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Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader/music exec 1911-2010

Genie 02 Aug 10 - 02:06 PM
Genie 02 Aug 10 - 02:08 PM
Rapparee 02 Aug 10 - 02:24 PM
katlaughing 02 Aug 10 - 02:27 PM
Genie 02 Aug 10 - 02:30 PM
catspaw49 02 Aug 10 - 02:44 PM
Haruo 02 Aug 10 - 02:53 PM
gnu 02 Aug 10 - 03:03 PM
Genie 02 Aug 10 - 03:05 PM
GUEST,Janie 02 Aug 10 - 03:48 PM
Bobert 02 Aug 10 - 03:57 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 02 Aug 10 - 04:15 PM
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olddude 03 Aug 10 - 12:06 AM
GUEST,Janet 03 Aug 10 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,Gerry 03 Aug 10 - 01:54 AM
EBarnacle 03 Aug 10 - 01:54 PM
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GUEST,Ken Brock 03 Aug 10 - 09:59 PM
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Subject: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:06 PM

I just heard that Mitch Miller, former bandleader, or sing-along with Mitch" records, and former head of Columbia Records, has died at age 99.

I met him in the '50s when he would visit his wife's parents, who lived next door to our family. Very nice guy, very nice family, though I don't much care for the direction he took Columbia Records during that era.

My condolences to his family.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:08 PM

Mitch Miller obituary in NY Times


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Rapparee
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:24 PM

And mine. He was still a musical asset who brought music to people.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:27 PM

Thanks, Genie. My mom bought LPs at the grocery store as part of a promotion back in the early 1960s. One of them was a sing-along with Mitch Miller and the Gang. I loved listening to it and singing along. I had no idea he was still around. What a good long life he had!

RIP and thanks for the music.

Oh! I'm a ramblin' wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluva engineer!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:30 PM

Just realized this is the better link (full obituary);

NY Times: Mitch Miller, Maestro of the Singalong, Dies at 99

Excerpts[[Mitch Miller, Maestro of the Singalong, Dies at 99
By RICHARD SEVERO
Published: August 2, 2010

Mitch Miller ... died Saturday in Manhattan. He was 99.

...

The "Sing Along With Mitch" album series, which began in 1958, was an immense success, finding an eager audience among older listeners looking for an alternative to rock 'n' roll. Mitch Miller and the Gang serenaded them with chestnuts like "Home on the Range," "That Old Gang of Mine," "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary."

When the concept was adapted for television in 1961, with the lyrics appearing at the bottom of the screen, Mr. Miller, with his beaming smile and neatly trimmed mustache and goatee, became a national celebrity.

By then he had established himself as a hit maker for Columbia Records and a career shaper for singers like Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, Patti Page and Frankie Laine. First at Mercury Records and then at Columbia, he helped define American popular music in the postwar, pre-rock era, carefully matching singers with songs and choosing often unorthodox but almost always catchy instrumental accompaniment.

...

Ms. Clooney was making a mere $50 a recording session when Mr. Miller asked her to record "Come On-a My House," an oddity based on an Armenian folk melody written by the playwright and novelist William Saroyan and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian, who later went on to create Alvin and the Chipmunks. Ms. Clooney was dubious. "I damn near fell on the floor," she recalled.

They had a heated argument. But in the end Ms. Clooney agreed to record the song, and it became a giant hit, establishing her as a major artist.

"Nothing happened to me until I met Mitch," she later said.

By the end of the 1950s Mr. Miller's eye and ear for talent and songs had been critical in making Columbia the top-selling record company in the nation.

Mr. Miller was the Midas of novelty music, storming the charts with records like Jimmy Boyd's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and providing singers with unusual instrumental backing: a harpsichord for Ms. Clooney, French horns for Guy Mitchell. One of his earliest hits, "Mule Train," was recorded by the muscular-voiced Frankie Laine with three electric guitars, and Mr. Miller himself using a wood block to simulate the snapping of a whip.

