August 2, 2010

"Hey! Don't just sit there! Come on and sing!"



Mitch Miller, who had us all singing at the television, back in the 1960s, has died. He was 99. The show was considered ridiculously square at the time, you should understand, when you watch that clip. But we watched, fascinated by Miller's overenthusiastic smile, his beard, his idiosyncratic arm movements — he was very easy to imitate! — and the peppy pop songs.

49 comments:

DADvocate said...

Oh, my! I didn't realize he was still alive. We watched him every week.

Be kind to your web footed friends,
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
Be kind to you friends in the swamp,
where the weather is very, very damp.

Thanks for the good times, Mr. Miller.

Irene said...

Poor Mitch. At least his sing alongs were less square than The Lawrence Welk Show.

reader_iam said...

I know the words to that song backwards, forwards and upside down, though not due to Miller specifically. And it's one of the songs I used to sing to my non-sleeping, projectile-puking, loud-lungs-gifted son over the many, many, many, many, many months it took for him to adjust to life as it is and, thus, calm the hell down, just a little bit, at least enough.

Joan said...

I remember going to a Boston Pops concert with my parents when I was very little, and Mitch Miller conducted. There was, indeed, a "sing along with Mitch" segment, and I loved it.

RIP, Mr. Miller. You made a lot of people really happy.

reader_iam said...

LOL.

reader_iam said...

Irene: Exposing one's small child to "The Lawrence Welk Show" is one of a number of excellent ways to expose him or her to certain aspects of music, disciplined.

The concept of "square" is something kids should determine for themselves (as against other concepts). Shockingly amusing [amusingly shocking?], the results of this can surprise.

Lance said...

Well dang, my generation only had Solid Gold and the thrice-warmed-over American Bandstand.

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

Mitch Miller threatened to fire Rosemary Clooney if she would not record "Come On-a My House." She did, and became a star.

I, too, did not realize he was still alive. My family loved singing along with Mitch.

Toy

Doug Wright said...

My generation was truly blessed. We not only had Mitch Miller and Lawrence Welk, we also had Kukla, Fran, and Ollie! Great times.

Cheers, and thanks for the memories.

El Pollo Real said...

Square? Not square-looking--he looks vaguely Beatnik.

I remember his name from somewhere--prolly the back of one of my parent's vinyls.

shoutingthomas said...

99 years old!

It's rare for men, especially, to achieve that.

Another one gone.

My neighbor, a tough old bird who's been fighting cancer for a decade, seems to finally be taking leave of this world.

He's 87. He was a loner Republican who fought doggedly against the lunacy of Woodstock's left.

Speaking of Lawrence Welk... I was playing a gig with a classic (60s and 70s) rock band in a bar a few years ago. As the night wore on, the bar filled with kids in their late 20s and early 30s. They became a little restless with our hippie era repetoire.

During the break, the bass player said: "We might as well be playing Lawrence Welk."

My family sat down as a group to watch Mitch Miller. I'l like to be that square again.

Scott said...

The first black person I ever saw was Leslie Uggams on Sing Along with Mitch. I was maybe four years old at the time. She smiled with big teeth. I cried.

Irene said...

reader, you are exactly right. My husband is an accomplished accordianist, and Lawrence Welk is an appreciated discipline around our house.

Kirby Olson said...

I liked the bouncing ball over the lyrics.

I'm just a few years younger, but thought the show was hip.

I guess it goes to show you.

I still think the Lutheran church is hip.

ironrailsironweights said...

That was some amazing beard.

Peter

dick said...

And a truly amazing oboe player, one of the best in the world. He had so many strings to his bow - musician, conductor, advisor to musicians, executive. He was in the pit orchestras on Broadway, the symphony orchestras, the pop orchestras. He was involved in C&W, pop, show tunes, classical, just about everything but rock. One of the greats and also one of the ones who made music fun.

Chase said...

1• Leslie Uggams!!!! When I was 9 I thought she was the bestest singer in the whole world, and the most beautiful to boot! I still have her record album of hymns my parents bought me. I'm blushing even now thinking of her!

2• At 2:20 and on, the guy on the far right is Bob McGrath, Bob for over 30 years on Sesame Street.


