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Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell
July 1, 1999
Age 72


Under the Knife

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OBITUARY 
        
NY TIMES
 
Guy Mitchell, 72, Pop Crooner of the '50s

          By STEPHEN HOLDEN 

          Guy Mitchell, the jocular pop crooner of lightweight songs who epitomized the clean-cut boy next door in the early 1950s, died on Thursday at Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas. He was 72 and lived  in Las Vegas.  

          The cause was complications following surgery, said his wife, Betty Mitchell.  

          Between 1950 and 1960 Mitchell had nearly 40 hit records, most of them novelties, folk tunes and country songs, all under the aegis of the Columbia Records producer Mitch Miller. In 1956 Mitchell's cover version of Marty Robbins' country hit "Singing the Blues" was the No. 1 
 pop single for a near record-breaking 10 weeks.  

          The son of immigrants from Yugoslavia, Mitchell was born Al Cernick in Detroit. When he was 11, his family moved to Los Angeles where he auditioned for Warner Bros.; the company groomed him to be a child star. But his film career was delayed when the family moved to San Francisco, where Mitchell appeared regularly on the radio shows of Dude Martin, a country singer.  

          In 1947 he became a vocalist with Carmen Cavallero's orchestra, with which he made his first recordings for Decca. In 1949 he won "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" as a soloist. When Frank Sinatra refused to record two songs for Columbia Records while the band was waiting in the studio, Miller, who had heard Mitchell sing on demonstration records, called him in as a last-minute substitute.  

          Those two songs, "My Heart Cries for You" (a soupy adaptation of an 18th-century French ballad, "Chanson de Marie-Antoinette") and "The Roving Kind" (an adaptation of an English folk song, "The Pirate Ship,"  that had previously been recorded by the Weavers) became back-to-back Top 5 hits.  

          He went on to enjoy a succession of jaunty hits, including "Sparrow in the Treetop," "My Truly, Truly Fair," "Belle, Belle, My Liberty Belle," "Pittsburgh, Pa.," and "Feet Up (Pat Him on the Po-Po"), clever pseudo-folk novelties by Bob Merrill, who had invented the subgenre with the Patti Page hit "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window?"  

          As rock 'n' roll stampeded onto the charts in the mid-1950s, Mitchell's moment seemed to be over. But by shifting the emphasis from novelties to country songs, Mitchell enjoyed a second wind with "Singing the Blues," "Rock-a-Billy" (a stiff tribute to the Memphis country-rock sound), and a second and final No. 1 hit, "Heartaches by the Number," a cover version of Ray Price's country hit.  

          In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Joseph Stanzak of Twin Falls, Idaho, and David Stanzak of Spokane, Wash., and five grandchildren.  

          Mitchell also worked as a movie actor. He starred with Rhonda Fleming,  Gene Barry, Agnes Moorehead and Teresa Brewer in "Those Redheads From Seattle" (1953), a comedy about the Gold Rush, and with Rosemary Clooney and Jack Carson in "Red Garters" (1954), a musical western spoof, and appeared in "The Wild Westerners" (1962). 

          For three months in 1957 he was the host of a variety series, "The Guy Mitchell Show" on ABC. In the early 1960s he played a detective,   George Romack, in a short-lived NBC series, "Whispering Smith,"  starring Audie Murphy.  

          After being dropped from Columbia Records in 1962, Mitchell recorded sporadically for several labels and was a regular performer on the nostalgia circuit.  

 
 Guy Mitchell, who recorded 'Heartaches by the Number,' dead at 72 

                  

                   LAS VEGAS (AP) - Guy Mitchell, a country-pop artist from the 1950s whose recordings of "Singing the Blues" and "Heartaches by the Number" skyrocketed to the top of the charts and became standards of the era, has died. He was 72. 

                   He died Thursday night of complications after surgery at Desert Springs Hospital, his wife, Betty Mitchell, said Friday. 

                   Mr. Mitchell - who also appeared in movies and on Las Vegas stages, and had his own television show in the late 1950s - had been a Las Vegas resident since 1981. 

