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MILLER, ROGER DEAN

Phillip L. Fry

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MILLER, ROGER DEAN (1936–1992). Roger Miller, musician, composer, and television star, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on January 2, 1936. He was the son of Jean and Laudene (Holt) Miller. Roger's father died when the boy was one year old, and he was raised by relatives in Erick, Oklahoma. His schooling ended before graduation from high school. He spent a number of years on the road working at odd jobs and practicing on the guitar, banjo, and piano.

Miller had no formal training on any of these instruments and apparently never learned to read or write music. After service in the United States Army, where he entertained troops in a Special Services country-music band and added the drum and fiddle to his repertory, he decided to live in Nashville until he could make it either as a songwriter or performer. In addition to part time jobs, he played in back up bands for entertainers such as Minnie Pearl and Ray Price. His first song to attract notice was "Invitation to the Blues," recorded by Price and by Patti Page. Miller soon had a contract as a drummer with the Faron Young organization, and other performers began singing his songs. In 1961 he first made the Top 10 country charts as a performer with "When Two Worlds Collide," co-written with Bill Anderson, but he grew discouraged and moved to Hollywood to enroll in a dramatic acting course.

His singing career took off in California in 1964. "Chug a lug" and "Dang Me" were hits in both country and pop categories. The next year Miller scored a series of bestsellers: "King of the Road," "Engine, Engine No. 9," "Kansas City Star," and "One Dyin and a Buryin'." He became associated with Andy Williams when Williams recorded Roger's "In the Summertime," and the well known popular singer put Miller in his TV program in late 1965. NBC featured Miller in his own weekly variety show, which fared well in 1966 but subsequently lost out in the ratings and was cancelled.

Miller continued to perform in major venues through the rest of the decade, but never surpassed his production of songs during 1964–65. He earned eleven Grammy awards during this time, both as composer and performer in the categories of contemporary and country and western. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. The versatility of Roger Miller was seen one last time before the end of his career. In 1985 he received five Tony awards for his score to Big River, a musical based on Huckleberry Finn.

Miller married Mary Margaret Arnold on February 14, 1978. They had six children. He died in Los Angeles on October 25, 1992, and was cremated. In 1995 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His songs "Dang Me" and "King of the Road" earned Grammy Hall of Fame awards in 1997 and 1998 respectively. He was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2013 he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association Hall of Fame.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Bob Millard, Country Music: 70 years of America's Favorite Music (New York: Harper Perennial, 1993). Roger Miller—Official Website (http://www.rogermiller.com/), accessed April 29, 2008. Irwin Stambler and Grelun Landon, Encyclopedia of Folk, Country and Western Music (New York: St. Martin's, 1969; 2d. ed., 1983).

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Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Phillip L. Fry, "MILLER, ROGER DEAN," accessed September 20, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmitd.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on November 3, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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