My Heart Cries for Mitch Miller

Mitch Miller, the musical maven of middle-of-the-road pop who died in Manhattan Saturday at 99, became a household name via his early-'60s TV show Sing Along With Mitch. Long before that, he -- along with Frank Sinatra and a guy named Al Cernick -- provided my dad, songwriter Carl Sigman, with the flukiest hit of his career.

in 1950, Carl and composer/orchestra leader Percy Faith -- perhaps most famous for his1960 recording of Theme From a Summer Place -- were good friends and often went to the racetrack ("the trotters") at Long Island's Roosevelt Field to blow off some steam. An old French tune that played repeatedly on the track's PA haunted Percy. One day, he jokingly asked Carl if he thought they could write a hit song in 10 minutes using that melodic phrase.

They did just that, and My Heart Cries For You was the result. The minute Miller heard a demo of the song, the then Columbia Records' super-producer recognized it as a smash waiting to happen. He quickly marshaled his orchestra to rehearse an arrangement for Frank Sinatra. When Frank showed up for the session and passed on the song, Mitch had to scramble. Luckily, close at hand was a young demo singer named Al Cernick, and Mitch had him sing the song with the already-prepared arrangement.

The name Al Cernick would never do, however. Al was a nice guy, so Mitch gave him the first name "Guy." He added his own last name and before long My Heart Cries For You by Guy Mitchell was the Number 2 record in the country. It's been covered over the years by dozens of artists including Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Ben E. King, Connie Francis and Dinah Washington. And nicely sent up by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis!

Not bad for a song that takes almost as long to sing as it did to write.