Sunday, January 2, 2011

Remembering Roger Miller

Roger Dean Miller was born on January 2, 1936 in Fort Worth, Texas. Roger was 2 years-old when his father died and his mother unable to care for him and his two brothers because of the Great Depression sent each one to live with a different brother of hers. Miller grew up on a farm in Erick, Oklahoma. A shy child Miller would often daydream and compose songs. When he grew older he would listen to the radio, especially the Grand Ole Opry with his cousin’s husband Sheb Wooley, of ‘Purple People Eater’ and the Rawhide TV series fame. Wooley taught Miller guitar chords and bought him a fiddle. Roger joined the Army to avoid jail for stealing guitar out of desperation to write songs. After his military service he played with ‘The Circle A Wranglers” a musical group started by Faron Young. Roger was convinced by his sergeant whose brother was Kenneth C. Burns of Homer and Jethro fame to travel to Nashville. There he met Chet Atkins who took him under his wing and gave him a guitar. He was soon hired by Minnie Pearl to play fiddle in her band. Roger began to write songs and was hired by Decca Records to a recording contract in 1958. After numerous late night comedy appearances he decided to go to Hollywood an become an actor. Short of money he signed a recording contract with Smash Records and recorder ‘Dang Me’ and it went to #1 on the Country charts and #7 on the Pop charts. The song transformed his career. Miller recorded a number of top songs including his biggest hit ‘King of the Road’. He was given his own TV show in 1966. After it’s cancellation in 1967 he continued to write and record country and novelty songs. He played Johnny Appleseed on the Daniel Boone TV series. He was hired to write a Broadway show based on Tom Sawyer and in 18 months turned out what was called “Big River” which received 7 Tony Awards. In 1990 he took his family and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico but continued to write and tour. In Santa Fe he met Terence Hill and recorded the theme song for Hill’s TV series “Lucky Luke” when the series was made into a feature length film Miller was hired as the voice of Lucky Luke’s horse Jolly Jumper. Soon after he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in Los Angeles, California on October 25, 1992. He was inducted into the Country Western Hall of Fame. Roger was married three times and had seven children among them singer, song writer Dean Miller [1965- ]. Today we celebrate what would have been Roger Miller’s 75th birthday.

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