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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Kay Starr, the Mills: Vital, Important

March 15, 1994|DON HECKMAN

The concert featuring Kay Starr and John & Donald Mills at the Academy Plaza Theatre on Sunday was designed, according to the producers, "for the older audience." A shortsighted view--especially for the younger music fans who also should be urged to hear these important and still vital artists.

Starr's work in the '50s paralleled Elvis Presley's blending of blues, country and pop. A good example: her reading on Sunday of Willie Nelson's "Crazy" with a country sob and an R&B articulation. On her own hits, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Bonaparte's Retreat," the 71-year-old Starr's burry-edged voice and strong rhythms reminded how powerfully the energized singing of her salad years contrasted with the sweet sounds of such contemporaries as Doris Day, Jo Stafford and Dinah Shore.

The Mills Brothers were the first African American group to achieve across-the-board pop acceptance. Donald Mills, 69, the last surviving member, now works as a duo with his son, John. Remarkably, father and son produced interpretations that had the character, swing and smoothness of the original quartet.

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