Tag Archives: Mills Brothers

The Mills Brothers Laid the Foundation for Doo Wop

Mills Brothers

Mills Brothers

“Paper Doll” sold over 6 million copies in its first release.  Their total record sales are literally uncountable – tens of  millions.  The four brothers Herbert, Donald, Harry and John Mills, Jr started performing as teenagers in the 1920’s imitating instruments on the kazoo. They first started performing under the name “Four Boys and a Guitar.”

Well, the predictable happened……one night they Harry forgot his kazoo and, you know the story…..the rest is history.  The audience was totally amazed at the brothers as they cupped their hands over their mouth to produce muted horn sounds.  They worked on the act and the sound Of Harry as a trumpet, Johan as tuba, Donald as trombone and Herbert as second trumpet laid the foundation for doo wop. This novelty act quickly grew into the highly successful career that spanned over 4 decades!

1928 – Tiger Rag Released

Can you imagine the history of this group.  Their first hit “Tiger Rag” was released in 1928.  They had hits every year from 1935 – 1947 and the recordings continued into the 1990’s with the release of “Still….There’s You,” a compilation of hits throughout the years along with new releases.

Grammy for Lifetime Achievement Award

The Mills Brothers were honored in 1998 with the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement Award.  The four brothers learned their close-harmony first hand.  Dad, John owned a barbershop in Piqua, Ohio and started a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony.  The group’s close harmony landed them a solid spot during the swing era.  Their ingenuity and vocal genius earned them the coveted spot of being a true pioneer doo wop. 

We honor them and will never forget their last number one hit in 1952: “Glow Worm.”  Thank you Mills Brothers for giving us your hearts and souls for the past seventy-five years.


Uncle Miltie, the Automat, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Levittown



Do you know?  I’d forgotten about the majority of this and didn’t even know about Levittown.  There were so many things that passed through the popularity zone during the “golden oldie years.”

What was there before McDonald’s?   What is that magic box with those strange aluminum branches doing in my living room? Did you hear what the Dodgers did?  What are they doing on Long Island?  Have you read Baby and Child Care yet? Have you heard who Joe is accusing now?

Not only did Doo Wop music have its pioneers, there were revolutionary changes taking place in our neighborhood that would forever change the face of America.  While the Mills Brothers, the Ames Brothers, the Andrews Sisters, the Ravens, the Soul Stirrers and the Orioles fought for the air waves, our country was taking on a completely different face after World War 11.

The Automat opened in New York City in 1912 – thus the birth of “fast food.”  It remained popular through the 1950’s and paved the way for our fast food society. In 1955, the first Golden Arches of McDonald’s  rose to be the major contender in providing meals for Americans on the go. 

Milton Berle

Milton Berle

1948 brought the beginning of the end of the family gathering itself every evening around the radio. We quickly  fell in love with the elastic face of Milton Berle whose voice on the radio made us laugh. Back then restaurants would close and movie theaters were empty on Tuesday evenings when the Texaco Star Theater brought Uncle Miltie to life on that funny new screen.

Soon after the end of World War II Levitt & Sons built more than 17,000 single-family “ranch” homes that sold at under $8,000.  Levitt provided a piece of that American dream for those who could afford the payments of less than $60 a month!  The potato fields of Long Island are now a thing of the past.  Housing developments and tract homes became sought after by those who desired suburban life.

The Brooklyn Dodgers took a chance in 1945.  They signed Jackie Robinson who had, until then, played for the Kansas City Royals in the American Negro League. That single event went down in the record books as the  most important change in sports world  history.

Dr. Benjamin Spock burst onto the scene in 1946 with his philosphy of more love and less discipline in child rearing.  He believe in mutual respect between parents and their children. This man was given the distinction of contributing to the influence of the 1960’s world of hippies and flower children.  Could he be held responsible for anything else?  He was against the war in Vietnam and the development of nuclear energy. 

Who could forget the Red Scare of the 1950’s?  Joe McCarthy rose to power in the Senate and started the crusade to uncover the hidden communists, many of whom were famous while America watched helplessly.  He single-handedly ruined the lives and careers of many before he was stopped in 1954.  His abuse of American can never be forgotten.  We must be involved in our government. American cannot stand by passively and let misguided power ruin what was built on the blood of committed patriots.

Sen Joseph McCarthy

Sen Joseph McCarthy

Yes, doo wop changed popular music forever.  But as you can see, music was not the only changing taking place.