Millennium Music Profile: Matryoshka - The Mills Brothers
This page is an introduction to The Mills Brothers whose music was used during the Millennium episode Matryoshka. A complete list of all music by The Mills Brothers that was used throughout Millennium is also listed below.
Our Millennium Music Guide is based on detailed profiles for each artist, band or composer and their music which was used in a specific episode (sometimes more than one). Here you can learn more about the music and the people that created the music, including where available a description of the scenes in which their music can be heard.
An investigation conducted by Frank Black and Emma Hollis into a retired FBI agent’s suicide leads to some confusing information that links the Bureau to the Millennium Group’s modern rebirth 50 years ago. Piling evidence and personal memoirs also imply that both organizations had their hands in the powerful historical events the occurred at the Los Alamos nuclear research center.
Written by Erin Maher & Kay Reindl
Directed by Arthur Forney
Edited by James Coblentz
Music by The Mills Brothers used in the Millennium episode Matryoshka
The Mills Brothers were a major African-American jazz and pop vocal quartet of the 20th century producing more than 2,000 recordings that sold more than 50 million copies and garnered at least three dozen gold records. The Mills Brothers were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.
Where The Mills Brothers can be heard in Matryoshka
The Millennium episode Matryoshka contains the following music by The Mills Brothers:
Heard many times throughout the episode Matryoshka.
The Mills Brothers - additional music heard in Millennium
Millennium's producers would occasionally use additional music from the same artist, band or composer. Sometimes a track or song could be heard in more than one episode of the series.
Music from The Mills Brothers was used in a total of 1 episode/s of Millennium. Below is a complete list of all music by The Mills Brothers heard throughout the series and the episodes in which it was used, including links to the relevant music and episode profiles:
The group was originally composed of four brothers all born in Piqua, Ohio, just 25 miles north of Dayton: John Jr. (1911-1936) basso and guitarist, Herbert (1912-1989) tenor, Harry (1913-1982) baritone, and Donald (1915-1999) lead tenor.
The Rise To Stardom
Then in 1928, after playing May's Opera House in Piqua between Rin Tin Tin features, they accompanied the Harold Greenameyer Band to Cincinnati for an audition with radio station WLW. The Band was not hired, but the Mills brothers were. With the help of Seger Ellis, WLW Cincinnati DJ and a music legend of the '20s, they quickly became local radio stars and got their major break when Duke Ellington and his Orchestra played a date in Cincinnati. When the youngsters sang for Duke, he was so impressed he called Tommy Rockwell at Okeh Records, who signed them and brought the group to New York.
In September of 1930, Ralph Wonders urged broadcasting executive William S. Paley, at CBS Radio in New York, to turn on his office speaker and listen to an audition of four young men. For the audition they were '"The Mills Brothers,"' but they had been known by many other names. They were billed as 'The Steamboat Four' when they sang for Sohio. They were the 'Tasty Yeast Jesters' when they sang for Tasty Yeast. They had been called the 'Four Boys and a Guitar' on their Sunday shows. When Paley heard their performance, he immediately went downstairs and put them on CBS radio. The next day the Mills Brothers signed a three-year contract and became the first African-Americans to have a network show on radio.
Their very first record recorded for Brunswick, a cover of the Original Dixieland Jass Band standard "Tiger Rag" became a nationwide seller. Other hits quickly followed -- '"Goodbye Blues"', their theme song, '"You're Nobody's Sweetheart Now,"' '"Ole Rockin' Chair,"' '"Lazy River"', '"How'm I doin',"' and others -- cementing them in the minds of the nation and making them national stars.
They were a sensation on CBS in 1930-1931, particularly when they co-starred on the widely popular '"Fleischman's Yeast Hour"' hosted by Rudy Vallee. They had their own popular radio series in 1932-1933, one of the earliest built around a black act, billed as the "Four Boys and a Guitar". Before their show announcers commonly explained to listeners that the only instrument was a guitar, as the vocal effects made many listeners think they were hearing a muted trumpet, saxophone, and string bass.
