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How Can Anyone Not Like The Mills Brothers?

Let me say this as delicately as possible: Conceptually and objectively, I understand that tastes are different. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that. Okay. Got it. All that said, I still don’t really understand how anyone can not like the Mills Brothers. Just listen to these guys. “(Up a) Lazy River,” above, got nine dislikes at YouTube. “Glow Worm,” below, got 20. (The songs got 483 and 1,053 likes, respectively. That somewhat restores my faith in human nature. Somewhat.)

Okay, rant over. Here is the beginning of the group’s Last.fm profile:

The Mills Brothers, sometimes billed as The Four Mills Brothers, were a U.S. jazz and pop vocal quartet.

The group was originally composed of four brothers all born in Piqua, Ohio: John Jr (1911-1936) basso and guitarist, Herbert (1912-1989) tenor, Harry (1913-1982) baritone, and Donald (1915-1999) lead tenor. Their father owned a barber’s shop, and founded a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony. As the boys grew older, they began singing in the choir of the Cyrene African Methodist Episcopal Church and in the Park Avenue Baptist Church in Piqua. After their lessons at the Spring Street Grammar School, they would gather in front of their father’s shop on Public Square or at the corner of Greene and Main to sing and play the kazoo to passersby.

They entered an amateur contest at Piqua’s Mays Opera House, but while on stage Harry discovered he had lost his kazoo. He cupped his hands to his mouth and imitated a trumpet. The success of his imitation led to all the brothers taking on instruments to imitate and created their early signature sound. John Jr accompanied the four-part harmony first with a ukulele and then a guitar. They practised imitating orchestras they heard on the radio. John, as the bass, would imitate the tuba, Harry, a baritone, imitated the trumpet, Herbert became the second trumpet, and Donald the trombone. They entertained on the Midwest theatre circuit, at house parties, tent shows, music halls, and supper clubs throughout the area, and became well known for their close harmonies, mastery of scat singing, and their ability to imitate musical instruments with their voices. (Continue Reading…)

Here is a nice version of “(Up a) Lazy River” by Leon Redbone.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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