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How Mitch Miller Invented Pop Music

Music producer and sing-along man Mitch Miller died this weekend at 99. We talk about how he shaped the modern pop record and changed musical history.

Conductor Mitch Miller amid members of the International Trombone Association, May 5, 1979 in Boston. Miller died July 31, 2010. (AP)

Mitch Miller died this weekend at 99.

Many know him for his television sing-along shows – as a goateed face on the tube commanding you to “come on and sing!” But Miller was much more. As an influential producer in the 50s and 60s, he shaped the careers of singers like Tony Bennett, Johnny Matthis, Rosemary Clooney and more. Also Patti Page and Leslie Uggams, who will join us – as we look at how Miller changed the musical landscape forever.

This hour, On Point: Mitch Miller, the man behind the music.

– Jane Clayson

Guests:

Elijah Wald, music historian and critic. Author of “The Blues: A Very Short Introduction,” “How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music,” and many other books. Has written for the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. He has recorded two albums as a blues guitarist.

Will Friedwald, music historian and critic. Writes for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Sun, and many other publications. His new book, “A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz & Pop Singers” will be released in November. He’s also author of “Sinatra! The Song is You, A Singer’s Art” and he collaborated with legendary singer Tony Bennett on his autobiography, “The Good Life.”

Leslie Uggams, actress and singer. As a regular on Mitch Miller’s “Sing Along With Mitch” program on NBC, she was the first African American performer to be featured on a national prime-time television series. She’s also well-known for her Tony award winning performance in the 1967 musical “Hallelujah, Baby,” and her leading role in the miniseries, “Roots.”

Patti Page, legendary American singer – known for hits like “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” “Tennessee Waltz,” and “Old Cape Cod.” The top-selling female artist of the 1950s, she worked closely with Mitch Miller, who produced many of her early songs.

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