AKA Louis Marshall Jones
Born Oct 20, 1913 in Niagra, KY
Died Feb 19, 1998
Styles Country Comedy, Traditional Country, Old-Timey
Instruments Vocals, Guitar, Banjo
Tones Joyous, Organic, Earthy, Amiable/Good-Natured
Labels King (9), Monument (8), CMH (5), Sound Solutions (4), Hollywood (3), Sony Special Products (2), MCA (2)
See Also The Grandpa Jones Family
Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones was one person who aged right into his makeup. Like his real appearance, however, his actual background and role in country music were deceptive, and more complex than they seem. Beginning in the 1920's, he began attracting attention with his boisterous performing style, old-time banjo performing and powerful singing, and by the 1940s, with hits like "Rattler" and "Mountain Dew," he began receiving national attention. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1946, and remained there throughout his career; in the 1960s, with hits like "T for Texas," he continued making a place for himself on the country charts, and as a regular on Hee Haw since its inception in 1969, he became a television celebrity. But Jones' influence went much further than that chain of successes would indicatehe was almost single-handedly responsible for keeping the banjo alive as a country music instrument during the 1930s and 1940s, and in addition to his own work and songs, he was an important associate and collaborator of Merle Travis.
Jones was born in Niagra, Kentucky, and grew up not in the mountains or the countryside, as one would think from his music, but in industrial Ohio and Kentucky, living in factory towns. His father was a fiddle-player, and his mother was a ballad singer. He listened to a lot of radio growing up, especially the National Barn Dance out of Chicago, and his strongest influences included old time country music and gospel songs, as well as the music of Jimmie Rodgers, which led him to begin yodeling. He'd made it onto the radio himself by 1929 at the age of 18 as "The Young Singer of Old Songs." Later on he moved to Chicago teamed with "Bashful Harmonica Joe," and appeared on the Lum and Abner show. During the mid-'30s, he started working with Bradley Kincaid, the man who gave Jones the "Grandpa" name, a result of his grouchy moods during their early morning radio broadcasts Jones thought the name worked, and adopted makeup to match. Coupled with his skills as a comedian and raconteur, the image was a natural. It was with Kincaid that Jones' career moved to Boston where their brand of country music proved extremely popular among rural New Englanders.
As a solo act later in the 1930's, Jones had radio shows on numerous stations from West Virginia and Connecticut to Cincinnati, where he sanf folk ballads and more old-time country ballads, as well as gospel songs. He also learned to play the banjo, and made it an integral part of his act at a time when the instrument had all-but-vanished from country music; it was the combination of Jones' old-time repertory and humor that helped to keep the banjo alive as a viable, popular country instrument. Jones later hooked up with Alton and Rabon Delmore and Merle Travis, and played with them throughout World War II as Brown's Ferry Four. He and Travis also became the first artists to record for the newly founded King label, under the name of the Shepherd Brothers. Jones' own earliest solo records were also done for King during this period, among them "It's Raining Here This Morning," "Eight More Miles to Louisville," "Rattler," and "Mountain Dew."
Those singles brought Grandpa Jones to national attention, and he was poised for the next step in his career, a move to Nashville. Before that, however, he married Ramona Riggins, who became not only his wife but his accompanist on fiddle and mandolin. In 1946, he began playing on the Grand Ole Opry and touring with acts such as Lonzo and Oscar and Cowboy Copas. He didn't stay in Nashville too long at first, moving to Lorton, Virginia and a radio show in Arlington, and later on the Old Dominion Barn Dance in Richmond. Finally, he returned to Nashville as a regular member of the Opry. Jones recorded with King Records from 1945 until 1952, when he moved to RCA-Victor, where he remained for four years, recording both traditional-sounding country and topical songs ("I'm No Communist").
