This Top 10 Roger Miller Songs list presents the best Roger Miller Songs including “King Of The Road,” “Dang Me,” “Husbands And Wives,” and many more. Born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, but still a good old southern boy through and through was Roger Dean Miller. A year after Miller was born in 1936, his mother died from spinal meningitis. Due to the hardships brought on by the Great Depression, his father was unable to raise him and his two brothers. This is when Miller relocated from Texas to Oklahoma as he and his brothers were raised by his mother’s sister. The conditions of living wasn’t much better there either as so many families were hit hard during this time. He grew up on the farm that had no telephone and his source of education came from a small schoolhouse.
Despite being an introverted child, he took heavily to music. He grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and the Light Crust Doughboys while at a Fort Worth station his cousin’s husband, Sheb Wooley, worked at. Wooley taught young Miller the guitar and the fiddle, having him listen to Hank Williams and Bob Wills. Wooley, Williams, and Wills were the three key influences that sparked Roger Miller to pursue a musical career of his own. He began running off to perform shows in Oklahoma and Texas, even going as far as stealing a guitar when he was seventeen years old so he could write songs. Feeling guilty about it, Miller turned himself in the next day. He was then given the choice to either go to jail or enlist in the army. Miller chose the army, finding himself stationed in South Carolina. As it turned out, an army sergeant there was a brother to Kenneth Burns of the famed musical duo, Homer and Jethro. Kenneth was the “Jethro” in the duo. When Miller was discharged from the army, he took the advice of the sergeant and headed straight for Nashville, Tennessee.
The Long Winding Road
Once in Nashville, Roger Miller met with Chet Atkins and was asked to sing. Atkins loaned him a guitar since Miller no longer had one. Nervously, Miller played it that had Atkins give him the advice to return once he has more experience. Taking the advice of Atkins, Miller moved on, first finding work as a bellhop at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville. While there he was referred to as the “singing bellhop.” In the meantime, he managed to earn the opportunity to play the fiddle in Minnie Pearl’s band. This is where he met George Jones, who introduced him to Starday Records. This time around, Miller wasn’t so nervous in his audition and impressed the executives enough to earn a recording session with George Jones in Houston, Texas. Together, Jone and Miller wrote “Tall, Tall Trees” and “Happy Child.”
When Roger Miller married and became a father, he set his music career aside to serve as a fireman in Amarillo, Texas. During the day he was a fireman and was a performer at night. During his time with the department, he attended one fire and slept through another, prompting the department that he should find another job. It didn’t take long before he returned to Nashville after he became a member of Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboys. At this point, Roger Miller became a songwriter, doing up written work at fifty dollars per week for Tree Publishing, a source recording artists used to find songs. Regarded as the most talented songwriters in the during the 1950s, it was only a matter of time Miller would finally join the ranks of the recording stars with his own music.
The Birth of Wild Child
In 1958, Roger Miller signed his own record deal, starting with Decca Records. He was paired with Donny Lytle, the very same that later became known as Johnny Paycheck. Of the two honky-tonk-style songs that were set up for them to sing, neither charted. Due to the lack of success there, Miller signed with Chet Atkins at RCA Victor which finally saw Miller’s music chart in 1960 with “You Don’t Want My Love,” followed with a top ten “When To Worlds Collide,” in 1961. However, this wasn’t enough to curb Roger Miller’s tiring of writing songs that saw him divorce his wife and engage in a party lifestyle that had him drop the record label and pursue other interests. It would be at this time Miller earned the “wild child” nickname.
Trading Nashville for Hollywood, Roger Miller embarked on a career in acting as he already made several appearances on late night comedy shows. Due to financial struggles, Miller signed up with another label, Smash Record, and had his first recording session in early 1964. With “Dang Me” and “Chug-a-Lug,” it seemed Miller finally hit his stride as a recording artist. Not only did the two singles perform well on the country charts, it was a pop favorite as well. These songs served as Miller’s much needed breakthrough. From that point forward it seemed as if Miller could do no wrong as hit after hit came from the star that led him to his own television show on NBC in the fall of 1966.
