Mitch Miller Blues

My college roommate claimed he had a heart condition and often expressed concern about his mortality. As a result, I wasn’t entirely sure he was joking when he asked: “Jim, Can you read the obituaries each morning, and if my name’s not in there, then please wake me up?”

My old roomie, I am delighted to report, remains in remarkably good health these days, but his interest in the “Irish sports pages” was reinforced by my uncle, who liked to play a game he claimed he had invented. Uncle Joe considered himself the Abner Doubleday of a game he called the “Guess who died today?” game. (Uncle Joe, who has since made it to the obituaries himself, liked to call me up – and with an unnerving glee in his voice – he would give me three guesses.)

I blame both these characters for my interest in the obituaries, and in hindsight I can only thank them for special days like today. Not only is the inventor of “Cheez Doodles” (Morrie Yohai) recognized for his contributions to culinary civilization, but today we also pay tribute to Mitch Miller.

Mitch Miller? Am I just killing my demographics with this reference? If you are of “ a certain age” you may recall the albums and tv show, “Sing Along with Mitch.” Sociologists may some day point out that the great Mitch actually anticipated the Kareoke craze when he put song lyrics and “follow the bouncing ball” on tv in the early 60’s, as chorus singers encouraged you to sing along with them. (Who could resist the impulse to join in the fun with tunes such as “Home on the Range”? Or how could you not spring to your feet when Dinah Shore belted out the “Scottish Samba” – complete with bagpipes?)

The end must have been bitter, though, for Mitch. When David Koresh and his Branch Davidian cult members were holed up in their Waco compound in 1993, F.B.I agents blasted “Sing Along With Mitch” albums at them, in an attempt to flush them out. Oh, the indignity of it all…

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