I was but a lad, very young, but I can remember those ancient times when TV shows were mostly in black-and-white and my father was in his late 20s and his favorite 33 1/3 rpm albums included the soundtrack to the film “West Side Story,” “Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show” by Frank “Crazy Guggenheim” Fontaine, “Moon River” by Andy Williams, “Moon River” by Mantovani and his Orchestra, “Dominique” by The Singing Nun, “People” by Barbara Streisland — AND (I suppose this might be considered a deep and dark family secret) he loved the television show “Sing Along With Mitch.”
Mitch Miller died a few weeks ago — at age 99! His NBC show — in which a bunch of guys wearing sweaters sang songs like “Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Roll Out the Barrels” while the song lyrics were flashed on the screen (yes, it was a primitive version of karaoke) and Mitch himself with his weird and Satan-like goatee waved his arms and “conducted” the ensemble — was a huge hit.
Here’s something a lot of people might not know about Mitch Miller: Before he had the hit TV show, Miller was a big-time producer at Columbia Records. He “discovered,” among others, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett — and Aretha Franklin! But he made Aretha record standard pop music — and Lady Soul wanted some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and bolted to Atlantic Records. It’s no surprise to learn that Miller passed on signing both Elvis and Buddy Holly…after all, wouldn’t folks prefer hearing a bunch guys in sweaters singing good ol’ American songs like “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?!”
The hell with Elvis and Buddy Holly…Mitch Miller outlived them both… So let’s all sing along with Mitch!