The Music Division was saddened to hear that record producer/ recording artist/television legend Mitch Miller passed away on saturday in Manhattan. Miller lived to the venerable age of 99 years and thus bore witness to nearly a century of popular music history. As an executive at Mercury and then Columbia records, Miller played a vital part in that history, as much for who he didn’t record – he sent Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly packing – as for who he did, a roster that featured Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, and, in his last years for the label, Frank Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes regretted some of the material assigned under Miller’s watch, and it’s difficult to defend “Mama Will Bark,” an infamous duet with singer Dagmar (born with the less exotic name of Virginia Ruth Egnor), but I’ve always been fond of ”Bim Bam Baby, ” which despite Miller’s resistance to the new music would be as close to rock and roll as Sinatra would get for some time.
Still, it’s hard to deny the romance and lush sound of those Johnny Mathis records, and that sound, Miller’s gift as a producer, will be his legacy long after the bouncing ball and the Sing Along With Mitch records disappear from our nation’s thrift stores.
The Music Division just announced the the launch of portions of the William P. Gottlieb Collection on Flickr. Gottlieb was best known for his portraits of jazz legends, but imagine my surprise to find Miller among his subjects. Remember Mitch Miller with this photo from the Gottlieb Collection in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia. The Music Division is home to the Mitch Miller Collection, which consists of fifteen shelves’ worth of arrangements, business correspondence and legal documents. The Library also houses a collection of kinescopes of Miller’s NBC television program Sing Along With Mitch , which the Library of Congress blog wrote about last year.