(Mitch Miller - In every living room and Hi-fi in America in the 1950s and early 60's)
Mitch Miller lived to the incredible age of 99, having passed from the scene this past Saturday quietly and after a short illness. In the 1950's Miller was as much a staple in the American home as Franco-American Spaghetti and was responsible for bringing to the masses more bland music than any single human being on earth.
But he was a remarkable talent, a gifted musician and a true professional. I came of age during the first season of "Sing Along With Mitch" blaring from my family TV. We had our copy of "Yellow Rose Of Texas" and you could always tell a Mitch Miller record by the amount of cavernous reverb injected into each song. Frankly, it drove even my 12 year old ears nuts.
But when I got older, and started discovering music on my own, I stumbled across a whole different side of Mitch Miller, a side I never heard before and one I was instantly glued to.
In addition to his work as an A&R man, Mitch Miller also had a long and successful career as an oboist. He was also a champion of "modern music" and recorded numerous albums of his contemporaries like Alec Wilder, Paul Hindemith and Vaughan Williams. His recordings of the music of Alec Wilder are milestones and, in addition to the album he did with Frank Sinatra in the 1940's of Wilder's music, he also recorded several Wilder pieces for the Vocalion label in the 1930's and had several works for oboe written for him throughout the 1940s and 50's.
He was active all the way up to the end - not as the former A&R man, but as the musician and champion of new music.
Over the coming weeks I'll be playing some of the Wilder pieces Mitch Miller recorded for Columbia. But tonight I thought I would play something more along his commercial lines. No, I'm not going to play "Yellow Rose Of Texas" - but I am going to play a piece he wrote for a TV series in 1956. Written for the GE Summer Playhouse, this track, Song For A Summer Night features an orchestra led by Mitch.
Thank you Mitch - you definitely led a double life, but you kept it honest and that's all you can ever ask for.