In preparation for Thursday’s upcoming “meet and greet” blogger-reader event at the Albany Pump Station, blogger J. Eric Smith and I have had a good-natured back-and-forth running commentary about the most influential New Zealand rock and roll artists.
But no matter what, I may have one thing that J. Eric Smith doesn’t have when it comes to rock and roll music.
I actually have a Top 10 hit. Well, it was a Top 10 hit about eight years before I was born, but…
Okay, here’s the story.
When I worked on an article about lawn mower racing champion Chuck Miller last year, I did some research and found that according to The U.S. Census in 2000, “Miller” was the sixth most popular surname (only trailing Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown and Jones), while “Charles” or “Chuck” is the eighth most popular given name in America (behind James, John, Robert, Michael, William, David and Richard).
And over time, I’ve discovered that there are several other “Chuck Millers” or “Charles Millers” out there, all with their own levels of success and accomplishment. There’s a Chuck Miller Ford dealership in Houston. There’s a Chuck Miller construction company in Idaho. There was a Charles Miller in the 70’s funk band War, and a Chuck Miller produced one of the Insane Clown Posse’s first albums. There’s even a Chuck Miller who, with Tim Underwood, has collaborated on a biography of author Stephen King.
But those aren’t the Chuck Millers I’m talking about right now.
Because one of the coolest things about being “Chuck Miller” is that I actually had a Top 10 rock and roll hit once.
Yes I did.
Well, “I” didn’t.
But “Chuck Miller” did.
Okay, I’ll explain.
The Chuck Miller in question was born in 1924 in Kansas, and later became a professional piano player. He would eventually form a music trio, working with saxophonist Big Dave Cavanaugh and bass player Robert Douglass. The Chuck Miller Trio garnered a record deal with Capitol Records (partially because Cavanaugh was hired as an A&R representative for Capitol), and several singles were released. The singles were mostly middle-of-the-road pop music, none of which sold very well.
Eventually Miller left Capitol and signed a contract with Mercury Records. He would later cut a boogie-woogie swing record called “The House of Blue Lights,” and it stayed on the Billboard pop singles chart for nearly four months – and at one time was the ninth most popular song of the week.
Wanna hear “The House of Blue Lights?”
Sure you do.
“The House of Blue Lights” would be referenced in other pop music songs, as both Little Richard and Mitch Ryder quoted the building in the song “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
Miller would later release more songs in this boogie-woogie vein, songs like “Hawk-Eye” and “Bright Red Convertible.” His next big hit, though, was a cover of Leroy Van Dyke’s country-western hit “The Auctioneer.”
Everybody sing along!! And no, I’m not going to close-caption this one…
Miller was also influential in finding other rock and roll artists. He discovered Jimmie Rodgers, who would later have Top 40 pop hits like “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “Honeycomb” and “Fallin’ In Love Again (Uh-Oh).”
And just because I feel like sharing… here’s four more tracks from Chuck Miller’s catalog. Click to hear some classic jump-swing and boogie woogie music!
||BRIGHT RED CONVERTIBLE
After his stint with Mercury, Miller signed with Imperial Records and released an album of 1940’s music set to a boogie-woogie sound. He also had an album for Mercury, “After Hours,” which is hard to find in good condition – the vinyl’s usually in good shape; but the album cover was laminated with a type of cellophane that actually causes the picture underneath the cellophane to frost and discolor.
By 1960, he had retired from the music industry, and lived for the next 40 years on the beaches of Hawaii. He passed away in 2000.
There’s an excellent biography of Miller, written by archivist Dave Penny in August 2008; a copy of the biography is available on this website.