Sing Along with Mitch
August 2, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Mitch Miller has died at the age of 99. In the years before rock'n' roll took over, Miller, as an A&R man first at Mercury, and then at Columbia Records, signed and produced hits for a large stable of stars, including Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett. While he did have a disdain for rock music later, he did offer Elvis Presley a contract and brought Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin into the fold. Artists like Frank Sinatra would later criticize Miller for forcing novelty tunes like Mama Will Bark on them. In 1955 he had a number one hit with the old Civil War-era standard, The Yellow Rose of Texas. Beginning in 1961 he turned a series of records into a hit NBC series, Sing Along with Mitch and his goateed face became a television staple as he encouraged viewers at home to follow the bouncing ball and join in. The show helped launch the career of future Sesame Street star Bob McGrath and inspired the Flintstones parody Hum Along with Herman.
posted by evilcolonel (37 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by jquinby at 11:07 AM on August 2, 2010


Do you know what it is when you have a mosquito bite and then a bee stings you in the same place? Sting along with Itch!

Well, it seemed like the height of wit when I was five.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:10 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've listened to a bunch of his records, and pawed past millions more in the musty record boxes of Salvation Armies and VOA's across the USA. Unlike many other golden-age-of-vinyl types (see: Herb Alpert and the TJB, Sergio Mendes) Mitch's work remained opaque to me - I never was able to enjoy them as music - only as curiosity, and I guess I assumed simply that the times they had a-changed.

But clearly, based on both the number of different records, and the number of copies of any given title, Mitch had something going on.

For that: .
posted by dirtdirt at 11:12 AM on August 2, 2010


In honor of those sleepover nights at grandma's...

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posted by Thorzdad at 11:13 AM on August 2, 2010


I used to have this really amazing cabinet record player (like this - the record player is hidden by a panel in the center that lifts up) that I bought in Goodwill for $12 and fixed up. I didn't have a record collection when I bought it, so I started checking out garage sales, vintage stores, indy record shops, &c., for records to play on it. It sounded amazing.

In any case, I was always surprised by how many 'Sing Along with Mitch' records I'd always find when looking through the stacks. I'd never heard of the guy up to that point, and none of his records interested me enough to purchase; but I was always impressed that I would so consistently find so many of them in so many places. I figured that he had either been extremely prolific, so most of his records just naturally filtered down to the stacks, or that no one wanted his records anymore because they were outdated.

Either way;

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posted by Pecinpah at 11:16 AM on August 2, 2010


Holy cats, he was still alive?

There were a lot of Sing Along With Mitch albums in the house where I grew up. There were a lot of Sing Along With Mitch albums in millions of houses nationwide. Like a lot of my friends and peers, I thought they were dull and annoying. It took decades of time spent never having to listen to or think about Sing Along With Mitch for me to realize that, well, while I find them dull and annoying, it's music that entertained and pleased millions of people, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Rest in peace, Mitch.
posted by ardgedee at 11:17 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like some other posters, I had Sing Along With Mitch albums in my house when I was a little kid. I learned a lot of great songs, like "Collegiate!" from them.

(Its meaning was opaque to me then, and is only slightly less opaque now... "Garters / are the / things we never wear / and we haven't any use for red hot flannels!" -- really, that's what defined a college student's wardrobe back in the day? Lack of garters and flannels?)

Glad he enjoyed a long life. I hope it was happy.
posted by edheil at 11:21 AM on August 2, 2010


Watching Mitch on TV was a weekly event for most households back in the early 60's ... I've forgotten a lot of shows from the 50's and 60's, but Sing Along With Mitch is still a vivid memory...

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posted by HuronBob at 11:28 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sing Along with Mitch, Christmas! will always be the sound of my early Christmases. The Twelve Days of Christmas was interminable. Now I am full of nostalgia.