The Mills Brothers were sponsored by some of the largest advertisers in early radio; Standard Oil, Procter & Gamble, Crisco, and Crosley Radio. They began appearing in films. Their first, The Big Broadcast (Paramount, 1932) was an all star radio revue that included Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, and the Boswell Sisters. In 1934, the Brothers starred with Crosby for Woodbury Soap, and recorded their classics "Lazy Bones," " Sweet Sue," "Lulu's Back in Town," "Bye-Bye Blackbird," "Sleepy Head," and "Shoe Shine Boy". Their film appearances included Twenty Million Sweethearts (Warner Brothers, 1934) and Broadway Gondolier, (Warner Brothers, 1935).
By now the brothers were highly successful and recognized all over the world. In 1934, The Mills Brothers became the first African-Americans to give a command performance before British royalty. They performed at the Regal Theatre for a special audience; King George V, Queen Mary, and their mother. While performing in England, John Jr. became ill. It took him months to recover from battling pneumonia. Before he was completely well, the Brothers returned to England. John Jr. once again became sick and died in the beginning of 1936.
This was a difficult time for the remaining brothers. They were considering breaking up, when their mother told them John Jr. would want them to continue. They followed her suggestion and their father, John Sr., as the baritone and tuba, replaced the deceased Brother, John Jr. At this time, Norman Brown joined the Brothers as their guitar player.
Their parents were John H. and Eathel Mills. Their father, John Sr., owned a barber 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 barbershop 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. That fateful day, 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 amazing ability to imitate musical instruments with their voices.
The War Years
Soon they were back in Europe. Through 1939 they enjoyed remarkable success in Europe. Herbert recalls, "We left England for the last time just three days before war was declared on Germany and the only boat we could get was to Australia. We were overseas from then on except for two months in 1940 and then we went back to South America. We didn't get back until 1941. In the meantime the Ink Spots were coming up, and people had sort of forgotten us."
In the period between John Jr.'s death and their return to the States, they re-recorded "Lazy River." It was followed by "Someday You'll Want Me to Want You," "Swing Is the Thing," "Long About Midnight," "Organ Grinders Swing," and "The Song is Ended." They honored Duke Ellington with a swing version of the "Caravan," and then produced a series of classic recordings; "South of the Border," which they performed in a tour of South America, along with "Ain't Misbehavin," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Jeepers Creepers," "Three Little Fishes," and "Basin Street Blues."
The Later Years
Their fiftieth anniversary in show business was celebrated in 1976 with a tribute at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Bing Crosby hosted this nostalgic tribute. Few in the audience realized that Harry was now almost blind because of diabetes.
As a trio, Herbert, Harry and Donald continued performing on the oldies circuit until Harry's death in 1982, and Herbert's in 1989. Then, Donald began performing with the third generation of the family -- his son, John III. In 1998 the Recording Academy recognized the Mills family's contributions to popular music when it presented Donald, as the surviving member, with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
After Donald's death of pneumonia on November 13, 1999, John III began touring under the name "The Mills Brothers" with onetime Platters lead vocalist Elmer Hopper.
Song 1: Till Then
Album Title: Close Harmony (LP 1969 & CD 1992)
20th Century Masters: The Best of the Mills Brothers (CD 2000)
Scene: Till Then can be heard during the following scenes in the Millennium episode Matryoshka:
Heard many times throughout the episode Matryoshka.
Till Then is a popular song written by Eddie Seiler, Sol Marcus, and Guy Wood and published in 1944.
The song was a plea (presumably by a solder off to fight the war) to his sweetheart to wait for him until he could get back home. Like many war-themed songs, it enjoyed great popularity when it came out in 1944 in music, and versions by The Mills Brothers (which reached #8 on the Billboard chart) and the Les Brown orchestra dominated the charts.
Ten years later, for some reason, the song once more became quite popular. Both a doo wop version by Sonny Til & The Orioles and a traditional pop version by The Hilltoppers (#10 on Billboard) charted that year.
The song has continued to be popular, with versions recorded in later years by such as Sammy Davis Jr. and James Brown. A 1963 version by The Classics reached #20 on the chart.
Listen to Till Then
The following video clip relates to Till Then by The Mills Brothers:
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Lyrics for Till Then:
The following lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels. The lyrics to Till Then are provided for educational and research purposes only. Please support The Mills Brothers by purchasing relevant CD's or legal music downloads.