Mr. Miller was a studio innovator. Along with the guitarist Les Paul and a few others, he helped pioneer overdubbing, the technique by which different tracks are laid over one another to produce a richer effect; he employed it memorably with Ms. Page, whose close-harmony "duets" with herself became her signature. He also achieved what he called a sonic "halo" on numerous recordings by the use of what came to be called an echo chamber — actually an effect an engineer produced by placing a speaker and a microphone in a tiled restroom.

One Miller specialty was developing crossovers from country to pop. He had particular success with Hank Williams's songs: he transformed "Hey, Good Lookin' " into a hit for Mr. Laine and Jo Stafford and did the same for Mr. Bennett ("Cold, Cold Heart"), Ms. Clooney ("Half as Much") and Ms. Stafford on her own ("Jambalaya").

His touch was not always sure. When he had bagpipes accompany Dinah Shore on a song called "Scottish Samba" the result was, in Mr. Miller's own words, "a dog." And probably the nadir of Frank Sinatra's recording career came after Mr. Miller left Mercury and took over pop production at Columbia in 1950.

Sinatra complained that Mr. Miller forced him to record inferior material like "Bim Bam Baby," "Tennessee Newsboy" and, perhaps most notoriously, "Mama Will Bark," a 1951 novelty duet with the television personality Dagmar that included dog imitations. Sinatra even sent a telegram to a Congressional subcommittee complaining that Mr. Miller had denied him "freedom of selection." (Sinatra did sometimes veto Mr. Miller's song choices. When he refused to record "The Roving Kind" and "My Heart Cries For You," Mr. Miller replaced him in the studio with a young singer named Guy Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell's versions of both those songs became hits and made him a star.)

Interviewed by Time magazine in 1951, Mr. Miller was less than enthusiastic about the kind of gimmicky pop records that had become his specialty. "I wouldn't buy that stuff for myself," he said. "There's no real artistic satisfaction in this job. I satisfy my musical ego elsewhere."

Mr. Miller came up with the idea for his singalong albums in 1958, drawing on a repertory that ordinary people had sung in churches and parlors for decades. ...

...

In 1960 his singalong concept was given a one-time television test on NBC. The response was so favorable that "Sing Along With Mitch" became a mainstay of family television, running — every other week at first, then weekly — from 1961 to 1964, then returning in reruns in the summer of 1966. Viewers were encouraged to sing along and instructed to "follow the bouncing ball" — a large dot that bounced from word to word as the lyrics were superimposed on the screen. ...

The ratings were good, but the critics were mostly unimpressed. Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, suggested in 1962 that "Sing Along With Mitch" might best be viewed with the sound turned off.

Even at the singalongs' height, many Americans considered them hopelessly corny. That sense only intensified as a younger generation came of age in the 1960s and musical tastes changed. There were news reports that shopping malls had begun piping Mitch Miller music on their sound systems as a way to discourage teenagers from congregating. Years later, in 1993, when David Koresh and members of his Branch Davidian cult were holed up in their compound in Waco, Tex., F.B.I. agents tried to flush them out by blasting "Sing Along With Mitch" Christmas carols.

By the time Mr. Miller's television show left the air, his era of popular music had largely ended with the emergence of rock. He was sympathetic to blues and folk music and had one of his biggest hits in 1951 with Johnnie Ray's "Cry," a histrionic performance often cited as a rock 'n' roll precursor. He had also tried to sign Elvis Presley for Columbia before being outbid by RCA. But he turned down an opportunity to sign Buddy Holly, and he was outspoken in his dislike of rock 'n' roll in general. "It's not music," he was quoted as saying, "it's a disease." When Bob Dylan, soon to become one of rock's most influential artists, joined the Columbia roster in 1961, it was not Mr. Miller but another label executive, John Hammond, who signed him.

Mr. Miller told Audio magazine in 1985 that his opposition to rock 'n' roll had been based more on principle than on taste. The so-called payola scandal, in which record companies were found to have paid disc jockeys to play rock 'n' roll records, had dismayed him, he said. He also complained about "British-accented youths ripping off black American artists and, because they're white, being accepted by the American audience" — although that hardly explained his opposition to rock 'n' roll in the '50s, a decade before the advent of the Beatles and other British bands.

...