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posted by readery at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2010


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(you have to picture it bouncing above these words)
posted by sourwookie at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Mitch Miller did not bring Bob Dylan "into the fold" at Columbia, as I recall from the various bios. John Hammond did.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:36 AM on August 2, 2010


Well, from the always reliable (snort) Wikipedia:

In 1961, Miller was instrumental in getting Bob Dylan signed to the label, working on the recommendation of colleague John Hammond.
posted by evilcolonel at 11:38 AM on August 2, 2010


Add me to the list of MeFites who did not know he was still alive.

You may also recall that Amazon ran Christmas ads back in the late 1990s that were a direct homage to "Sing Along With Mitch"
posted by briank at 11:43 AM on August 2, 2010


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posted by tommasz at 11:52 AM on August 2, 2010


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ardgedee: Holy cats, he was still alive?

Seconded here -- I'm a thriftshop record bin rat myself, and he's one of the "always there" records. A Sing-Along with Mitch, a 1000 Strings, a Ferrante and Teicher, a spandex-lady-on-the-cover weightloss album, a The Moms and Dads, and Herb Alpert, and you've distilled every thriftshop-used-record-section in the US down to its essence. Mitch didn't appeal much to me, my guess is he was for family-bonding participation, not musical appreciation. To be so prolific and productive, and still hit nearly a century old, Mitch sure wasn't a slacker in the least.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:55 AM on August 2, 2010


don't forget his early use of overdubbing, especially on vocals.

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posted by Ironmouth at 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


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I've listened to the Holiday Sing Along With Mitch almost every Christmas since it came out in the 60s. As a child, it was a fun family sing along. Then the experience of listening to it brought back warm memories of my mom and dad putting the album on the stereo console while decorating the tree. Now it sounds like robots singing Christmas carols. I put it on anyway, often to the consternation of my now-grown-up kids.

The New York Times obituary disagrees with Wikipedia and claims that John Hammond signed Dylan for Columbia. The obituary also notes that the FBI played the Mitch Miller Christmas album to drive David Koresh and the Branch Davidians out of the compound.

RIP Mitch. Many fond memories.
posted by Sculthorpe at 12:06 PM on August 2, 2010


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posted by fixedgear at 12:14 PM on August 2, 2010


I've listened to the Holiday Sing Along With Mitch almost every Christmas since it came out in the 60s. As a child, it was a fun family sing along. Then the experience of listening to it brought back warm memories of my mom and dad putting the album on the stereo console while decorating the tree. Now it sounds like robots singing Christmas carols. I put it on anyway, often to the consternation of my now-grown-up kids.

Heh. I could tell the same story about my Dad's copy (probably handed down from his parents) of Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music.
posted by evilcolonel at 12:20 PM on August 2, 2010


There was some out-of-place Mitch Miller LP in my dad's record collection when I was a kid. From the looks of Mitch (and given the rest of the collection) I assumed that Mitch was some sort of Bolshevik with an Anglicized name.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:24 PM on August 2, 2010


God, why do you always take the good ones so young ?

Sorry. I grew up in a house that inexplicably had a bunch of these albums in it, because they hadn't been sent to Goodwill yet. It is kind of weird that there is not/never has been any hipness or revival value to those...

But on the other hand... how cool would it be if people still bought records for the express purpose of singing along with them? I really do wish people still sang together. Now I feel old.

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posted by hap_hazard at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2010


I was listening to Charlie Parker With Strings the other day for the first time in a long while. I was struck by the beauty and aptness of the little transition solos Mitch Miller plays during the arrangements. I'd never noticed them before because the brilliance of Bird's playing takes the spotlight. But Mitch is lovely and perfect, like the perfect frame around a masterpiece painting. Who else could have filled that role? Mitch lives!
posted by charlesminus at 12:39 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was but a wee little sprite when Sing Along with Mitch was on TV, and the only thing that made an impression (the "thing" I remember all these years later) was Mitch's habit of making gestures as if he was playing an invisible accordian while directing his choir.

