1965 Roger Miller – Kansas City Star
Roger Miller lived in Fort Worth, Texas, for the first year of his life. His father then died, and when his mother proved unable to support her three sons during the depression, she sent Roger to live with an aunt and uncle on their farm in Oklahoma.
Roger’s cousin was married to actor/singer Sheb Wooley. Sheb taught Roger to play chords on a guitar and bought him his first fiddle. Roger stole a guitar when he was 17, but turned himself in for the crime. To avoid jail, he enlisted in the Army.
Near the end of his army days, they stationed Roger near Atlanta. He played fiddle in the Circle A Wranglers, a military group started by Faron Young.
When he left the military, Roger moved to Nashville and tried to start a career in music. An audition with Chet Atkins did not work out, so he worked as a bellhop in a local hotel (and became known as the singing bellhop). He found work as a fiddle player in Minnie Pearl’s band and co-wrote a few songs with George Jones.
After writing several other songs that became hits for other country artists, Roger finally signed a contract with Chet at RCA Victor. He wrote and recorded the song You Don’t Want My Love. The song is better known by its first line, “In the summertime.”
The record only reached #14 on the Country chart in 1960 and didn’t reach the Hot 100 at all, so I was somewhat surprised that I could sing along with the record when I searched it out.
It turns out that the song did chart eventually – by Andy Williams. His single reached #64 in 1961 and he no doubt sang it on his show a few times.
Roger got tired of writing songs for other musicians, tired of his first wife (they divorced), and tired of Nashville. He moved to California and tried to start a career as an actor.
Shelby Singleton started Smash Records as a subsidiary of Mercury Records in 1961. When Roger got low on money in 1964, he signed a contract with Smash Records; they paid him a bonus of $1,600 to record sixteen songs. The deal worked out to everybody’s benefit: Dang Me reached the top of the Country chart, Chug-A-Lug got to #3, and both records reached the top ten on the Hot 100.
In 1965, King of the Road became the most successful record of his career,
Roger released six more singles in 1966. Five of them reached the top ten on the Country chart and three reached the top ten on the Hot 100.
His fifth single that year was another song he wrote himself, Kansas City Star. The record was either funny or satirical depending on your point of view, but I can’t help but smile when I hear it. The single peaked at #7 on the Country chart and #31 on the Hot 100.
On the strength of his string of hits, Roger earned his own half-hour television show on NBC. The show lasted 17 weeks, from September to December 1966.
Ironically, none of his new singles did well while the show was active, but he reached the top forty again the next Spring.
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