Roger Miller Biography
Roger Dean Miller (January 2, 1936 – October 25, 1992) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, to mother Laudene Holt Miller and father Jean Miller, Roger, the youngest of three boys, was sent to live with his uncle and aunt, Elmer and Armelia Miller, in Erick, Oklahoma, when his father died while Roger was just one year old.
Miller had a lonely and unhappy childhood. Heavily influenced by the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights and the Light Crust Doughboys on Fort Worth radio, he desperately wanted to be a singer-songwriter. When he was 17 he stole a guitar, but turned himself in and chose to join the Army rather than go to jail. He later quipped, "My education was Korea, Clash of '52."
On leaving the army, he went to Nashville to work on his music career. In 1959 he wrote his first number-one song, "Billy Bayou" recorded by Jim Reeves.
Although conventionally grouped with "Country" singers, Miller's unique style defied easy classification. He had a string of pop hits in the 1960s, and also his own TV show for a few years. Many of his recordings were humorous novelty songs with whimsical lyrics, coupled with vocalese riffs filled with nonsense syllables. Others were sincere ballads, which also caught the public's fancy, none more so than his signature song, "King of the Road", about a presumed "hobo" who relishes his life and freedom, riding the rails.
In addition to 11 Grammy Awards, Roger Miller won Broadway's Tony award for writing the score for the musical Big River.
He was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995. In Erick, Oklahoma where he grew up, a thoroughfare was renamed "Roger Miller Boulevard."
A lifelong cigarette smoker, Miller died of lung and throat cancer. In a TV interview, he once explained that he composed his songs from "bits and pieces" of ideas he wrote on scraps of paper. When asked what he did with the unused bits and pieces, he half-joked, "I smoke 'em!" (One of his songs, "A Man Can't Quit", centered on the subject of addiction to cigarettes.)
The chorus of one of his songs, "England Swings", was used for the 1998 BBC radio program, 15 Minutes of Misery.
He was married to Mary Arnold, who herself was a musician, a member of country-rock band, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. Rogers had introduced the two. Arnold now manages Miller's estate.
In his 1997 autobiography Johnny Cash compared Miller's bass vocal range favorably with his own, saying it was the closest to his own that he had heard.
In early 2006, Roger Miller's 1967 single "Walkin' In The Sunshine" was featured in a Mastercard commercial. In the 1970's a clip from Miller's actual recording of "King of the Road" was featured in a Monroe Shock Absorbers TV commercial.
Roger Miller wrote and performed three songs in Robin Hood (1973 film) as Alan-a-Dale. A sample of his song Whistle Stop was used as the musical accompaniment for the internet phenomenon the hampsterdance.