Forks in the Road
Riding on the success as a recording artist, Roger Miller was also given his own television show on NBC during the fall of 1966. However, it only lasted for thirteen weeks and ended in January 1967. 1967 also marked the year his final top ten hit in his career with “Little Green Apples.” However, the focus of Roger Miller’s songwriting had changed as he worked with Walt Disney and its animated feature film, Robin Hood. In addition to playing the role of the rooster and minstrel, he also wrote and performed three songs for the movie. “Oo-De-Lally,” “Not in Nottingham,” and “Whistle-Stop” were the three. In 1977, he was the voice of the equine narrator, Speiltoe, for the holiday special Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. In addition to Roger Miller’s impressive resume as a singer-songwriter, he also has an award-winning acting portfolio to his credit.
For a while, Roger Miller stopped songwriting in 1978 as he felt some of his better work was not appreciated. After collaborating with Willie Nelson in 1981 for Old Friends, Miller stepped away from the entertainment industry until he received an offer to write music for the Broadway musical based on Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Despite not reading the novel for himself, Miller accepted the offer and upon learning about the story, drew him back to his childhood memories of Oklahoma. In 1985, he won a Tony Award for that Broadway musical, which was titled Big River. In addition to receiving rave reviews for his musical composition for the show, he replaced John Goodman as Huck Finn’s father for three months as Goodman left the stage for Hollywood. The success of Big River spurred Miller to pick up the pen and start writing songs again. Along with Dwight Yoakam, Miller co-wrote “It Only Hurts When I Cry” for his 1990 album, If There Was a Way.
End of the Road
Inspired to write and perform music again, Roger Miller began a solo guitar tour in 1990. However, that ended in 1991 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His final performance on television was for a special to honor the late Minnie Pearl. That aired on October 26, 1992, a day after Roger Miller’s battle with lung cancer came to a tragic end. Three years later, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. To this day, he still has many of his songs covered by some of the biggest names in the music industry. What set Roger Miller apart from the rest of the country music singers was his whimsical lyrics that met with scat singing and vocalese riffs that were filled with crazy syllables. However, some of his best songs did bring out the serious side of Miller that seemed to strengthen the connection he had with his fans, as well as many of his peers.
Intentionally uncategorizable or not, Miller admitted he tried to behave like other artists are expected to but simply couldn’t fit the mold of expectations. He also admitted that it came with its fair share of frustration until finally accepting the reality that it’s not so bad to be so different. What made Miller different is what made him successful. To his name, Roger Miller has nineteen studio albums, three live albums, sixty-nine compilation albums, fifty-two singles, and eleven Grammy Awards.
Top 10 Roger Miller Songs
#10 – You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd
“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” simply demonstrated how it may be difficult for a listener to distinguish the difference between a country artist and a stand-up comic. In the case of Roger Miller and this 1966 classic, he’s both. True to his whimsical nature, “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” comically laid out the deep roots of bluegrass as it’s designed to be.
Carefree with humorous analogies, the novelty material that herded this single to become an all-time favorite is Miller at his genius best. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it was a number seventeen hit. The US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart peaked it at number thirty-five and it was a number forty hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Despite not earning any top ten chart positions, “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” developed a solid fan following who could oddly enough relate to what Miller must have been thinking at the time he wrote it.
#9 – Little Green Apples
“Little Green Apples” was Roger Miller’s big hit in 1968 as it peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a number five hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and a number thirty-nine hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. That same year saw Patti Page and O.C. Smith release the single as well. Page’s was moderately successful while Smith made it a solid pop and R&B hit. All three versions owe its success to the songwriter, Bobby Russell, who earned a The song earned Russell two Grammy Awards, namely for Song of the Year and Best Country Song. Miller’s version was the one recognized by the awards committee.
#8 – England Swings (Like a Pendulum Do)
The 1965 “England Swings (Like a Pendulum Do)” was a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and a number eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It became a number one hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The song was inspired by youths that brought about the trend that was referenced as Swinging London. That, combined with the British wave of musicians that swept across America, featured Miller taking a playful jab through the whistling harmonics he performed in this song. “England Swings” was popular enough to peak at number thirteen on its singles chart and it was a number four hit in New Zealand. Australia’s Kent Music Report also peaked the single at number twenty-three.
