1968 The Mills Brothers – Cab Driver
Four brothers (Donald, Harry, Herbert, and John Mills Jr.) sang together in their church choir. When they got a little older, they literally sang together on the corner outside of their father’s barbershop. Their father (John Sr.) also sang in a barbershop quartet, and no doubt encouraged the boys to sing as a group.
John Jr. also played the guitar while the boys sang. They were hired by radio station WLW in 1928 and became popular with the station’s listeners. At times, they were called The Steamboat Four or Four Boys and a Guitar, but in 1930 they auditioned for CBS radio in New York as The Mills Brothers. They were hired, and became the first African-American singers to have their own network radio program.
In 1931, the group recorded a cover version of Tiger Rag and their single quickly topped the charts and soon sold over a million copies.
In the next decade, the group had eighteen top ten singles and nine more top twenty singles. John Jr. died in 1936 and their father sometimes filled in for him.
The group’s recording of I’ll Be Around peaked at #17 in 1943. One disk jockey turned the record over and began playing the B-side of the single. Other stations followed suit, and soon Paper Doll reached #1 on the charts. The record went on to sell over eleven million copies.
The group continued recording hit records, but their sales slowed down in the mid-fifties when rock-and-roll began catching fire. The group’s last hit single came in 1968 when they released Cab Driver. The single reached #23 on the Hot 100.
Cab Driver also became their first single to reached the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart, where it peaked at #3. While they never again entered the top forty on the Hot 100, three more of their singles reached the AC chart top forty in 1968-69.
The brothers continued appearing in public, slowly replacing members who retired or died. Often, children of the original members became members of the Mills Brothers.
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