Stanley Mills, part of the wealthy Mills music family publishing dynasty that popularized “The Chicken Dance” as a wedding and party staple, died Dec. 29 at a hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was 91.
Mills was the son of famed music publisher Jack Mills, who had the golden ear to sign artists like Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Leroy Anderson and many others as their songwriting careers blossomed in the 1920s and ’30s.
Born in 1931, Stanley Mills grew up in New York to join the family business. He remained with the company for two years after Mills Music was sold to EMI Music Publishing in 1964. He worked for another music publisher, EB Marks, for a few years before launching September Music in 1968. Galahad Music.
According to the Mills family obituary:
“Mills built his catalog from scratch, one song at a time, through relationships with songwriters such as Paul Evans and Paul Parness (“Happiness Is”) and Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee (“End of the World”). would walk from publisher to publisher, literally across the hall from each other, trying to land a deal.Concentrating on MOR (middle-of-the-road) and later county music songs, Bobby recorded David Rodgers, Tom Jones and Bonnie Raitt. Stanley found success with hits like Vinton’s “My Melody of Love” and “Darlin’.” Perhaps his most famous contribution to popular music in America and the world was his introduction many years ago to the most popular party song of all time, “The Chicken Dance.”
Mills promoted fuzzy, rollicking polka tunes designed for a chicken-style dance with large groups of people, complete with flapping arms, lots of tail-wagging and arm movements. Mills found it to be provocative at weddings and such events, and spent decades tirelessly promoting the music for film, TV and commercials. In the 1990s, “The Chicken Dance” reached critical mass, as noted in a 2001 Wall Street Journal story on the page.
Mills sold his publishing companies to Memory Lane Music in 2015. He served as a board member of the National Music Publishers Association trade organization and the Harry Fox Agency for 30 years.
Her surviving sons include Plantation, Fla.; Sons are Kenneth Mills and Mitchell Mills of Woodmere, NY. She is also survived by a nephew, Joshua Mills, a music manager and promoter in Los Angeles; Peter Alpert and Trish Alpert of Long Island; and five grandchildren.