In 1930, John Mills Jr., Herbert Mills, Harry Mills, and Donald Mills, brothers of a vocal quartet from Piqua, Ohio, were signed to a contract by a CBS radio executive from New York. This marked the first time that an African-American vocal group performed on national radio. The group was known as the Mills Brothers.
The four brothers began as a barbershop quartet singing jingles for advertisements, and had their first public performances on variety radio shows in Cincinnati, Ohio. Initially named "Four Brothers and a Guitar", the group quickly became popular for their unique ability to imitate musical instruments.
Tragedy struck when John Mills Jr. suddenly passed in 1936, a colossal loss for the group. Their father, John Mills Sr., joined the group in order for them to keep performing. Despite almost dissolving their act, the Mills Brothers continued on to have one of the longest-running vocal acts in show business.
Their career led to collaborations with musical giants such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.
Over the 57-year lifespan of the group, the Mills Brothers recorded over 1200 songs and popularized hits such as "Paper Doll," "Tiger Rag", and "You Always Hurt The Ones You Love". Their influence on both jazz and popular music is recognized to this day.