Ronnie Cavender

Written by Ronnie Cavender

Modified & Updated: 02 Jun 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


The Mills Brothers are a legendary American vocal group that was active from the 1920s to the 1980s. Comprised of four siblings – John Jr., Herbert, Harry, and Donald Mills – the group introduced a unique style of close harmony singing that made them one of the most popular and influential acts of their time.

With their smooth and seamless vocal blend, the Mills Brothers captivated audiences with their innovative use of vocal imitations of instruments, such as trumpet, saxophone, and guitar. They gained widespread recognition and secured a devoted fan base through their recordings and live performances. Their versatility allowed them to effortlessly transition between various musical genres including jazz, pop, and rhythm and blues.

In this article, we will delve into 13 fascinating facts about the Mills Brothers, shedding light on their remarkable career, their impact on the music industry, and the lasting legacy they have left behind.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Mills Brothers, a group of four actual brothers, started as barbershop quartet singers and went on to record over 2,000 songs, captivating audiences with their unique harmonies and vocal mimicry.
  • Their legacy lives on through their timeless classics, inspiring and influencing artists today, and ensuring that their innovative vocal techniques and remarkable harmonies will never be forgotten.
Table of Contents

The Mills Brothers were composed of four actual brothers.

The group consisted of John Jr., Herbert, Harry, and Donald Mills, all of whom were born in Piqua, Ohio. They began singing together as children and quickly honed their harmonizing skills.

The Mills Brothers started their career as barbershop quartet singers.

Before they became famous, the Mills Brothers entertained customers at their father’s barbershop in Piqua. Their harmonies and catchy songs soon caught the attention of locals, leading to their first professional gigs.

They were one of the first African-American groups to have a national radio show.

In the 1930s, the Mills Brothers rose to fame and were regularly featured on radio programs. Their smooth vocal style and innovative use of vocal effects captivated audiences across the country.

The Mills Brothers recorded over 2,000 songs.

Throughout their career, the Mills Brothers recorded a staggering number of songs across various genres, including jazz, pop, and R&B. Their versatility and unique sound made them popular with a wide range of audiences.

They had numerous hit records, including “Paper Doll” and “Glow Worm.”

“Paper Doll” was one of the Mills Brothers’ biggest hits, topping the charts in 1943 and becoming one of the best-selling records of the decade. “Glow Worm” also achieved significant success, showcasing their signature harmonies.

The Mills Brothers were known for their exceptional vocal mimicry.

One of their distinct talents was the ability to accurately imitate various instruments with their voices. They could emulate trumpets, saxophones, and other instruments, creating a unique and captivating sound.

They appeared in several movies and TV shows.

The Mills Brothers made appearances in films such as “The Big Broadcast” and “The Singing Detective.” They also performed on numerous television shows, solidifying their status as beloved entertainers.

The Mills Brothers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

In recognition of their contributions to vocal music, the Mills Brothers were honored with induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in They were celebrated for their groundbreaking style and lasting influence.

They performed for multiple U.S. Presidents.

The Mills Brothers had the opportunity to entertain several U.S. Presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy. Their performances were always highly regarded and well-received.

The Mills Brothers continued performing until the early 1990s.

Despite several lineup changes over the years, the Mills Brothers remained active in the music industry for over six decades. They toured extensively and delighted audiences with their timeless music.

Their music continues to inspire and influence artists today.

The Mills Brothers’ unique vocal style and innovative techniques have had a lasting impact on the music world. Many contemporary artists credit the Mills Brothers as a source of inspiration for their own work.

They received numerous awards and accolades throughout their career.

From Grammy Awards to Lifetime Achievement honors, the Mills Brothers were recognized for their outstanding contributions to music. Their talent and dedication garnered praise from both critics and fans alike.

The Mills Brothers’ legacy lives on.

Although the original members of the Mills Brothers have passed away, their music continues to captivate audiences around the world. Their timeless classics and unique harmonies ensure that their legacy will never be forgotten.


The Mills Brothers are an iconic American vocal group that has left an indelible mark on the music industry. With their unique harmonies, innovative techniques, and enduring popularity, they have solidified their place in history as one of the most influential musical acts of all time.Throughout their career, the Mills Brothers achieved remarkable success, earning numerous accolades and establishing a lasting legacy. From their chart-topping hits to their groundbreaking use of vocal mimicry, they captivated audiences around the world.Their impact extends beyond their music. The Mills Brothers broke down racial barriers, paving the way for future generations of African American artists to thrive in the industry. Their talent, professionalism, and remarkable showmanship set the stage for the evolution of popular music.Even decades after their heyday, the Mills Brothers continue to be celebrated and revered. Their songs remain as vibrant and timeless as ever, reminding us of the incredible talent and innovation that defined their career. The Mills Brothers are a true testament to the power and beauty of music, and their influence will continue to resonate for years to come.


Q: Who were the original members of the Mills Brothers?

A: The original members of the Mills Brothers were John Jr., Herbert, Harry, and Donald Mills.

Q: What genres of music did the Mills Brothers specialize in?

A: The Mills Brothers were known for their versatility, but they primarily focused on vocal jazz, pop, and close harmony styles.

Q: Did the Mills Brothers achieve commercial success?

A: Absolutely! The Mills Brothers recorded numerous chart-topping hits and sold millions of records throughout their career.

Q: Did the Mills Brothers perform live?

A: Yes, the Mills Brothers were renowned for their captivating live performances and toured extensively both in the United States and internationally.

Q: Did the Mills Brothers influence other artists?

A: Absolutely! The Mills Brothers’ unique vocal style and musical innovation inspired countless artists, shaping the landscape of popular music.

Q: Are there any famous songs associated with the Mills Brothers?

A: Yes, the Mills Brothers are known for their hits like “Paper Doll,” “Glow Worm,” “Cab Driver,” and “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You,” among others.

Q: Are there any films or TV appearances featuring the Mills Brothers?

A: Yes, the Mills Brothers made several appearances in films and television shows, showcasing their incredible talent to a broader audience.

If you enjoyed learning about the Mills Brothers, why not explore more fascinating musical facts? Discover the history and tradition of barbershop quartets, or dive into the rich world of jazz music. You might also be interested in learning about the glitz and glamour of the American Music Awards.

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