#7 – Do-Wacka-Do
“Do-Wacka-Do” was one of those songs only the talented few could pull off with the string of what seemed like an alternative reality to what a meaningful song sounds like. The silly syllables jumbled together to make an unlikely song become an all-time classic hit once again reflected the raw ability Roger Miller could turn nothing into something and make it a cult favorite. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it was a number fifteen hit and on the US Billboard Hot 100 it peaked as high as number thirty-one.
#6 – Kansas City Star
The comedic self-awareness of “Kansas City Star” was a fake bravado brilliantly performed by Roger Miller as the portrayal of regional television stars was a classic. When a song can beautifully crack jokes in a manner that isn’t the least bit offensive, that alone is enough to make it a certified hit. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, “Kansas City Star” peaked at number three. It was a number seven hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a number nine hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart, and a number thirty-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#5 – Where Have All the Average People Gone
“Where Have All the Average People Gone” saw Roger Miller lyrically ask a serious question in 1969 about issues that remain just as sensitive today as they did when he first released this single. Between socially-related questions, geographics, and other stigmas, this still remains as one of those good reflective songs that may cause a listener to do a bit of personal soul searching. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart, “Where Have All the Average People Gone” peaked at number fourteen.
#4 – Husbands and Wives
Believe it or not, Roger Miller does know how to put forth a single that deals with subject matters seriously. “Husbands and Wives” was a classic lyrical tale of how pride before the fall doesn’t just apply to a single person. It can apply to a marriage as well. In a way, this seemed to have served as a 1966 reflection of how his own marriage ended as it came to an end not much different than how the format of this song was laid out. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart it was a number two hit. The US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart peaked “Husbands and Wives” at number five and it charted as high as number thirty-seven on the US Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, it peaked at number fourteen on its RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart and it was a number thirty-seven hit on the UK Singles Chart.
#3 – Chug-a-Lug
While other musicians made drinking hard liquor seem ominous, Roger Miller’s 1964 “Chug-a-Lug” did the opposite. Cheeky from start to finish, it served up as a popular alternative for music fans that enjoyed this fast-paced tune that ventured into the ups and downs of having at least a drink or two, maybe followed by three or four more. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart it was a number three hit. On the US Billboard Hot 100 it peaked at number nine and was a number forty-two hit on Australia’s Kent Music Report.
#2 – Dang Me
In 1964, Roger Miller brought forth the single, “Dang Me,” as an off-beat salute to the people that have engaged in some form of a personal bonehead move due to some given circumstance that warranted a momentary bout of madness. It was a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a number seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, and a number three hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. “Dange Me” also became a number nineteen hit on Australia’s Kent Music Report.
It was also recognized at the 1964 Grammy Awards for Best Country Song, Best Country and Western Recording Single, and Best Country and Western Performance, Male. He also won that year Grammys for Best New Country and Western Artist and Best Country and Western Album, Roger and Out, which featured “Dang Me” and “Chug-a-Lug.” In 1997, the Grammy Awards also recognized “Dang Me” as a Grammy Hall of Fame Song.
#1 – King of the Road
1965’s “King of the Road” is far more than just the signature song of Roger Miller. It is also far more than just a cult favorite. It is as much a part of the blue-collared American lifestyle that can sum up many cowboys, drifters, and truck drivers. It’s also a way of life for touring musicians and other members of the working community that often find themselves spending more time on the road than at home.
As lonely as it may seem to always be on the road with not much of anything to show for it, the glamorized performance by Miller simply makes the experience seem kinda fun. During an era where rooms costed fifty cents instead of fifty bucks, “King of the Road” was, and still remains, an easy fan favorite. “King of the Road” was the biggest hit in Roger Miller’s career when it was released in 1965. It was a number one song on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, as well as a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a number four hit.
The inspiration for the song came from encountering a trailer for sale or rent sign and a brief encounter with a hobo. According to Miller, anything and everything was a song just waiting for that one person to write up about it. With the Grammy Awards, “King of the Road” was a song good enough to win Best Country Song, Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, Best Country and Western Recording Single, Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male, and Best Contemporary Single. If this wasn’t enough already, it also earned the Grammy Award Hall of Fame Song in 1998.
Feature Photo: Roger Mommaerts, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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