My wife and I were catching up on Fox’s surprisingly amusing comedy offering, “Raising Hope,” when I had an urgent, sudden need to Google an artist. It was Roger Miller’s “Do-Whacka-Do” which caught my ear and demanded my attention, and the YouTube rabbit-hole I soon wandered down took some surprising turns. Seems there was a reason the song jumped out at me … though Miller made a long career out of traditional honky-tonk music, his career-makers were of the novelty variety, including one of my father’s favorite guitar stompers when I was growing up: “Dang Me” — which never ceased to anger my mother, who claimed to have too much good taste to listen to such caterwauling — but I digress.
Whatever you may think of Miller, his songwriting talents beyond the world of novelty hits had a profound effect on the honky tonk country genre, leading to interpretations by Alan Jackson of “Tall Tall Trees” and by Brooks and Dunn of “Husbands and Wives,” both of which were #1s after his death in the mid-90s. And “King of the Road” is one of those songs which remains so ubiquitous, it’s impossible to completely miss.
But I was most surprised to learn that his voice was the one which lent one of Disney’s most underrated 70’s animation offerings a touch of honky-tonk gold. That’s right … Miller was the voice of the grizzled rooster character in “Robin Hood,” which led to classics like these ones:
Often imitated, Roger Miller remains a hallmark example of that quality which made honky tonk country so successful during the fifties and sixties. Here’s hoping today’s young crop of traditional-country inspired artists choose to take a non pop-country risk and dig into his catalog in the coming years.