Getty Images via The Daily Beast
Roger Miller, also referred to as “The Wild Child,” was known for his comical honky-tonk novelty songs. Over the course of his career, Miller charted a total of 11 songs in the top ten spots on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, three of which hit number one.
Miller started his musical career as a songwriter, writing hit songs for country artists Jim Reeves and Ray Price. He went on to start his own singing career, peaking in popularity in the mid-1960s. During that time, Miller went on to release some of his most recognizable songs, including his three number one hits, “King of the Road,” “Dang Me,” and “England Swings.”
Later in his career, Miller didn’t experience as much chart success, but he found other ways to keep his name in the spotlight. In 1973, he wrote and performed three songs for the Disney film Robin Hood, providing the voice for the film’s narrator, Alan-A-Dale, a rooster named after the minstrel in the original Robin Hood legend.
Miller also wrote the score for the 1985 Broadway musical, Big River, based on Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The musical ended up winning seven Tony Awards, and Miller himself received the award for Best Score.
In 1990, Miller started a solo guitar tour, but ended it when he was diagnosed with cancer a year later. Miller passed away on October 25, 1992, shortly after he learned about his diagnosis.
Miller accomplished so much in his 35-year career, but his humorous novelty songs are what he continues to be remembered for.
In honor of what would have been Miller’s 80th birthday on January 2nd, we’ve decided to pay tribute to him with a couple of his great, comical hits.
Miller scored his first chart-topping hit with “Dang Me” in 1964, which also crossed over to claim the seventh spot on the pop chart. The song earned Miller three Grammy Awards that year, including Best Country Song, Best Country and Western Recording, and Best (Male) Country and Western Performance.
That same year, Miller also won the Grammy Awards for Best New Country and Western Artist and Best Country and Western album.
Like many of Miller’s songs, “Dang Me” is a novelty song, and shows off his signature sense of humor. The song was written by Miller himself, who said in his official biography that he wrote the entire thing in just four minutes while he was in a hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona.
With lyrics such as “Roses are red and violets are purple/Sugar is sweet and so is maple surple,” and Miller’s nonsense, scat-style singing, you’ll find it hard not to chuckle at this catchy tune!
Unlike “Dang Me,” Miller’s biggest hit “King of the Road,” took him much longer than four minutes to write.
Miller was inspired to write the song after two different occasions, the first when he saw a sign on a barn that read “trailers for sale or rent,” and the second when he saw a hobo at the airport in Boise, Idaho.
While “Dang Me” took Miller just four minutes to complete, it took him months to finish “King of the Road.” All of that time paid off, because the song became his second number one hit on the country charts. The song was also a huge crossover hit, peaking at the fourth spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
In total, “King of the Road” helped Miller earn five more Grammy Awards in both the country and crossover categories, including Best Country Song and Best Contemporary (Male) Vocal Performance.
Although the lyrics tell the story of a poor, hobo man, the song still has a humorous element. The hobo in the song, despite saying he has “No phone, no pool, no pets, I ain’t got no cigarettes,” actually enjoys his life, humorously calling himself the “king of the road.”
When you listen to Miller’s songs, it’s clear why he experienced such success as both a singer and a songwriter. His ability to write and deliver humorous lyrics made his songs stand out enough to rise to the top of the charts. It is through those songs that the legacy of country music’s “Wild Child” continues to live on today.
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