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