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Roger Miller

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Roger Miller is best known for his humorous novelty songs, which overshadow his considerable songwriting talents as well as his hardcore honky tonk roots. After writing hits for a number of artists in the '50s, Miller racked up a number of hits during the '60s which became not only country classics, but popular classics as well. Miller was born in Fort Worth, TX, but raised in the small town of Erick, OK, by his aunt and uncle, following the death of his father and his mother's debilitating sickness. Initially, he was attracted to music by hearing country over the radio as well as by his brother-in-law, Sheb Wooley. By the time he was ten, he earned enough money picking cotton to buy himself a guitar. At the age of 11, Wooley gave him a fiddle and encouraged him to pursue a performing career. Miller completed the eighth grade and left school to become a ranch hand and rodeo rider. Throughout his adolescence, he played music in addition to working the ranch. Soon, he was able to play not only guitar and fiddle, but also piano, banjo, and drums. He enlisted in the Army during the Korean war and was stationed in South Carolina, where he met the brother of Jethro Burns who arranged an audition at RCA Nashville for him. Early in 1957, Miller left the army and auditioned for Chet Atkins at RCA. The session was unsuccessful, and he spent a year as a bellhop at a Nashville hotel. While in Nashville, Miller met George Jones and Pappy Dailey, who introduced him to Don Pierce, an executive at Mercury Records. Pierce signed Miller and had him cut three songs. His first single, "Poor Little John," disappeared without a trace. Following the failure of his first single, Miller continued to work at the hotel and tour with other musicians -- he played fiddle with Minnie Pearl for a short time, then he became the drummer for Faron Young. After a few months, he was signed as a songwriter for Tree Music Publishing and stopped performing as a supporting musician. Instead of playing music, he became a fireman in Amarillo, TX. The abandonment of performing was short-lived, however -- within a few months, he became the drummer for Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys. In 1958, Price recorded Miller's "Invitation to the Blues," and it went to number three. It was soon followed by three other successful versions of his songs -- Young's "That's the Way I Feel" and Ernest Tubb's "Half a Mind" both went Top Ten, while Jim Reeves had a number one hit with "Billy Bayou." That same year, Jones recorded "Tall Tall Trees" and "Nothing Can Stop My Love," which he had written with Miller; neither of the songs were hits. The following year, Reeves had a hit with another one of Miller's songs, "Home." Since his songwriting career was flourishing, Miller decided it was again time to try to become a performing artist as well. He recorded a few tracks for Decca which weren't successful, and then he signed to RCA Records. "You Don't Want My Love," one of his first singles for the label, reached number 14 in early 1961, followed by the Top Ten "When Two Worlds Collide" later that summer. Miller wasn't able to immediately follow the songs with another hit single. Two years later, "Lock, Stock and Teardrops" scraped the charts, and he left the record label. Around that time, Miller moved to Hollywood began appearing regularly on The Jimmy Dean Show and The Merv Griffin Show, two of the most popular television programs in the country. His guest spots showcased his new style -- instead of concentrating on hardcore country, he had developed a willfully goofy persona, singing silly novelty songs. He signed a record contract with Smash Records and released his first single for the label, "Dang Me," in the summer of 1964. It was an immediate smash, vaulting to number one and spending six weeks at the top of the charts; it also crossed over into the pop charts, peaking at number seven. "Chug-a-Lug" followed a few months after it, reaching number three on the country charts and nine on the pop charts. At the end of the year, "Do-Wacka-Do" was released, becoming a number 15 hit. Miller began 1965 with his best-known song, "King of the Road." The single spent five weeks at the top of the country charts and became his biggest pop hit, peaking at number four. Its accompanying album, The Return of Roger Miller, was another crossover success, also peaking at number four on the pop album charts and going gold. Miller was at his peak in 1965. Every song he released that year -- "Engine Engine #9," "One Dyin' and a Buryin'," "Kansas City Star," "England Swings" -- reached the country Top Ten, and at the end of the year, his Golden Hits album went Top Ten; it would eventually go gold. In the summer of 1965, he released The Third Time Around, a record that leaned toward his honky tonk roots; it peaked at number 13. After the watershed year of 1965, Miller's career dipped slightly. Although other artists were still having hits with his songs -- Eddy Arnold took "The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me" to number two -- Miller had trouble breaking the Top 40 following the number five hit "Husbands and Wives" in early 1966. He continued to record throughout the late '60s, but fewer and fewer of the songs were becoming hits. Occasionally, he would record the songs of emerging songwriters, whether it was Bobby Russell's "Little Green Apples" (number six, 1968) or Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" (number 12, 1969). Toward the end of the decade and beginning of the '70s, he began to concentrate on honky tonk, although he still made his trademark novelties. During the '70s, he recorded sporadically, preferring to concentrate on his hotel chain, appropriately called King of the Road. "Tomorrow Night in Baltimore," released in the spring of 1971, was his biggest hit of the decade, climbing to number 11. Early in the decade, he wrote songs for Walt Disney's animated adaptation of Robin Hood -- he also provided a voice for the rooster in the film -- as well as the movie Waterhole Three. In 1973, he left Smash/Mercury for Columbia Records. He spent four years at Columbia and only his debut single for the label, "Open Up Your Heart," was a hit, peaking at number 14. Miller didn't record much during the '80s -- his biggest hit was "Old Friends," recorded with Willie Nelson and Ray Price. In the mid-'80s, he wrote the music for Big River, a Broadway adaptation of Mark Twain's works. Both the play and Miller's music were critically acclaimed and enormously popular. Big River won seven Tony Awards and two of those went to Miller, for Best Musical and Outstanding Score. Big River would be the last major work of Miller's career. In 1991, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and died a year later. After his death, his legacy remained strong, as each new generation of country singers found songs in his catalog to cover and reinterpret. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Albums by
Roger Miller

