"My secret," Miller once said of his flair for producing hits, "was that I was a trained musician; I knew whether something was good or a crock."
In 1951, he convinced Frank Sinatra to record "Mama Will Bark," a duet with TV's busty blond actress-comedian Dagmar, on which barking and growling noises are heard.
The song, which reached No. 21 on the Billboard chart, is often cited as the worst song Sinatra ever recorded. The singer is said to have never forgiven Miller for "Mama Will Bark," and he and Miller argued constantly over material.
Sinatra, in fact, blamed Miller for the downward spiral of his singing career and in 1953 he left Columbia for Capitol Records.
Miller strongly disagreed with Sinatra's accusations then — and continued to do so decades later.
"When I came to Columbia, he was already at the nadir of his career," Miller told the Chicago Tribune in 1987. "He had lost his television show, he had lost his movie contract, he was chasing after Ava [Gardner], he was behind in his income taxes. In short, his records would not sell, his voice was gone."
Other singers, including Tony Bennett, who, while praising Miller for believing in his talent and boosting his career while at Columbia, also battled Miller over material.
In his 1998 autobiography, "The Good Life," Bennett mentioned how Miller always tried to push novelty tunes on him.
"As much as we liked each other," the singer wrote, "there was always tension between us. I wanted to sing the great songs, songs that I felt really mattered to people."
Leslie Uggams, who was discovered by Miller and signed to Columbia Records when she was 16 and later became a regular on his TV show, told The Times in 2002: "For a lot of people it was his way or no way, but I didn't have that experience, I just adored Mitch; he couldn't have been better."
She added, "We're talking about an era where most of the A&R men had been musicians themselves, so he had an incredible ear for the least note that was wrong: He could hear it. Mitch and I were always on the same page."
While at Columbia, Miller wasn't known just for producing mainstream hits.
He signed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to her first major label contract and worked with top jazz musician Erroll Garner.
Although he became a legendary A&R man, Miller's musical tastes weren't in sync with the changing times as rock 'n' roll took control of the airwaves.
Miller reportedly turned down Elvis Presley in 1955, telling Presley's manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, that Presley was asking for too much money. And he told Buddy Holly's manager that he wasn't interested in Holly's "That'll Be the Day," which went on to become a hit.
Simply put, Miller didn't like rock 'n' roll, which he referred to as "musical illiteracy." Time did not alter his opinion.
"I can't get interested in people who can only sing songs with three chords in them," he told the Boston Globe in 1996.
In 1958, Miller launched his own counter-assault of sorts on rock 'n' roll by recording his first sing-along album in which he led an all-male chorus singing old favorites such as "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." (The words to the songs were printed on the album cover so listeners could sing along with the chorus).