A musical legacy is alive and well

John Mills II and Elmer Hopper lend their vocal talents to the Mills Brothers.

A musical tradition that dates back to 1910 comes to the Norris Center for the Performing Arts when the Mills Brothers and guests take the stage Saturday, June 26, in Rolling Hills Estates.

John Mills II - son, grandson and nephew of the original members - along with returning member Donald Mills Jr. (John’s older brother), along with former The Platters member Elmer Hopper, is joined by Hermosa Beach resident Edmond Allmond, who is now the vocal group’s musical director, conductor and pianist. Allmond had met John Mills in 1970 when they were freshman at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. Allmond joined the Mills Brothers more than two years ago.

“I was doing a lot of classical music at the time and some jazz and then as time went on we started talking about me working with them,” Allmond said. “We finally put that in action a few years ago and started traveling with them a couple of years ago.”

The Mills Brothers rose to groundbreaking fame in the 1930s with numerous film performances and their unique ability to use their voices as musical instruments. According to Allmond, the “tightness of the harmonies” was an influence to many Doo-wop groups. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the brothers had numerous hits including “Paper Doll,” “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” “Glow Worm,” “Yellow Bird,” “Get a Job” and “Cab Driver,” which was the group’s last big hit in 1968. They continued to record into the early 1980s, and in the 1990s, were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Don Mills received the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement.

Keeping the legacy of the Mills Brothers’ music alive is a family tradition, according to Allmond.

“Don (Sr.) passed away (1999). John kept the legacy going and Don Jr. would work with him sometimes,” Allmond said. “He (Don) wound up just staying home because he had a family to raise but John took on Elmer Hopper, who used to be with The Platters for years and years. The funny thing about Elmer is he looks so much like one of the family and he sounds like them and John’s dad had talked about that before so he was just a natural fill in. Now at this concert we have Don back, he’s retired and back on the show again.”

Besides doing several shows with the Mills Brothers, Allmond, who moved to Hermosa Beach in 1989, is busy composing music for video games as well as television and film, which he calls his passion. He will release a new album of film compositions and solo piano albums in July called “Touch.” He also has directing projects for TV including a musically based cooking show for Buena Vista.

Also joining the Mills Brothers, whose music can still be heard in video games, commercials and television, is vocalist Gina Eckstine; John’s son, John “Hutch” Mills III on saxophone, who recently graduated from USC; James Leary on bass; Steve Pemberton on drums; Nolan Shaheed on trumpet; Ira Nepus on trombone; Joe Nazzaretta on sax; and keyboardist Dave Goldstein.

For more information, visit www.norriscenter.com or call (310) 544-0403, ext. 221.

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