Mitch Miller (1911-2010)

Mitch Miller, long-time music producer and host of NBC’s Sing Along with Mitch, passed away on Saturday (July 31st) at the age of 99. Miller worked as an “artists and repertoire” (A&R) executive at Mercury Records and later Columbia Records, signing artists like Patti Page, Frankie Laine and Tony Bennett to the latter label. He was also a successful record producer and an accomplished oboist. In 1958, as Mitch Miller & the Gang, he released an album titled Sing Along with Mitch featuring songs like “That Old Gang of Mine” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” performed by an all-male orchestra. Printed lyrics were included for those who actually wanted to sing along with Mitch.

The popularity of this and later “sing along” albums led to a television series, also titled Sing Along with Mitch, which premiered in January of 1961 on NBC. As songs were performed, the lyrics were shown on the bottom of the screen and a bouncing ball allowed viewers to follow and sing along in the privacy of their own homes. Sing Along with Mitch ran until September of 1964; repeats were broadcast during the summer of 1966. Joining Miller on the show were, among others, Leslie Uggams, Sandy Stewart, and Diana Trask.

Miller was interview in July of 2004 by the Archive of American Television. Here’s the first portion of that interview:

Obituaries can be found at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

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8 Replies to “Mitch Miller (1911-2010)”

  1. Mitch was a major influence on popular music in the 1950’s, when he was A&R head of Columbia records; one of his last successes was transforming Johnny Mathis from a “jazz vocalist” [as on his first self-titled album, in 1956] into a “crooning balladeer” who became one of Columbia’s biggest-selling artists of the late ’50s and early ’60s. “SING ALONG WITH MITCH”…who COULD forget the records and the TV series (the architect of his “Sing-Along Chorus” was Jimmy Carroll)?

    Miller lived a long life. Even if he isn’t remembered in the future, the recordings he made and supervised WILL be…

    1. Didn’t Mitch Miller also sign Bob Dylan, the Byrds, and Aretha Franklin to Columbia Records (although the latter eventually left Columbia to sign with Atlantic Records)?

      1. Miller did indeed sign Franklin, though she wasn’t satisfied with the material she was recording, but not The Byrds (because of his dislike of rock and roll); however he did sign Johnny Cash to the label. “Sing Along With Mitch” was probably better known as the series that drove “The Untouchables” off the air, and Miller also had a feud with Frank Sinatra at Columbia which resulted in rather substandard recordings.

  2. About 8 years ago, Mitch Miller had looked into a possible DVD release of some of his NBC shows since he owned the rights to them. Unfortunately, the music clearance issues were too daunting for a show like this and the shows will probably never see the light of day again. A few were run during PBS pledge drives many years ago.

  3. One has to ask if the faux “5 Neat Guys” group from “SCTV” was modeled after the kind of vocal groups that recorded for Miller’s Columbia, especially given the kind of titles they sang (such as “Who Made the Egg Salad Sandwiches?,” “Let’s Have a Party in My Rec Room,” “Don’t Step on My Clip-On Tie” and “I Got a Hickey”) that seemed to be a parody of the most inane and corny of the novelty songs the bearded impresario had his acts record. Certainly if they existed, they would have fit right in with Miller at the label.

    1. Probably because people seem to think there was one.

      Today, with computerized graphics, not only could all the lyrics be electronically typed-in (instead of using rub-on or stick-on letters on blue or green cardboard that would allow the letters to be “chroma-keyed” onto a TV screen), but a bouncing ball could also be added.

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