In 1956, he began a six year stint on Decca Records, recording a total of 16 songs including the talking blues country hit "The All-American Boy" in 1959. Jones moved to Fred Foster's Monument Records in 1962, and had a top-five country hit the following year with "T for Texas." His career during the 1960's continued uninterrupted, and in 1969 he joined the cast of the new country music/comedy showcase Hee Haw, which gave him unprecedented national exposure for the next two decades. By 1978, he'd been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and, by that time, was taking on the real-life role of elder statesman within the community. He continued recording into the 1980's, although his music is somewhat under-represented today on compact disc, apart from the Monument and Decca sides. In 1984, Jones published his autobiography, Everybody's Grandpa. He died February 19, 1998. Bruce Eder
Similar Artists: Minnie Pearl The Delmore Brothers
Roots and Influences: Bradley Kincaid Uncle Dave Macon
Performed Songs By: Traditional Jimmie Rodgers M. Christian Scotty Wiseman George Cobb Bascom Lamar Lunsford Jack Yellen Ramona Jones Boudleaux Bryant Merle Travis Elsie McWilliams Albert E. Brumley Johnny Cash Eloise Riggins Marvin Hughes Harry Beasley Smith Owen Bradley Bradley Kincaid Driftwood
Worked With: Hee Haw Gospel Quartet Hargus "Pig" Robbins Mike Leech Ray Edenton William Guilford Wright, Jr. Ray C. Walker Hugh Gordon Stoker Bob L. Moore Sam Lovullo William Whitney Pursell Charlie McCoy Dorothy Ann Dillard Louis Dean Nunley Wayne Moss Neal Matthews Gordon Kennedy Jerry Kennedy Hoyt Hawkins Sonny Garrish
Born Jan 2, 1936 in Fort Worth, TX
Died Oct 25, 1992
Styles Nashville Sound/Countrypolitan, Honky Tonk, Country Comedy, Country-Pop, Traditional Country
Instruments Vocals, Songwriter, Guitar
Tones Fun, Freewheeling, Bittersweet, Boisterous, Playful, Rollicking, Rousing, Joyous, Poignant, Witty, Organic, Amiable/Good-Natured, Exuberant, Silly
Labels Smash (11), Mercury (4), Starday (3), Kingfisher (3), Columbia (3), St. Clair (2), Epic (2)
Roger Miller is best known for his humourous novelty songs, which overshadow his considerable songwriting talents, as well as his hardcore honky tonk roots. After writing hits for a number of artists in the '50s, Miller racked up a number of hits during the '60s which became not only country classics, but popular classics, as well.
Miller was born in Fort Worth, TX, but raised in the small town of Erick, OK, by his aunt and uncle, following the death of his father and his mother's debilitating sickness. Initially, he was attracted to music by hearing country over the radio, as well as his brother-in-law, Sheb Wooley. By the time he was ten, he earned enough money picking cotton to buy himself a guitar. At the age of 11, Wooley gave him a fiddle and encouraged him to pursue a performing career. Miller completed the eighth grade and left school to become a ranch-hand and rodeo rider. Throughout his adolesence, he played music in addition to working the ranch. Soon, he was able to play not only guitar and fiddle, but also piano, banjo, and drums.
He enlisted in the Army during the Korean war and was stationed in South Carolina, where he met the brother of Jethro Burns who arranged an audition at RCA Nashville for him. Early in 1957, Miller left the army and auditioned for Chet Atkins at RCA. The session was unsuccessful and he spent a year as a bellhop at a Nashville hotel. While in Nashville, Miller met George Jones and Pappy Dailey, who introduced him to Don Pierce, an executive at Mercury Records. Pierce signed Miller and had him cut three songs. Roger's first single, "Poor Little John," disappeared without a trace. Following the failure of his first single, Miller continued to work at the hotel and tour with other musicians he played fiddle with Minnie Pearl for a short time, then he became the drummer for Faron Young. After a few months, he was signed as a songwriter for Tree Music Publishing and stopped performing as a supporting musician. Instead of playing music, he became a fireman in Amarillo, TX. The abandonment of performing was short-lived, however within a few months, he became the drummer for Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys.
In 1958, Price recorded Miller's "Invitation to the Blues" and it went to number three. It was soon followed by three other successful versions of his songs Faron Young's "That's the Way I Feel" and Ernest Tubb's "Half A Mind" both went Top Ten, while Jim Reeves had a number one hit with "Billy Bayou." That same year, George Jones recorded "Tall Tall Trees" and "Nothing Can Stop My Love," which he had written with Miller; neither of the songs were hits. The following year, Reeves had a hit with another one of Roger's songs, "Home."
Since his songwriting career was flourishing, Roger decided it was again time to try to become a performing artist as well. He recorded a few tracks for Decca which weren't successful and then he signed to RCA Records. "You Don't Want My Love," one of his first singles for the label, reached number 14 in early 1961, followed by the Top Ten "When Two Worlds Collide" later that summer.
