Happy Birthday to the most eccentric, respected, prolific and downright fun songwriter in country music history – the mad scientist Roger Miller! Born in Fort Worth, Texas on January 2, 1936, Roger began his career writing songs for country artists such as George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Faron Young, Jim Reeves and many others. A few years into his career Roger was hired by Ray Price to play fiddle with his Cherokee Cowboys and penned the classic ‘Invitation to the Blues’ which became a hit for Price and Rex Allen. His vocal and songwriting style defined categorical defintition and often included scat singing, unusual vocal riffs, and genius lyrical nonsense! If you aren’t super familiar with Roger Miller, the 1970 album ‘A Trip in the Country’ is a favorite of mine and a great recording to delve into his music. It was recorded in the days when the Nashville sound still had fiddles and steel guitar, and featured a stellar group of session musicians. The legendary lineup included Tommy Jackson & Buddy Spicher: fiddles – Buddy Emmons: steel guitar – Bob Moore: upright bass – Buddy Harman: drums – Pig Robbins: piano – Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, Charlie McCoy and Chip Young: guitars. One of my favorite tracks “My Ears Should Burn” (When Fools Are Talked About) is an excellent example of Roger Millers sincere and serious side of writing.
In the liner notes Roger wrote: “Before the days of “Dang Me“, “King of the Road” and such, I was a young, ambitious songwriter walking the streets of Nashville – trying to get anybody and everybody to record my songs. All in all, I wrote about 150 songs for Ray Price, George Jones, Ernest Tubb and others. Some were hits, and some were not. Here are a few of the better ones. In the beginning, I created heavenly, earthly songs”.
Miller – a lifelong passionate smoker – died in 1992 in Los Angeles at the age of 56 of lung and throat cancer. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.