The Man Who Fanned On Elivs and Buddy Holly
Mitch Miller was as much a part of Friday night in the Mueller household of my childhood as potato pancakes with Karo syrup.
The legendary record executive/TV show sing-a-long conductor died Monday at the age of 99.
To my father, he was a kindred soul.
Dad played in local polka groups, loved Big Band music and had no use for rock and roll. Pops found himself at odds with what was happening musically in the early 60's, clinging to the past he loved and denying the new music that was starting to dominate the radio and TV. When Dad worked 9-to-5, the TV was his at night and he got to inflict his taste on the rest of the family. There was no negotiating.
That meant what he deemed "good music" like Miller's weekly sing-a-long show.
Lawrence Welk was a weekly staple, too. Saturday night meant a hot bath and bubble music.
Miller's daytime job was as a Columbia records executive, responsible for discovering the likes of Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett. Huge finds, to be sure, and true to his "good music" roots. Miller didn't care for rock and said so, with vigor. And, in his role as record company exec, the story goes that he took a pass on both Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. Large swings-and-misses, but true again to his musical beliefs (he reportedly tried to sign Elvis, but got outbid).
Dad would eventually change jobs and work second shift, meaning he was no longer Lord God of the Lliving Room RCA each night. We could watch "Hulabaloo" and other prime time pop music shows, the kind of fare that eventually would force Mitch off the tube.
Mitch Miller is hailed as a solid music professional and a television pioneer. He was true to his tastes, even if it meant working against the grain of changing times. For that, he is to be complimented, especially because he died knowing his obit would include his infamous failings.
I'll always think of him when I hear "The Yellow Rose of Texas." And, whenever I have potato pancakes.