Miller wasn't able to immediately follow the songs with another hit single. Two years later, "Lock, Stock and Teardrops" scraped the charts and he left the record label.
Around that time, Roger moved to Hollywood began appearing regularly on The Jimmy Dean Show and The Merv Griffin Show, two of the most popular television programs in the country. His guest spots showcased his new style instead of concentrating on hardcore country, he had developed a willfully goofy persona, singing silly novelty songs. He signed a record contract with Smash Records and released his first single for the label, "Dang Me," in the summer of 1964. It was an immediate smash, vaulting to number one and spending six weeks at the top of the charts; it also crossed over into the pop charts, peaking at number seven. "Chug-A-Lug" followed a few months after it, reaching number three on the country charts and nine on the pop charts. At the end of the year, "Do-Wacka-Do" was released, becoming a number 15 hit.
Roger began 1965 with his best-known song, "King of the Road." The single spent five weeks at the top of the country charts and became his biggest pop hit, peaking at number four. Its accompanying album, The Return of Roger Miller, was another crossover success, also peaking at number four on the pop album charts and going gold. Miller was at his peak in 1965. Every song he released that year "Engine Engine #9," "One Dyin' and a Buryin'," "Kansas City Star," "England Swings" reached the country Top Ten and at the end of the year, his Golden Hits album went Top Ten; it would eventually go gold. In the summer of 1965, he released The Third Time Around, a record that leaned toward his honky tonk roots; it peaked at number 13.
After the watershed year of 1965, Roger Miller's career dipped slightly. Although other artists were still having hits with his songs Eddy Arnold took "The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me" to number two Miller had trouble breaking the Top 40 following the number five hit "Husbands and Wives" in early 1966. He continued to record throughout the late '60s, but fewer and fewer of the songs were becoming hits. Occasionally, he would record the songs of emerging songwriters, whether it was Bobby Russell's "Little Green Apples" (number six, 1968) or Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" (number 12, 1969). Toward the end of the decade and beginning of the '70s, he began to concentrate on honky tonk, although he still made his trademark novelties.
During the '70s, he recorded sporadically, preferring to concentrate on his hotel chain, appropriately called King of the Road. "Tomorrow Night in Baltimore," released in the spring of 1971, was his biggest hit of the decade, climbing to number 11. Early in the decade, he wrote songs for Walt Disney's animated adaptation of Robin Hood he also provided a voice for the rooster in the film as well as the movie Waterhole Three. In 1973, he left Smash/Mercury for Columbia Records. He spent four years at Columbia and only his debut single for the label, "Open Up Your Heart," was a hit, peaking at number 14.
Miller didn't record much during the '80s his biggest hit was "Old Friends," recorded with Willie Nelson and Ray Price. In the mid-'80s, he wrote the music for Big River, a Broadway adaptation of Mark Twain's works. Both the play and Roger's music were critically acclaimed and enormously popular. Big River won seven Tony Awards and two of those went to Miller, for Best Musical and Outstanding Score.
Big River would be the last major work of Roger Miller's career. In 1991, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and he died a year later. After his death, his legacy remained strong, as each new generation of country singers found songs in his catalog to cover and reinterpret. Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Similar Artists: George Jones Ray Price Willie Nelson Stonewall Jackson Chet Atkins Harlan Howard Buck Owens John D. Loudermilk Dottie West Sandy Posey Tammy Wynette
Roots and Influences: Hoagy Carmichael
Followers: Willie Nelson Ray Stevens Country Bob & The Blood Farmers The Gourds The Ghost Rockets
Performed Songs By: Conway Twitty R. Miller Kris Kristofferson Fred Foster Bobby Russell Harlan Howard Ray Smith Curly Putman George Jones Bill Anderson Billy Sherrill Traditional Jule Styne Dennis Linde Red Lane Dave Grusin Dorsey Burnette Mel Tillis Stephen Sondheim
Worked With: Roger Miller Michael Smotherman Wayne Moss Pete Drake Chet Atkins Al Casey Bob L. Moore Wilda Tinsley Cecil Brower Joe Zinkan Milton Okun Farrell Morris Solie Fott Bob Ferguson Craig Fall Ray Edenton Chuck Domanico Kenneth A. Buttrey Brenton Banks
Roger Miller being inducted into Songwriter's Hall of Fame. ca. late 80's. Left to Right: Larry Gatlin, Lee Greenwood, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller & the great Harlan Howard
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