Friday, March 04, 2011
AccuRadio Song Of The Day-The Mills Brothers
Album:Their Original & Greatest Hits
The Mills Brothers were pioneers and innovators in black vocal harmonies. They were one of the most popular acts of the 40s and their 1943 chart topper Paper Doll is their signature song. They remained popular in the 50s and 60s as a nostalgia act. The Mills Brothers were from Piqua, OH near Dayton. John Mills Jr was guitarist and bass singer, Herbert Mills was tenor, Harry Mills was baritone and Donald Mills was lead tenor. Normally they sang with guitar accompaniment only. Their father John Mills Sr. owned a barber shop and founded the barbershop quartet Four Kings Of Harmony. After school, the boys would sing in front of dad's barber shop accompanied by Harry's kazoo. One day Harry lost his kazoo and the boys started imitating musical instruments they heard on the radio with their voices and hands. And John Jr. started playing the ukelele and then guitar. They could imitate a complete horn section. In 1928, they became regulars on Cincinnati radio station WLW. Duke Ellington discovered them when he came through town and got them a deal with Columbia's Okeh label. When CBS boss William Paley heard them, The Mills Brothers were the first blacks to have their own radio show. They also changed the group name from Four Boys and a Guitar to The Mills Brothers. They first hit the charts in 1933 with Tiger Rag and signed with Decca Records in 1934 and recorded there for many years. While on a trip to England to perform for King George V, John Jr. got sick with pneumonia and died on Jan. 23, 1936. John Mills Sr. stepped in to replace him and Norman Brown was the new guitarist. They petered out in America in the late 30s but were still big in Europe. They finally hit the jackpot when Paper Doll topped the singles chart for 12 weeks in 1943. It was actually the B-side of I'll Be Around. But DJs turned it over and liked Paper Doll better. The song was written by Tin Pan Alley songwriter Johnny S. Black who died in 1936. It appears that the song sat around for several years. They had a lot of success in the 50s with the #1 hit Glow Worm in 1952. But as Rock 'N' Roll took over, The Mills Brothers became a nostalgia act. John Sr. retired in 1957 and they continued as a trio. Dean Martin in particular acknowledged their influence and had them on his 60s variety show. John Mills III tours the oldies circuit with a version of The Mills Brothers today. Universal owns the Mills Brothers recordings but they license them to reissue labels like this CD from the British label Jasmine. I like to stay away from off labels but these are the original recordings. Here's a Soundie of Paper Doll by The Mills Brothers featuring Dorothy Dandridge. A Soundie was a film that played in jukeboxes in the 40s.