3• The original commercials!

reader_iam said...

Listening to The Manhattan Transfer as I get ready for bed.

Anthony said...

Mitch Miller was before my time. But as a kid in the 1970s, I can remember my parents playing his albums at parties and having sing alongs

T J Sawyer said...

My family never missed the Mitch Miller show. Leslie Uggams was a favorite.

In 1963, I watched a couple of episodes in Birmingham where my aunt's husband would "adjust" the tint on his TV to turn Uggam's green when she sang. Althouse comment policy prohibits my describing his commentary that accompanied this.

People who think there is racism in the country today have no clue.

Palladian said...

The dark king himself...

Revenant said...

Wow, he was married for 65 years. And those were showbiz years. That's like 900 normal people years.

Chase said...

Rev,

that's the biggest laugh I've had in a week - AND that includes last Friday when the wife and I caught "Dinner with Schmucks" (hillarious!)

edutcher said...

He was one of those anomalies back then, a Lefty who hated the Baby Boomers (especially their music). We only caught his show once in a blue moon.

Irene said...

Poor Mitch. At least his sing alongs were less square than The Lawrence Welk Show.

A lot of his stuff (my cousin, five years older, had several of his albums) was the old standards of the Depression/WWII era.

Welk's music, a lot of it, went even further back.

Bob_R said...

I don't remember the show, but my wife had a Mitch Miller Christmas album on tape that she played in the car far too often. Soured me on him.

Terry Teachout has a YouTube of Miller on the oboe that is quite beautiful. As far as the beard and general look, remember that "longhair" music meant classical music before the Beatles came along. People in the 50's would have pegged him as a central casting orchestra conductor

DKWalser said...

Althouse,

Thank you for posting this. My family didn't watch the Mitch Miller show, but my wife's did. Watching the YouTube clip brought a big smile to her face. Thanks for that.

FloridaSteve said...

I'll have that song in my head all day... "Five Foot two.. Eyes of blue.." And I'm good with it! Thanks!

k*thy said...

My folk's vinyls is where I know him from, too. I much more recall Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan, American Bandstand and a little later, the Midnight Special.

This was fun to watch - yes, especially the bouncing ball.

Christopher said...

Speaking of artists working with Miller - during his stint at Capitol (I believe; I'm remembering this off the top of my head), Miller told Frank Sinatra to record a ghastly novelty song called "Mama Will Bark" with a busty flavor of the month named Dagmar. Frank did, but hated Miller ever afterwards and always bad-mouthed the man in public. Years later, Miller and Sinatra were crossing paths in a casino when Miller tried to bury the hatchet; he held out his hand but Sinatra snarled "keep walking, asshole."

As for "square?" I like Miller (although a little of SALWM goes a long way). I like Welk. I like all that 50s-60s middlebrow music. It's fun. It's not meant to make a statement or, God forbid, "change the world." It's simple, happy music. We could use a hell of a lot more of that these days.

AllenS said...

We must have been watching Davy Crockett or Rin Tin Tin back then. Mitch really has that hand/arm movement down pat.

Jeff Gee said...

Miller plays the oboe on the first six cuts of "Charlie Parker with Strings." He's the only soloist besides Parker himself and he holds his own.

And, I agree with Lileks on both counts here: "...that Strenuously Manly Choral Music style gives me hives. Always wanted them to cover "Horse w/ No Name," though." and "As a kid, I thought Mitch Miller looked like Grandpa Devil. Goat-feet for SURE."

garage mahal said...

As my mother just said - "All great men are dead. And I'm not feeling that great".

michaele said...

I found myself looking at the faces of the men singing and just wondering about their individual lives.Of course, their job was to look wholesome, normal and happy. Was the Sing Along gig the highpoint of their lives? What kind of behind the scenes drama went on? Was it a good paying job to Sing Along With Mitch?
For some reason, I felt a tug at my heart at how we all plug along.

MadisonMan said...

Reminds me of the post of yesterday of the Mennonite Girl.

We didn't get NBC at our house -- just CBS -- so Mitch Miller flew under my radar. I love to sing, though, and this show looks fun.

