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Irving Mills (1/16/1894 - 4/21/1985)

Music Publisher, Orchestra Leader, Booking Agent, Recording Company Owner, Lyricist, Vocalist

Irving Mills , the son of immigrant parents, rose to entrepreneurial heights in various aspects of the music business despite minimal formal education. He had an instinct for assessing both music and musicians, honed during his youth working in New York restaurants that featured the latest songs and best performers. Although not a musician, he had a good singing voice and hired on as a song-plugger.

He established a music publishing business in 1919 and signed many then unknowns like Hoagy Carmichael and Dorothy Fields. Mills also created orchestras from the best players of the time to record his material. He formed a booking agency and ran a recording company for all of his bands, even opening the Hotsy Totsy Club in New York named for one of them. His first success as a lyricist was his collaboration with Jimmy McHugh and Gene Austin on “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street” (1924).

Mills was instrumental in forging the early careers of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, who opened at the Cotton Club with a song that he and Mills wrote with Clarence Gaskill, “Minnie the Moocher” (1931). Mills recorded Cab who became an international success with his “Hi-De-Ho” signature phrase.

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