                   "The Metropolitan Opera wanted Guy early in his career, but he loved pop and country music," Mrs. Mitchell said. "He was one of the first to combine both forms of music, and that made him real popular even during the rock 'n' roll era." 

                   Born Albert Cernick in Detroit on Feb. 22, 1927, he was raised in San 
                   Francisco and served in the Navy during World War II. 

                   Long nicknamed "Guy," he took the last name Mitchell as a stage name to honor famed band leader Mitch Miller, who discovered him. 

                   In 1950, after Frank Sinatra declined to record "My Heart Cries for You,"   Mr. Miller offered it to Mr. Mitchell. He not only had a million seller with that Columbia Records recording, but another with the B-side of that record, "The Roving Kind." 

                   It launched a career that made Mr. Mitchell a household name in the '50s.   He followed it up with "My Truly Truly Fair" in 1952. He went on to have 16 million-selling recordings. 

                   In 1953, he starred with Rhonda Fleming in the movie Those Redheads From Seattle and a year later with Rosemary Clooney in Red Garters. In  1957, he starred on television in The Guy Mitchell Show and appeared on the major television shows of that era.

 

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Beau-dacious Enterprises Inc.
Guy Mitchell

  Guy Mitchell was born Al Cernick on February 27, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan. When Guy was 11 years old the family moved to Los Angeles. On the train journey to Los Angeles a passenger told Guy's mother that her son had a beautiful voice and when they got settled in Los Angeles she should contact him. True to his word, he arranged an audition with Warner Brothers who signed Guy to a contract for grooming as a child star. 

  Guy took acting, dancing, voice, and diction lessons, and sang on the studios radio station. Country singer Dude Martin invited Guy to appear regularly on his two radio shows. 

  In 1947 Guy joined Carmen Cavallaro's orchestra as a vocalist and made his first recording for Decca Records. In 1949 Guy was a winner on the....Arthur Godfrey talent Scouts. In 1948 he recorded two songs with Mitch Miller for Columbia Records.....My Heart Cries For You and The Roving Kind. Both songs made the top five on the charts.  

  Guy's first number one hit....Singing The Blues....came in 1956 and was the first of six singles in the rock era to have a nine week run at number one. Elvis Presley's....Too Much....ended the nine week streak. In 1959 Guy had his second number one hit....Heartaches By The Number. 

  Guy pursued dual careers during the fifties and sixties. All the time he was having hits on the charts, he was also working full time as an actor. He made movies with Teresa Brewer and Rosemary Clooney to name a few. He also had his own television show in 1957. 

  Guy made three tours of England. In 1952, he filled in for Jack Benny at the London Palladium. Two years later he was invited, along with Frankie Lane, to sing for Queen Elizabeth II and had his own one-hour British TV special.

All-Music Guide

To some listeners, the name Guy Mitchell evokes contempt--as the singer whose pop-styled covers of "Singin' The Blues" and "Knee Deep In The Blues" cut the legs out from under Marty Robbins' country-styled original renditions. To others, Mitchell evokes the last period of America's innocence, the mid-1950's, when he periodically ascended the pop charts in the company of singers like Frankie Laine. Mitchell was all of those things and more, in some ways a trail- blazer-- he was the first major recording artist whose career was crafted in the studio, by a record company, and sold to the public by way of records and the radio, not concerts. He was the precursor to the late 1950's teen idols crafted by the industry as an alternative to the burgeoning success of rock 'n roll. In contrast to some of the younger male singing idols of that era, however, Mitchell had a genuinely good voice as his starting point in music.  

 He was born Al Cernick in Detroit in 1927, into a Yugoslavian immigrant family whose members sang as often as possible, for their own pleasure. He made his first appearance as a singer at age three, at a wedding reception. The Cernick family moved across the country in search of a place they liked, before reaching Los Angeles in 1938. He was spotted by a talent scout and signed up as a child performer at Warner Bros. Studios that same year, and managed to broadcast over a studio-controlled radio station.  

