Mills Brothers

From Ohio History Central

The Mills Brothers was an African-American vocal group that formed during the 1920s.

The Mills Brothers originally consisted of four brothers, John Mills, Jr., Herbert Mills, Harry Mills, and Donald Mills. All four men were born in Piqua, Ohio, but they spent their youth in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Early in their careers, the brothers sang advertising jingles for such companies as SOHIO and Crosley Radio. In 1930, a CBS Radio executive heard the brothers perform and signed them to a contract. The Mills Brothers became the first African-American vocal group to perform on national radio.

The brothers' father, John Mills, Sr., joined the group when John, Jr., died in 1936. The group recorded over 1,200 songs, including such hits as "You Always Hurt the One You Love," "Tiger Rag," and "Paper Doll." The brothers were also the first African American singing group to give a command performance before a British monarch. In 1934, the brothers performed for King George V and Queen Mary. Their mother was permitted to sit in the royal box.

A group known as the Mills Brothers continues to perform today. The last of the original four brothers, Donald, died in 1999. The only person directly related to the founders of the Mills Brothers still with the group is John Mills II. He is the son of Donald Mills.