If I have a headache, singing clears it up right away.

mrs whatsit said...

I remember thinking, like Lileks, that he looked exactly like the devil -- but even so, my Mitch Miller associations are happy. My mother, who loves to sing, used her Mitch Miller albums to teach me how to improvise harmonies, descants and general background musical wanderings. Maybe those songs were corny, but they certainly were fun to sing. In memory of Mitch and the Gang, I improvised my way through "Don't Fence Me In" as I drove to work this morning: "I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences,
Gaze at the moon until I lose my senses, Can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences, Don't fence me in!"

alan markus said...

I've been a fan of this cover of Velvet Underground's "Sister Rav" by Lawrence Welk:
Lawrence Welk Meets Velvet Underground

Hanah said...

Those commercials are truly awesome. "Scripto! A lot of excitement with lighters and pens!"

MadisonMan said...

I liked the Libby's Sloppy Joe (It's Neat!) commercial, too, and the one for Mary Poppins.

victoria said...

Thought the dude was already dead. I told my husband, "Mitch Miller is dead." and he said, "who's he?" Must have been and east coast thing. Anyone my age (58) or around that remember him?


Vicki from Pasadena

Big Mike said...

Once we could sing along with Mitch Miller in the privacy of our homes. Today we have karaoke bars.

"Progress" is not always good.

What I liked about Mitch Miller is the way his troupe of singers were ordinary people (well except for their voices) of all different ages, shapes, and sizes. No ditzy twenty-something bimbos or pretty boys. Somehow it made the show that much more interesting.

Anthony said...

For all you boomer kids having your happy memories, let us not forget that Miller almost single handedly destroyed Frank SInatra's career.

Chris said...

I remember his Christmas albums very well. I liked his music. I also remember the recent Amazon.com TV commercials that are take-offs of the Mitch Miller theme. They are on YouTube.

I hated Lawrence Welk. Being compelled to watch his show on Saturday nights when I was 6-7 years old was a form of child abuse.

ricpic said...

The guys in Mitch Miller's chorus were picked for their voices, not their looks. They were ordinary looking middle aged men. But in that era, when only the telegenic were allowed on TV, their appearance was a shocker. Intentionally or unintentionally Mitch Miller broke the ban against ordinary regular looking people appearing on TV. In that sense he was a pioneer.

MrBuddwing said...

The guys in Mitch Miller's chorus were picked for their voices, not their looks. They were ordinary looking middle aged men. But in that era, when only the telegenic were allowed on TV, their appearance was a shocker. Intentionally or unintentionally Mitch Miller broke the ban against ordinary regular looking people appearing on TV. In that sense he was a pioneer.

I think I have to respectfully disagree. This is being purely anecdotal on my part, but my general impression is that today's TV puts a much higher premium on being "good-looking" than way back when. Of course, looking good has always been a huge plus, but it was talent that mattered the most. Nowhere was this more evident than in the TV newscasts of, say, the 1960s vs. the present. Today's TV news directors will say of course they want top flight reporters and anchors, but at the end of the day they will go with those people who look good on camera.

Word verification: caratu

ricpic said...

I grant your point, MrBuddwing, about the networks looking for pretty newsreaders over genuine news reporters to this day. But I can attest, as someone who grew up in the '50s, that before Mitch Miller the standard sitcom was Father Knows Best, with the perfect looking Robert Young as its lead and Jane Wyatt as his pefect looking suburban matron wife. Miller made the general scuffiness of All In The Family possible or the less than ideal looking cast of the currently popular Modern Family.

ricpic said...

Oops, scuffiness should be scruffiness.

jgm said...

Dead thread, no doubt, but can't believe William T. Sherman didn't link to this here as he has elsewhere. The Lawrence Welk Show does One Toke Over the Line. Apparently they thought it was a gospel song.

wv: musho. No elab neccesary.

jgm said...

Linkie no work. Try this.

Richard Fagin said...

Mitch Miller was also one heck of a record producer. He produced "A White Sportcoat", "Just Married" and "The Story of My Life" for Marty Robbins. The Mitch Miller singers provide the happy background for all these songs, and these records were among Marty's best.