Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Few More Goodbyes

If, like me, you were of that generation, you probably grew up watching Mitch Miller on television ... whether you wanted to or not.

Now MY family wasn't one of those who actually Sang Along With Mitch ... but there were a number of families who did! Every week they would "follow the bouncing ball" and form their own choruses in living rooms across the country in what could be described as the invention of karaoke!

Miller's program ran for four years on NBC and, while he made no secret regarding his complete disdain for rock and roll music, he was quite successful in selecting popular middle-of-the-road music for the likes of Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and several others during his reign at Columbia Records. (One could say that he was quite instrumental ... pun intended ... in the success of these artists! In fact, one of the obituaries I read went so far as to credit Miller with involvement with approximately one third of ALL the hit music released in the early '50's ... an overstatement to be sure ... but probably not by much!)

Many of you were probably shocked to hear that he was still alive ... but a short while back we ran a piece in Forgotten Hits regarding the oldest living Top 40 Artists ... and Mitch was right at the top of the list. Miller passed away this past Saturday, July 31st, at the ripe old age of 99!

While he certainly helped propel other artists in their careers, he was pretty successful on his own as a recording artist, too. His "Sing Along" albums always performed well on the charts ... in fact, nearly twenty of them made Billboard's Top 20, with three of these LPs going all the way to #1 and another fourteen LPs reaching The Top Ten!

Creative titles like "Sing Along With Mitch", "More Sing Along With Mitch" and "Still More Sing Along With Mitch" went gold, as did "Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch", "Party Sing Along With Mitch", "Saturday Night Sing Along With Mitch", "Sentimental Sing Along With Mitch" and "Holiday Sing Along With Mitch"!

On the Singles Chart, he went all the way to #1 with his chorale arrangement of "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" back in 1955 ... in fact, it was Mitch Miller's record that knocked "Rock Around The Clock" out of the top spot on Billboard's Best Sellers Chart! "Theme Song from 'Song For A Summer Night'", "March From The River Kwai and Colonel Bogey" and "The Children's Marching Song" (Nick Nack Paddy Whack) were all National Top 20 Singles.

We'll feature "March From The River Kwai and Coloney Bogey" today ('cause that's one that I actually like ... see if it doesn't stick in YOUR head all day long!!!) ... and say our goodbyes to Mitch Miller. (kk)

Mitch Miller was sometimes an inspired A&R man and record producer and sometimes a schoolmarm – depending on how you feel about pop music from the 1950s and 1960s. Mitch’s influence was pervasive, because of his powerful perch at Columbia Records where he selected material for the likes of Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Patti Page and many more. But Miller and Frank Sinatra clashed - Sinatra was on his own journey toward becoming one of the first superstar artists to gain creative control (and to eventually start his own label, Reprise). Mitch didn’t much care for the noisy new rock & roll and hoped it would fade away. The New York Times suggests that his famous “sing along with Mitch” albums were a kind of antidote to rock & roll for fans of “good music.” His 1961-1964 NBC TV "Sing Along with Mitch" made his goateed and mustachioed face famous nationwide. Mitch eventually left Columbia, but he kept working as a guest conductor with orchestras well into his 80s. His early skill as an oboeist got him many plum jobs. (Here’s a radio connection – Mitch played in the CBS orchestra for Orson Welles’ 1938 live “War of the Worlds” broadcast.) Mitch died July 31 at age 99 – outlasting most of his critics. In 2000, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.
-- Tom Taylor / Taylor On Radio

Mitch was one of a kind and had some real forgotten hits
Click here:
David Lewis

Producer, conductor and TV host Mitch Miller died after a short illness Monday (August 2) in a New York hospital at the age of 99. His "Sing Along With Mitch" television program on NBC cemented him as a household name from 1961-1964. But the former oboe player with the CBS Symphony had established his reputation years earlier, as an "artist and repertoire" man for Mercury -- and later Columbia -- Records, where he guided the careers of Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Patti Page. His own recording (with an orchestra and chorus) of "Tzena Tzena Tzena" in 1950 reached #3 -- the first of seven top 40 hits, including "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" (#1 - 1955), "Song For A Summer Night" (#8 - 1956), "March From The River Kwai and Colonel Bogey" (#20 - 1958) and "The Children's Marching Song (Nick Nack Paddy Wack)" (#16 - 1959).

As an A&R man, his fondness for novelty tunes earned him scorn from Sinatra and a compromise with Bennett (who claims he got to record a song he liked for every tune Mitch liked). Mitch's dislike for rock 'n' roll (he once said, "Rock 'n' roll is musical baby food. It is the worship of mediocrity, brought about by a passion for conformity,") caused Columbia to fall behind many other labels when the rock era began and the bearded conductor left the label in 1965. He went on to limited success as a broadway producer but occasionally re-appeared in the spotlight as a guest conductor with various orchestras. Mitch was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2000.

-- Ron Smith (

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bobby Hebb, whose 1966 hit "Sunny" about a smiling girl became a pop music classic, has died. He was 72.
Family members and a funeral home spokesman said Hebb died Tuesday morning at Centennial Medical Center. The cause of death was not announced.
At the height of "Sunny" popularity, Hebb toured with the Beatles.
"Sunny" also was recorded by many other singers, including Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett and Jose Feliciano.
Hebb said in several interviews that he wrote "Sunny" in response to the slaying of his brother outside a Nashville nightclub and to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a few days before.
As recently as 2007, he was still writing songs and had his own publishing company and record label, Hebb Cats.