My other MM memory is the Mitch Miller Party Album Sing-Along (or whatever it was called) that my parents owned. It was a gatefold covered album that had multiple copies of lyric sheets stashed inside. This album was a standard feature at the few parties they hosted in the late 1960s/early 1970s. After many rounds of highballs my folks would put Mitch's album on the "hi-fi" and pass out the song sheets. Any time some classic public domain song is played in a movie or TV show I can still hear a drunken chorus in my head singing, for example, "I'm just breezing along with the breeeeeeze...."

RIP Mitch
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


My Dad still fires up Dr. Demento's Christmas album and "A Muppet Christmas" when decorating the tree.

So, when I get nostalgic for Christmas of my youth, and fire up the media player, my wife and kid will listen, nod, and think, "Ah! This explains everything. He wasn't simply born weird."

And then I'll make them watch "A Wish for Wings That Work" with me.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:56 PM on August 2, 2010


another person who didn't know he was still alive, but with his body of work, he'll never really die. the man was an icon. of course, it was a different world then, but still ...

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posted by msconduct at 12:57 PM on August 2, 2010


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posted by Opposite George at 1:04 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was studying piano, my first piano teacher finally pulled out a copy of this piano book when I had graduated into actually reading music. It was chock full of all those songs that you assume everyone knows, and was a great way to learn how melodies in my head translated to the page and then translated to the keyboard. I never actually saw any of the show, but my music education wouldn't have been complete without Mitch's smiling goatee and his desire that we all sing along.

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posted by hippybear at 1:15 PM on August 2, 2010


Easy come, easy go - will you let me go
MITCH MILLER - noooo - we will not you go (let him go)
MITCH MILLER - we will not you go (let him go)
MITCH MILLER - we will not you go (let me go)


At least that's what I thought it was when I was in Junior High. I assumed Queen also grew up looking at the Mitch Miller records in their family record collections.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 1:32 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Along with the requisite obit dot, it's fascinating to ponder that nobody now could ever have the influence and power that he had in his right pinky 50 years ago.

Rest in peace.
posted by blucevalo at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2010


Easy come, easy go - will you let me go
MITCH MILLER - noooo - we will not you go (let him go)
MITCH MILLER - we will not you go (let him go)
MITCH MILLER - we will not you go (let me go)

At least that's what I thought it was when I was in Junior High. I assumed Queen also grew up looking at the Mitch Miller records in their family record collections.


Thanks for the laugh. I thought the same thing.
posted by wv kay in ga at 2:04 PM on August 2, 2010


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"From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathways awhile"
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:13 PM on August 2, 2010


Mitch Miller's bouncing ball helped me learn to read.

Thank you, Mitch!
posted by merelyglib at 3:39 PM on August 2, 2010


Mitch Miller helped to get me started in life.

My mother told me Sing Along With Mitch was on the television when she went into labor with me. I just looked it up and apparently "the gang" sang "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" that night.

Follow the bouncing baby boy.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mitch Miller inspired one of Amazon's more amusing ad campaigns.

RIP, Mitch.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:49 PM on August 2, 2010


he had either been extremely prolific, so most of his records just naturally filtered down to the stacks, or that no one wanted his records anymore

Very popular for a brief time, yes, but the reason Mitch Miller is so ubiquitous in the dusty crates is because these are the most unwanted records on earth! There is absolutely nothing cool about them and they are of zero value. Even Lawrence Welk seems edgy in comparison. Go to the most picked over vinyl dumps and you will find that the only records left are Mitch Miller.
posted by bonefish at 9:59 PM on August 2, 2010


The Associated Press obituary for Mitch Miller includes this highly questionable tidbit:
posted by fixedgear at 2:24 AM on August 3, 2010


There is absolutely nothing cool about them and they are of zero value.

This makes my heart glad. I just ordered this CD. I've struggled with coolness all my life, but I'm free of it now. Hopefully this purchase will help me stay on that narrow path.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:50 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


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