Ain’t Got No Cigarettes: Memories Of Music Legend Roger Miller
Every serious Roger Miller fan will want to read this book, and every one of them will be frustrated. Ain’t Got No Cigarettes is only what its subtitle says: a series of interview transcriptions done by Lyle Style who, after discovering Roger Miller at the late date of 1998, fell in love with the man’s work and determined to track down as many people who knew him as possible.
But beyond talking to his approximately 100 subjects and typing up their conversations, Style appears to have done very little. He fails to provide an overview of Miller’s life or career, not even a cursory paragraph or two in the introduction, and he also hasn’t done any basic legwork to clarify the comments of his interviewees. For instance, Merle Haggard tells Style of Miller, “I think I did his television show — that could be true or not true, I’m not sure. There have been a lot of television shows.” Styles didn’t know either, apparently, and didn’t bother to look it up.
Still…there are many great stories here. Besides Haggard, Style spoke with Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Miller friend and influence Sheb Wooley, Bobby Bare, George “Goober” Lindsey, Dick Clark, Tompall Glaser, Mel Tillis, and on and on. Many of these stories are hilarious. And just when you’re eyes have glazed over with yet another old friend saying that “Roger was always on” or “Roger was the most unique person I ever knew,” you come across, say, the late Buck Owens remembering the time that he, Miller and Johnny Paycheck toured together as Faron Young’s backing band and how Roger (who played drums in the band) got out of his turn behind wheel by taking the wheel, pretending to be asleep, and driving off the road.
The best Miller interview in the book comes with another now passed colleague. Waylon Jennings speaks at length, and with honesty and knowingness, of Miller’s manic depression. For instance: “[Miller] had a dark side, I tell you, that comes with that genius in him. His highs were higher than anybody else’s and his lows were lower….His mood swings were so drastic. He’d get down and out, then he’d be in a happy mood. Either very high or very low…and all I [could] do is get away from his ass when he got that way with me. ”
Style proceeds dutifully from that on to his next unrelated question. I’m telling you, though, there’s a book in there somewhere.