Miller should have stuck with being a classical horn/oboe player,he may not have
made as much money,but he would have been more respected.
Let's not forget how the older jazz musicians looked down on bebop in the 40s.
Those of us who grew up during,or after,the time The Beatles hit,and all of the
cross pollinization that came afterwards,may be aware of the reaction to rock in
the 50s,but as time goes by,it gets harder and harder to comprehend.
You do have to wonder how such a conservative label,in the 50s,was able to hire
someone like Teo Macero in 1957,let alone Miles,Mingus,and Monk.
From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tue, August 3, 2010 1:11:49 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mitch Miller RIP
I think part of what offended Miller and other guys of that ilk about rock was
what they perceived as a lack of musical talent. These guys were
academy-trained, and the academies looked down on hillbilly music and even jazz.
Remember that it was a big deal for cutting edge classical people to start
embracing jazz elements in the 30's and 40's. Where rock sprang up, there was no
resistence to hillbilly music, it was everyday music.
If you look at the Billboard charts, which were somewhat reflective of what
records were being bought by actual people in actual stores, rock had a fad
impact in the 50's but then faded until the British invasion, which at first was
a recycling and re-interpretation of American musical forms from 5-10 years
earlier. Once the Brits took hold here, though, there was no stopping any of it.
And yes, the older guard that resisted the tide at the big record companies paid
the price in sales. The same thing happened all over again with punk and new
wave, only by then the big record labels were so big that they could get a piece
of the pie by distribution deals and outright buying the aggressive indies.
Notice how quickly all of the megaglomerates made sure to tie up deals with
various rap tycoons once that genre started showing up on the charts. They
absorbed the bad publicity and scolding from the likes of Tipper Gore in order
to reap the millions.
Regarding Mitch Miller, two points:
1. what some may consider schlock was popular music in those days. Popular, as
in populous, as in many, many people enjoyed it. Miller's sing-along show had a
huge audience and his sing-along records sold millions of copies, millions more
than many contemporary records now considered oh-so-hip.
2. the artists that Miller worked with at both Mercury and Columbia records sold
boatloads of records and thus subsidized some of the oh-so-hip slow-selling
stuff that is more popular in retrospect than it was when it was released.
That's not to deny that Miller's tastes fell out of the mainstream as the 60's
youth culture emerged. But he was far from an inept, tone-deaf record executive.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message ----- From: "Cary Ginell" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, August 03, 2010 2:47 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mitch Miller RIP
There's a lot on Miller's work for Mercury in Dennis McClellan's article in the
Los Angeles Times today, which, by the way, was on the front page. They talked
about him providing the "whip" sound for Frankie Laine's recording of "Mule
Train," the overdubbing on Patti Page's "Money, Marbles and Chalk," and his role
in the careers of Mercury artists like Vic Damone and Patti Page. He even
mentions Miller playing on the "Charlie Parker with Strings" LPs. Miller did a
lot for Columbia in the same way Dave Dexter did for Capitol; they were fine for
middle-of-the-road artists, but refused to change with the times or accept the
validity of the public's changing styles. Miller turned down Elvis; Dexter
turned down the Beatles at least four times. They made their mark for what they
themselves liked, but as businessmen, they had their limitations and failed to
have their fingers on the pulse of where the public's tastes were going. This is
why someone like George Martin has to be admired: he was a classical guy who
produced the Goons in England and used his ability to adapt to the Beatles'
style. With Miller's musicality and experience, he might have done the same
thing at Columbia, but refused to acknowledge rock 'n' roll as a bonafide art
form and something that could have made Columbia millions. Instead, they
stagnated in the rock world. Only John Hammond gave Columbia any place in the
rock world by signing Bob Dylan, then just a folk singer who happened to develop
into a rock legend. As a partial result of Miller's influence, Columbia didn't
have any bonafide rock 'n' roll talents until Janis Joplin in the late '60s.
> Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2010 13:58:50 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Mitch Miller RIP
> To: [log in to unmask]
> In the (few) obits I've read for Mitch Miller, I didn't see any mention of his
>early role in Mercury
> Records, which was important for the young independent company. Miller was an
>oboe player, Eastman
> School trained. He was hired at Mercury by John Hammond and he, Hammond and
>David Hall comprised the
> company's earliest classical-music staff. Miller recorded an album of
>oboe/chamber orchestra music
> for Mercury, as well as worked on the "Charlie Parker with Strings" sessions
>for Norman Granz. At
> that time, Granz was affiliated with Mercury.
> After Miller went to Columbia and, among many other things, founded the famous
>30th Street studio,
> he continued to moonlight with other projects. One on-going thing for him in
>the 50's and 60's was
> conducting, arranging and producing sessions for Little Golden Book kiddie
>records. He did some of
> these sessions at Fine Sound and then Fine Recording.
> Some of the obits and tributes struck me as very ironic. Miller was portrayed
>as this old
> fuddy-duddy of suburbia in the age of rock and roll with his sing-along show.
>The goatee should have
> slain that myth. Both Miller and Hammond were cutting-edge dudes in their time,
>very much on the
> forefront of music and intellectual thought, and far left of the mainstream in
>their social and
> political views. They were progressives before there was such a term.
> Mitch Miller did much for the music business, and for Mercury and then Columbia
>Records. May he rest
> in peace.
> -- Tom Fine