NEW YORK -- Mitch Miller, the goateed Master of the Singalong, who became a hugely popular recording artist and an unlikely television star a half century ago by leading a choral group in familiar old songs and inviting people to sing along, died Saturday in Manhattan. He was 99.
His daughter Margaret Miller Reuther confirmed the death Monday morning, saying her father had died after a short illness at Lenox Hill Hospital.
The "Sing Along With Mitch" album series, which began in 1958, was an immense success, finding an eager audience among older listeners looking for an alternative to rock 'n' roll. Mitch Miller and the Gang serenaded them with chestnuts like "Home on the Range," "That Old Gang of Mine," "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary."
When the concept was adapted for television in 1961, with the lyrics appearing at the bottom of the screen, Mr. Miller, with his beaming smile and neatly trimmed mustache and goatee, became a national celebrity.
By then he had established himself as a hit maker for Columbia Records and a career shaper for singers like Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, Patti Page and Frankie Laine. First at Mercury Records and then at Columbia, he helped define American popular music in the postwar, pre-rock era, carefully matching singers with songs and choosing often unorthodox but almost always catchy instrumental accompaniment.
Tony Bennett's career took off after Mr. Miller persuaded him to record the ballad "Because of You," backing him with a lush orchestral arrangement by Percy Faith. It reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1951.
Rosemary Clooney was making a mere $50 a recording session when Mr. Miller asked her to record "Come On-a My House," an oddity based on an Armenian folk melody written by the playwright and novelist William Saroyan and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian, who later went on to create Alvin and the Chipmunks. "Nothing happened to me until I met Mitch," she later said.
His wife of 65 years, the former Frances Alexander, died in 2000.
Besides his daughter Margaret Miller Reuther, Miller is survived by another daughter, Andrea Miller; a son, Mitchell; two brothers, Leon and Joseph; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.