 The family's move to San Francisco in 1940 ended the boy's relationship with Warner Bros., but he kept taking voice lessons. A summer job on a ranch in the San Joachin Valley taught him the basics of a cowboy's skills, and by the time he was 17 he was working as an apprentice saddle-maker. He kept on singing in his spare time, and this led to the offer of a spot on a local radio show.  

 He joined the navy for a two-year hitch in 1944, resuming his radio singing career afterward. In 1947, he joined the Carmen Cavallaro orchestra, still billed as Al Cernick, as the featured vocalist, but a bout of food-poisoning caused him to drop out. In 1948, he cut some sides for King Records as Al Grant, and won first prize on Arthur Godfrey's Talents Scouts radio program. This led to his being hired as a demo singer by various music publishers (one of the songs he demo'd was "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer").  

 The singer was signed up by impresario Eddie Joy, who intensified his training and finally introduced him to Mitch Miller, the head of Artists and Repertory for Columbia Records. It was Miller who transformed Al Cernick into Guy Mitchell, using his own first same for the surname. Mitchell's first five singles at Columbia failed, and his career was only rescued when Frank Sinatra, still with Columbia Records, declined to cut a pair of songs for which Miller had already set recording sessions and engaged musicians. Mitchell was brought into the studio, and the resulting recordings of "My Heart Cries For You" and "The Roving Kind" rode the charts for 21 weeks in 1951, selling nearly two million copies.  

 Mitchell's recording career was made, although his performing career needed work--he'd hardly had the chance to develop a serious stage act or effective persona when he was booked into some of the biggest clubs in New York, and roundly criticized for what some onlookers felt were amateurish aspects of his presentation. Additionally, nobody had given thought to a problem that hadn't afflicted too many pop stars before--his performances didn't match the rich, highly produced sound of his recordings.  

 These difficulties were eventually overcome, and Mitchell became a major draw in concert for a time, sustained by a handful of follow-up hits, including "My Truly, Truly Fair." He became especially popular in England, where his shows were consistent sell-outs.  

 Meanwhile, his chart hits stopped coming in the mid-1950's, and even a brief venture into film acting in westerns failed to enhance Mitchell's popularity. He might've disappeared with the coming of rock 'n roll, had it not been for the marketing strategies of Mitch Miller at Columbia Records. In 1956, Marty Robbins was tearing up the country charts with "Singin' The Blues," on Columbia, and Miller chose Guy Mitchell to cut a pop-style cover of the song. Robbins' song was a huge hit as was, and might've been even bigger--in those days, songs were regularly crossing over between the charts--but Mitchell's version supplanted it on pop music stations, and on the charts, where it spent nine weeks at No. 1 and sold well over a million copies. Mitchell had a follow-up hit with his cover of another Robbins song, "Knee Deep In The Blues, and then milked the rock 'n roll bandwagon one last time with "Rock-a-billy." He never connected with audiences or the charts quite so strongly again, but he didn't have to. A television variety show followed, and his concert career in America remained viable until the end of the 1950's, and then he toured England again, to huge crowds.  

 Late in 1959, Mitchell scored one last No. 1 hit with "Heartaches By the Number." By that time, he was running into competition from a brand of teen-pop music more similar to his own music than to the rock 'n roll that it supplanted. Further attempts at acting on television and another movie failed to reignite Mitchell's career. Mitchell left Columbia Records in 1961, but he was unable to crack the charts again, either for his own manager's label (Joy Records) or for Reprise, where he tried recording in the mid- 1960's. He retired in the mid-1960's, but like any number of 50's singing stars, Mitchell later hit it big on the nostalgia circuit, and re-emerged in this vein in the 1980's--he remained a top attraction in England, even at that late date, and also found an audience in the former Yugoslavia in the wake of the fall of the Eastern bloc. -- Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide 

 
 

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HEARTACHES BY THE NUMBER lyrics 
SINGING THE BLUES lyrics 
Official Site
THE GUY MITCHELL APPRECIATION SOCIETY
 

 
 
 

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