Once, when asked where his hometown of Erick, Oklahoma could be found, Roger Miller responded “Next to Extinction.”And as we rolled into town at lunchtime on a Tuesday, we could see what he meant.
Erick has only gotten smaller in the past 70 years losing many of its farming residents to other more industrious towns, and it still doesn’t have a stoplight, but it remains quite proud of its two superstar sons – Roger Miller and actor and singer Sheb Wooley (He of the one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater).
Roger Miller, who of course wrote and performed the iconic rambler’s anthem “King of the Road,” has always been a personal inspiration for me and I couldn’t wait to learn more. What we found was that Miller was the closest we’ve ever come to a reincarnation of Samuel Clements, aka Mark Twain.
A songwriter and storyteller with unmatched wit and a striking amount of common-sense wisdom, Miller was a star ahead of his time, or perhaps, behind his time, when he might have been a regular visitor to Twain’s house for cigars and a few laughs. In fact, in his later years, after winning nearly a dozen Grammys, he would write the critically acclaimed and Tony-award-winning soundtrack for the Broadway hit Big River, which tells the story of Mark Twain’s life.
This, of course was not the first time he’d been compared to Twain, but the connection between them seemed to crystallize with his authoring of the Twain-themed refrains, and after nearly a twenty-year hiatus from the front page brought him back into the limelight for a new audience. Of course, in those years between he helped to launch the careers of a number of songwriters and new country stars.
Unfortunately, the museum does not allow photographs, so there’s not much to visually share, but I did want to share a few of Miller’s main accomplishments, best songs and some of his funniest quotes. Hope you enjoy them as much as me.
- 11 Grammy Awards
- Seven Top 10 songs – 4 recorded by other artists
- Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Score and Outstanding Lyrics for Big River
- Three Academy of Country Music Awards (including “Best Songwriter” and “Man of the Year”)
- Member of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame
- Two songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame (“Dang Me” and “King of the Road”)
- “If I had my life to live over again, I wouldn’t have time.”
- “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet”
- “Our town was so small we didn’t have a village idiot; we had to take turns.”
- “When we were kids, we were so poor, words were our only toys.”
- “The human mind is a wonderful thing, it starts working from before you’re born, and doesn’t stop ’til you sit down to write a song.”
King of the Road