The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #137785   Message #3748826
Posted By: keberoxu
05-Nov-15 - 07:40 PM
Thread Name: Harmony Singing
Subject: RE: Harmony Singing
The Mills Brothers are favorites of mine. They were before my time, but reissues of their recordings document their very lengthy history.

As a previous poster has stated, they went through different stages in their career. What I have learned about their history comes largely from liner notes to their back catalog.

Initially they were promoted as four brothers and a guitar. They were actually singing along to a guitar before the Ink Spots arrived, if I read correctly, and the Ink Spots emulated the Mills Brothers. Always singing in close harmony, with or without the guitar. Their early, classic recording of "Hold That Tiger!" has no guitar. It is all voices, and in the middle they throw out the lyrics and just imitate a brass band, from the tuba to the trumpet with a trombone somewhere in the middle. It is told that they could stand on a railway station platform and vocalize Duke Ellington's Black and Tan Symphony which is NOT a vocal composition, but a band piece, and they could imitate the band to perfection. An awful lot of rehearsal time must have gone into something like that.

The oldest of the four brothers was the guitarist as well as the bass singer, and it is said that he ws the ambitious one. Everything almost ground to a halt when he suddenly died young. But that was when the parents, who survived their son, spoke up to the remaining brothers and more or less bullied them into continuing, carrying on in their brother's memory. In fact, at that point, their father joined the Mills Brothers, singing the bass lines formerly sung by his son. Another musician was hired to supply guitar.

It was only after many years of hard work that the Mills Brothers made studio recordings with anything more than that one guitar, although eventually there would be piano arrangements and band arrangements. The Mills Brothers continued to sing some things unaccompanied, such as "You Tell Me Your Dream and I Will Tell You Mine," which other doo-wop bands have claimed was an example for them to emulate. A lot of history there.