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    17 songs

    On Air

    Countrypolitan Classics - Roger Miller

    22 songs

    On Air

    Roger Miller at His Best

    18 songs

    On Air

    The Hits

    14 songs

    On Air

    Coming Up Roses

    12 songs

    On Air

    Heartaches By The Numbers

    12 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Hits - Finest Performances

    9 songs

    On Air

    Snapshot: Roger Miller

    9 songs

    On Air

    Wanted: Roger Miller

    44 songs

    On Air

    Country Kings, Vol. 4: Miller, Haggard, Anderson

    22 songs

    On Air

    In the Summertime: The Best of Rodger Miller

    15 songs

    On Air

    King of the Road

    70 songs

    On Air

    King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller

    1 song

    On Air

    Oo-De-Lally [From "Robin Hood"]

    12 songs

    On Air

    Platinum & Gold Collection

    20 songs

    On Air

    All Time Greatest Hits

    12 songs

    On Air

    20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Roger Miller

    11 songs

    On Air

    At His Best [PSM]

    10 songs

    On Air

    Super Hits

    20 songs

    On Air

    The Best of Roger Miller, Vol. 2: King of the Road

    21 songs

    On Air

    The Best of Roger Miller, Vol. 1: Country Tunesmith

    11 songs

    On Air

    Golden Hits [Smash]

    25 songs

    On Air

    Country Girl

    16 songs

    On Air

    Further On Down the Road

    19 songs

    On Air

    Absolutely: Roger Miller

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Top Songs by
Roger Miller

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   King of the Road
  3.   Dang Me
  4.   Chug-A-Lug
  5.   In the Summertime
  6.   Do-Wacka-Do
  7.   England Swings
  8.   Engine, Engine #9
  9.   Husbands and Wives
  10.   Chug-A-Lug
  11.   You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd
  12.   The Bottle Let Me Down by Merle Haggard
  13.   It Happened Just That Way
  14.   River in the Rain
  15.   Tomorrow Night in Baltimore
  16.   I Threw Away the Rose by Merle Haggard
  17.   South
  18.   I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am by Merle Haggard
  19.   One Dyin' and a Buryin'
  20.   Walkin' in the Sunshine
  21.   The Wrong Kind of Girl
  22.   Nothing Can Stop My Love
  23.   Ballad of Water Hole #3
  24.   Our Hearts Will Play the Music
  25.   Mine Is a Lonely Life
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Roger Miller

    On Air

    Thompson Square: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Outlaw Country

    On Air

    Little Deuce Coupe

    On Air

    Merle Haggard: DNA

    On Air

    Whiskey And Heartbreak

    On Air

    Justin Moore: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Classic Country

    On Air

    Family Road Trip

    On Air

    Alan Jackson: DNA

    On Air

    '60s Hits

    On Air

    Johnny Cash: DNA

    On Air

    '60s Deep Dive

    On Air

    Dive Bar Jukebox


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Roger Miller

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