“For over 15 years, beginning in 1948 and lasting into the early ’60s, Mitch Miller was a major force in the recording industry. He was not only one of the most powerful men in the music business for much of that time, as the head of A&R (artists and repertory) for the pop division at Columbia Records, but he was also one of that label’s most popular recording artists in his own right, responsible for dozens of chart singles and a string of top-selling LPs, and also hosted his own top-rated prime-time network television music show. And that pop music career followed a decade and a half as a successful working classical musician.
Mitchell William Miller was born in Rochester, NY, on the Fourth of July, in 1911. He showed his interest in music very early in life — at six he began learning the piano and at 12 he took up the oboe. He attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he made the acquaintance of a fellow student, Goddard Lieberson, who was to become a major figure in the music business two decades later. Miller graduated in 1932, and joined the music department at the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio network that same year, as an oboist and English horn player. At that time, CBS had no record label, and Miller worked as a member and sometime soloist with the CBS Symphony. Among his many jobs with the orchestra, he was one of the musicians playing the musical accompaniment on the night of Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. He also did a fair amount of session work during those years, including a recording of Jean Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, on RCA Victor. When the network acquired the American Record Company in 1939 — which it renamed Columbia Records — Miller appeared as an oboist on recordings conducted by light classical/pop leader Andre Kostelanetz, and also worked with groups such as the Budapest String Quartet. He was featured on the earliest recordings of the music of composer Alec Wilder, who was a good friend of Miller’s. And he was later the soloist on a Columbia Masterworks release of the Mozart Oboe Concerto.”