-- Celebrity Death Beeper

Bobby's biggest hit topped the Cash Box Chart back in 1966 (and was a #2 Hit in Billboard.) It recently earned quite a few of your votes as an All-Time Summer Favorite in our Forgotten Hits online poll.
Bobby (like so many other artists) has been reduced to One Hit Wonder status over the years ... despite the fact that his follow-up hit ALSO made The National Top 40.
Personally, I preferred "A Satisfied Mind" to "Sunny" ... but you rarely (if EVER) get to hear this one. So, while everybody ELSE is playing "Sunny" today, we'll feature "A Satisfied Mind" in Forgotten Hits ... 'cause that's what we're all about!
(Now HERE's a great candidate for our "One You Know ... One You Didn't Even Know You Forgot" Feature!!!) kk

Bobby Hebb, who propelled "Sunny" to #2 Pop, #3 R&B and a gold record in 1966, died of lung cancer Tuesday (August 3) in a Nashville hospital. He was 72.
Born in Nashville in 1938 to musician parents who were both blind, Bobby joined with two of his seven brothers in a vaudeville act that got them on a local TV show. This was the beginning of a remarkable career that included playing trumpet in the U.S. Navy Jazz Band (performing for Madame Chiang Kai-shek in Hong Kong), singing backup for Bo Diddley at Chess Records in Chicago, a spot on country singer Roy Acuff's show (only the third African-American to perform on the Grand Ol' Opry) and singing with Sylvia Vanderpool in a later incarnation of Micky & Sylvia. The death of Bobby's brother Harold (who had a #12 R&B hit of his own with "Rollin' Stone" as part of the Marigolds in 1955) in an attempted robbery just a day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy led Bobby to write the poignantly optimistic "Sunny." It was two years before Bobby's demo of the song would earn him a recording contract and a tour with the Beatles. Bobby followed up the song with "A Satisfied Mind" (#39 Pop, #40 R&B) and "Love Me" (#84 Pop). He also wrote the Lou Rawls hit, "A Natural Man"-originally intended for a Broadway musical. He later reprised his first hit as "Sunny '76," which only reached #94 on the R&B charts tha year.
-- Ron Smith /

I knew Bobby wrote the song for his brother, but I had no idea his brother was knifed to death right here in Nashville on 11/23/63.

David Lewis


Robert "Tommy Dark" Tharp, one-half of the duo of Tom and Jerrio with Jerry "Jerrio" Murray, died of colon cancer July 20 at the age of 72. Tommy had been the baritone singer with Chicago's Ideals from 1952-1965. The group was best known for the local Chicago hit, "The Gorilla," which bubbled-under at #127 nationally but topped out at #19 on the WLS Chicago chart in 1964. The following year, Robert hooked up with Windy City producer and promoter Jerrio Murray in a Detroit-based duo, recording "Boo-Ga-Loo" for ABC-Paramount Records. He named himself "Tommy Dark" on the advice of American Bandstand's Dick Clark. "Boo-Ga-Loo" reached #47 on the Pop charts and #11 R&B that spring and spawned the similar sounding "Great Goo-Ga-Moo-Ga" (#123 Pop) later that summer. Though they helped create the Boogaloo dance craze they were sued by Motown's Barry Gordy over authorship of that first song and saw other tunes surpass theirs on the charts, most notably "Boogaloo Down Broadway." Jerrio went on to record solo as Jerry-O, while Tom retired from performing, becoming Gene Chandler's valet, chauffeur and later road manager before working in a pet products business.

Al (Albert Willie) Goodman, who sang bass in the Moments and later as part of its successor -- Ray, Goodman & Brown -- died of a heart attack Monday (July 26) in a Hackensack, New Jersey, hospital where he had gone for undisclosed tests. It's reported the 63 year-old Jackson, Mississippi, native had also been battling liver disease.
Al, Harry Ray and Billy Brown were brought in by Sylvia Robinson's Stang Records to replace the original Moments group in 1969 (though early records featured a variety of old and new members). That group had already charted with "Not On The Outside." The new group's re-recording of "Love On A Two-Way Street" establish them as the definitive Moments, reaching #3 Pop and #1 R&B in 1970. It was followed by such R&B hits as "If I Didn't Care" (#44 Pop, #7 R&B -1970) and "All I Have" (#56 Pop, #9 R&B -1971) and "Sexy Mama," which topped at #17 Pop and #3 R&B in 1974. All in all, the different incarnations of the Moments scored 15 charted Pop and 28 R&B songs from 1969 to 1981. Creative differences with Sylvia however, led to their own departure in 1979, when they were forced to rename themselves Ray, Goodman & Brown. Signing with Polydor Records, they struck gold with their first recording -- "Special Lady" (#5 Pop, #1 - R&B -1980), following it up with two more Pop chart records and nine more R&B hits, including "Take It To The Limit" (#8, R&B -1987). Harry left the group briefly for a solo career in the '80s and died in 1992, but Al and Billy continued performing, even backing Alicia Keyes on her songs in the last decade.

And one from sick bay ...

Lead singer Rob Grill was hospitalized recovering from a collapsed lung and pneumonia and did not appear with the Grass Roots at Friday night's (July 30) Hippiefest in Daytona, Florida. No announcement of his replacement was apparently made, however.

-- Ron Smith

Hope you're all feeling well today!!! (kk)