in “Orchestra Wives” was their greatest. Well, I was wrong. In looking around for information about them I ran into the video of their dancing in the film “Stormy Weather,” which none other than Fred Astaire pronounced “the greatest dance number ever filmed.” So, below are the links to the “Kalamazoo” number and also the one from “Stormy Weather.” If you're so inclined you can watch them on numerous YouTube videos, including one with a very young Michael Jackson. Ignore the horrible clothes and you'll see that the dancing's pretty spectacular in that one. But I'll leave it to you to look it up for yourselves.
"Kalamazoo" (including the song itself, the band 's intro, and the Nicholas Brothers' number):
"Stormy Weather": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8yGGtVKrD8