Mitchell William Miller was born on July 4, 1911, in Rochester, one of five children of Abram Calmen Miller, an immigrant from Russia and a wrought-iron worker, and Hinda Rosenblum Miller, a former seamstress.

Mr. Miller's own musical career began with the oboe. The composer Virgil Thomson called him "an absolutely first-rate oboist — one of the two or three great ones at that time in the world."

He took up the oboe almost by chance. Seeking to join the orchestra at Washington Junior High School in Rochester, he showed up late for the tryouts and found it was the only one of the instruments, offered free to students, that had not been claimed.

By the age of 15 Mr. Miller was playing with the Syracuse Symphony. ...

He played with the Rochester Philharmonic and then made his way to New York City, where he played oboe for a season under David Mannes in concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He later got a job with the CBS Symphony, performing with it during the notorious Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in 1938.

... When Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" opened on Broadway in 1935, Mr. Miller was in the pit orchestra. He continued to play the oboe after he became a record producer, most notably on the recordings the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker made with a string orchestra.

Mr. Miller went to work for Mercury Records in the late '40s, initially as a producer of classical music and then as head of artists and repertory in the pop division. ... In the early 1950s he was also musical director of Little Golden Records, which made widely popular recordings for children.

...]]


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:44 PM

Thinking back to the early sixties, he was huge! The TV show got a lot of attention and viewers and the albums were everywhere you looked. I was about 12 and felt he was a bit hokey but my Mom knew every one of those songs from and had a great voice so she loved to sing along if she happened to see it but happily she wasn't all that thrilled either.

You got a lot of folks singing Mitch.....Sorry your ball stopped.


Spaw


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Haruo
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 02:53 PM

He was definitely a factor in getting me hooked on sing-alongs.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: gnu
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 03:03 PM

Gee... RIP.


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Subject: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 03:05 PM

I think in a way Mitch's sing-alongs helped fuel the 'revival' of interest in folk music in the '50s and '60s too.   Several of the songs on his records were either older Americana or American folk music or, in some cases, songs trying to mimic that sound, and as a teenager I was drawn to many of these, and that led me to delving deeper into folk music.

The transition for me was from some Weavers' recordings (which were pretty much pop-ified too in some ways) through Frankie Laine and Tennessee Ernie to Harry Belafonte and then thru the Kingston Trio & Limeliters & PP&M to Dylan, Baez, Collins, Bob Gibson, etc., and then into a much wider range of less "commercial" folk music. Mitch's singalongs and some of the recordings at Columbia under his aegis were definitely a part of that.

I just wish he hadn't taken a dislike to rock 'n' roll, whether because of the payola scandals or the British invasion, or whatever.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: GUEST,Janie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 03:48 PM

My sisters and I (probably ages 8, 9 and 12, sometimes joined by Mom,) spent many a rainy afternoon singing along with Mitch on the stereo.

Rest in Peace.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Bobert
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 03:57 PM

Well, I thougt he died two decades ago??? So I'm happy to learn that he got another 20 some years...

Hate to see any musican die even if they did play square music...

RIP, Mitch...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 04:15 PM

Wow!...Even when Mitch Miller was noted for doing 'corny songs' when I found out about his history, and who he was, I thought he was really cool...a lot cooler than people gave him credit for being. My parents were huge fans.

Hey Mitch, see you shortly!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 05:00 PM

We only had one tv network when his show was on and it must have been the wrong one because I don't ever remember seeing it.

My parents knew all of the songs, too and that made it even more fun.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 05:33 PM

I've known for several years now that he was still alive and nearing the century mark. It would've been cool if he'd made that milestone, but 99 years is a nice long run.   Sadly, he lost his wife, Frances, in 2000, after 65 years together.   Seems he had good contact with his kids, as he stayed in New York, where at least Margaret & her family live.

I hadn't known about his career as an oboist and orchestra member for Broadway shows, movies, and some major hit records.   He's so often just remembered for his sing-along bandleading and his A & R work at Columbia.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: pdq
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 05:37 PM

Mitch Miller's charm did not work on everybody.

In fact. Frank Sinatra left Columbia because of Miller's taste in material...

