Today in History (January 2)

On January 2, 1936, Roger Miller was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Most people remember him for such novelty songs as “Dang Me” and “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd.” That’s how I knew his work for most of my life, and so when I saw one of his old records in the 50-cent bin at the Santa Cruz library a few years ago, I snapped it up. I was unprepared for the sheer awesomeness (to use the technical term) of what was to follow.

You see, no one ever told me about Roger Miller’s undeniable coolness. His lyrics, while never mean, have an appealingly sardonic bent that causes them to sound fresh more than 22 years after his death. What delights me to this day, though, is the delivery. Roger Miller’s flow remains up there with any rapper’s (and he practically beatboxes on some tracks, long before the word existed). Check out the break on “I’ve Been A Long Time Leavin’ (But I’ll Be A Long Time Gone)”:

Miller grew up, in his own words, “dirt poor” on his uncles’ farm in Oklahoma following his mother’s death. Music was a solace, and he longed to write his own songs. At 17, he stole a guitar in an impulsive act of desperation. The next day, he turned himself in, and joined the Army to avoid jail. He served in the Korean War, and played in various bands while stationed in Georgia and South Carolina. Miller’s military stint inspired my choice for the best, most sympathetic, funniest, most pointed and yet least preachy musical take on war and soldiers, “Private John Q”:

Miller wrote prolifically for himself and other artists, and was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame. He won eleven Grammy Awards, and a Tony in 1985 for the score of Big River. He appeared in movies and comedy shows, even getting his own short-lived television series in 1966. In 1979, he appeared on what may be the best-ever episode of The Muppet Show. Not only is it technically dazzling and extremely entertaining, it remains our sole source of information about the (still incurable!) scourge of cluckitis:

For these reasons and more, I salute Roger Miller.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Brian Boucher, born January 2, 1977 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. His modern-day NHL shutout record of 332 minutes and 1 second, earned over a span of five consecutive games played in late December 2003 to early January 2004 with the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes), still stands today. Boucher played for seven NHL teams in his career, including my beloved San Jose Sharks. (While he usually played as a backup for the Sharks, I remember witnessing his very impressive start against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in person in December 2009.) In a 2012 Sports Illustrated poll of NHL players asking about the nicest guys in the league, Boucher was the only goalie and the only American (whatever those stats mean) to crack the top 10.

Boosh (as he was known) and his dry sense of humor also enlivened many an episode of Shark Byte. I can’t find the clip where he does various goalie characters, so this one will have to do:

Happy New Year, everyone!

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3 thoughts on “Today in History (January 2)

  1. Thanks. Nice tribute to RM – a very fine artist. His song old toy trains featured in the recent Christmas Cornucopia series on the immortal jukebox. Look forward to reading more here. Regards Thom.

    Like

    1. Sorry for the belated reply! Thank you so much…I need to check your post out. I briefly worried that I sounded a little disparaging toward the novelty songs (which I love as much as everybody else does). I definitely think people forget how versatile Miller was, though. Good to have you aboard!

      Liked by 1 person

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