Mitch Miller, the goateed orchestra leader who asked Americans to "Sing Along With Mitch" on television and records, died Saturday at age 99. Miller was a key exec at Columbia Records in the pre-rock 'n' roll era, making hits with singers Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett. Sing Along With Mitch started as a series of records, then became a popular NBC show starting in early 1961. Miller's stiff-armed conducting style and signature goatee became famous.
The TV show ranked in the top 20 for the 1961-62 season, and soon children everywhere were parodying Miller's stiff-armed conducting. An all-male chorus sang old standards, joined by a few female singers, most prominently Leslie Uggams. Viewers were invited to join in with lyrics superimposed on the screen and followed with a bouncing ball. Miller and a chorus had a No. 1 hit in 1955 with "The Yellow Rose of Texas," and that led to his sing-along records a few years later. In recent years, Miller returned to his classical roots, appearing frequently as a guest conductor with symphony orchestras.