Ellington, Duke. (1899–1974)
Signed Photograph to John "Skipper" Mills - "the cause of it all."
Historic signed photograph of the important American jazz composer, bandleader and pianist who remains the most significant composer of the genre. 8 x 10 inch black and white William Morris promotional photograph, boldly signed and inscribed in blue fountain pen ink to John "Skipper" Mills, bass voice of the Mills Brothers: "To my Friend - the Cause of it All / the Great Skipper / good luck / Duke Ellington." Surface creases around the edges, small pinhole in top margin, otherwise fine. An important association.
John Hutchinson "Skipper" Mills, Sr. was member and father of the Mills Brothers singing group. He originally worked as a barber and sang with the Four Kings of harmony barbershop quartet while his sons sang in front of his barbershop as Four Boys and a Kazoo. After the death of his namesake (John Jr.), he followed his wife's suggestion to take Junior's place in the act and performed with his sons for 20 years until he retired in 1957 at the age of 75. The Mills Brothers made more than 2,000 recordings that combined sold more than 50 million copies, and garnered at least three dozen gold records. It was Duke Ellington who gave them their first major break in 1928, having heard them sing in Cincinnati and then calling Tommy Rockwell at Okeh records who signed them and brought them to New York. Later, once John Sr. replaced his son, they honored Duke with a popular swing version of his "Caravan."