"Novelty songs, they used to call them. But, in the early '50s, novelties weren't so much a novelty as terrifyingly ubiquitous. If you want the entire history of pop music on one single--the tug between its highest aspirations and its basest instincts--Sinatra wrapped it up in 1951: on the B side, 'I'm a Fool to Want You,' an almost painfully exposed ballad that today ranks as one of his greatest recordings; but, on the A side ... yes, 'Mama Will Bark.' Mitch Miller, top dog at Columbia Records, insisted Sinatra do it. Frank wound up leaving Columbia, but he never forgave Miller. Years later, they happened to be crossing a Vegas lobby from opposite ends. Miller extended his hand in friendship; Sinatra snarled, 'Fuck you! Keep walking!'"


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: olddude
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 06:01 PM

My dad would wait for the singalong show ... me too as a kid ..
loved it ... I knew nothing of his other endeavors ... only know him as follow the bouncing ball ..

About the same time there were even cartoons on TV that had that bouncing ball you could singalong with ...

RIP Big Guy

My grandmother wouldn't watch him, she said he looked like the devil .. reminded her of satan


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 06:26 PM

Yeah, it was a big mistake to ask Sinatra, an already established major recording artist, to record crap like novelty songs. OTOH, making or letting some other singers (Guy Mitchell, Rosie Clooney, Patti Page) record drek that fit the then-current tastes of the American public either launched or helped maintain their careers as recording stars.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Acme
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 06:46 PM

I didn't realize he was still alive. His obituaries read like a primer in American Popular Song of the 20th Century.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller, bandleader, music exec
From: Genie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 07:42 PM

Well, yeah, he pretty much grew up in the Tin Pan Alley era and was active in one way or another in the American music industry till near the end of the 20th C.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: Janie
Date: 02 Aug 10 - 11:40 PM

Like others, I was surprised, at the announcement of his death, to learn he had still been alive. Knew nothing about his career beyond his "Sing Along" albums. Have very vague memories of the television show.

I called my son a little while ago and asked him to look through the crates of albums I left at his Dad's house when I moved (lack of space.) I had kept not only all the albums I ever bought, but my parents' collection of LP's. Yep. They probably are not playable without taping a penny to the top of the needle cartridge, but the first "Sing Along with Mitch" with Mitch and the Gang, and the first "Sing Along" Christmas album are there.

When I was young, our Christmas Eve bedtime tradition was for my Dad to read the Christmas story from one of the Gospels, and then we would sing Carols, only Dad would never sing with us. He would just kinda mutter and move his lips.    When that Christmas album came out (1959? 1960?), the words firmly in front of him, Dad finally started singing so we could hear him!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: olddude
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 12:06 AM

Tonight in my head, I can still hear the "Let me hear a melody that simple sing a long, loud and strong .. we love to sing along"


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: GUEST,Janet
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 12:43 AM

My parents and I sang along. I thought of this as a continuation of singing along to rolls on our player-piano. I go to folk concerts or festivals almost weekly and regret that many performers now do not encourage singing along. I think singing along is a way to carry on a culture and, often, more than one culture. While Mitch was not perfect or all-inclusive, I thank him for what he did.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 01:54 AM

What do you get when a bee stings you on top of a mosquito bite?

Sting along with itch!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: EBarnacle
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 01:54 PM

One of his most famous quotes was a comment he made to a female cello playeer in his orchestra: Miss, you have between your thighs an instrument which can give great pleasure to many people and you only seem to be able to scratch it!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: GUEST,Ken Brock
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 04:37 PM

Mitch may have been the last left (maybe there are a few others left - I don't know), who played in an orchestra conducted by George Gershwin, who died in July, 1937. Miller was oboeist.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 05:38 PM

And. for quite a while, he wasn't just an oboe soloist----he was the oboe soloist.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mitch Miller-bandleader, music exec-Jul 2010
From: GUEST,Ken Brock
Date: 03 Aug 10 - 09:59 PM

This article includes the professional relationship between Mitch Miller and George Gershwin:

http://www.rfsoc.org.uk/mmiller.shtml


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