Jody Miller is probably best known for a song called "Queen Of The House", released in 1965. That song went to number 12 on the Billboard chart and number 5 on the Country singles chart. The following year, (1966) Jody won the Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Along the way, Jody achieved success as a Country artist and now enjoys success as a Christian music artist. We spoke to Jody Miller about her journey.
Q - Jody, what do you busy yourself with these days? Are you still performing? Are you still recording? Do you write?
A - I never wrote any songs, much to the dismay of my husband. I still do secular dates as well as Gospel, but mostly I do Gospel work. In the past 15 years I've recorded Gospel music. I haven't recorded in about five years. I really would like to come out with another Country CD. I'm talking about very Country. I like Buffy Sainte Marie, people like that. That kind of Country. That's what I'm doing now.
Q - I always thought you wrote "Queen Of The House".
A - Everybody thinks I did. Mary Taylor wrote it. Mary was an artist on Capitol (Records) at the time I was. She was a writer. She wrote the lyrics and called Roger (Miller) 'cause they were friends, about "King Of The Road". She told him about the lyrics and he said, "You should go in and cut it right away." She couldn't because she had a record that was going up the charts and at that time, back in the '60s, you didn't do things like that. Not until The Beatles arrived on the scene could you put more than one (hit). Isn't that funny? More than one hit on the charts.
Q - Do you know how long it took for her to write it?
A - Well, I don't think it took very long. "King Of The Road" was a hit and it didn't take long for that to be a hit because it was a giant, smash record. She wrote it and then we got our hands on it, me and my producer at Capital, we recorded it and the plant that gets the records out for Capitol was in Santa Maria, California and they got it in four days, so they would hit all the radio stations. The radio stations picked it up and they were glad to get it. It was such a well done record, if I do say so myself. It was done perfectly, almost like "King Of The Road". That helped it. But, we got played together. The DJs across America would play both of the songs together. Everybody liked it. Back then everybody was a little bit corny, so why not, you know?
Q - You don't have anybody writing songs like Roger Miller anymore. "You Can't Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd". When's the last time you heard a song like that?
A - (Laughs). There's not too many people like Roger. I guess he's one-of-a-kind.
Q - How did your life change when "Queen Of The House" became such a big hit?
A - It was phenomenal. It was absolutely phenomenal. Let me back up a little bit, before I recorded that I was in Europe at the San Remo Festival. I did real well with a song called "Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)". We went ahead and stayed over there for about a couple of months. I knew I was going to have a baby before I left. So when I came home I met my new producer at Capitol and then he told me about this song. It landed on his desk and he didn't have an artist to do it. My new producer, Steve Douglas, knew it was a smash. So, the minute I got home I went up to his office at Capital, up in Hollywood. We lived in Hollywood at that time. He played it for me. I remember it took about a week or so to get into the studio and do it. I was pretty well far along in my pregnancy. So, like I said, it got out in four days. It hit the radio stations and everybody started playing it. Then it started selling and the plant over there in Santa Maria couldn't make 'em fast enough. See, the baby was born the day before Mother's Day and I had a number one song. That was the extent of it, and the following March I won a Grammy for it. So, it kind of catapulted me into instant stardom. I had a new manager. I hardly knew all these people because they were just flooding in, wanting to help me with my career. Capitol wanted me back into the studio, which we did. We cut a "Queen Of The House" LP. I was on a lot of big television shows at the time. So, it did help me tremendously. It was a shot in the arm for me. It was the biggest time in my whole career.
Q - You were "discovered" by Dale Robertson.
A - That's right.
Q - Where did he see you?
A - Well, I saw him actually. I was living in Hollywood. I went to Hollywood, my husband and I. This is when we first got to Hollywood. We were there about a month and my husband read in The Hollywood Reporter where Dale, who had the number one television show at the time, Wells Fargo, was doing an animated feature. It told where his studio was. He leased out at Walt Disney artists and they came over there and started working for him, just to do the feature. It told where his offices were. It told his address. My husband, his family was in the horse business, racehorse business. Dale was in the racehorse business too. My husband had met his brother several times. He just said, "I wonder if Dale could help you?" I said, "Let's go see." So, we jumped in the car and went down to his office there in Hollywood and he was right in the door as I walked in. I sort of blurted out to him, "Can I see you a minute? I'm the best singer you ever heard!" (Laughs) Something like that. He said "You have to see my secretary and make an appointment." I said "Okay", and I did. I came back about a month later and I sang for him. It was that evening I was in his office and he called someone at Capitol he was working with on the feature, in the Art Department. His name was Fred Rudd. He said "Can you get an audition for this little girl?" He said, "Sure. I can try it." So, it took about a month or two to get the A&R department to give me an audition and when they did I was working at The Troubadour over on Santa Monica. A bunch of 'em came in from Capitol and watched me sing. After that I got the contract.
Q - What a nice story! It would never happen today.
A - Oh, I know. My backup band was Glen Campbell and Billy Strange and Jack, I can't remember his last name. We had a little trio and I played my little four string tenor. We did Folk songs, the early '60s Folk era. It was kind of "hot" then. They signed me in '63 and I put out a Folk song album and it didn't sell at all because the Folk era was easing out I think. The next thing I knew I was recording that song "He Walks Like A Man", which became a regional hit there in LA.
Q - How many famous people do you remember coming through the doors at The Troubadour when you were there?
A - Okay. The only one I remember really good was Hoyt Axton because he wanted me to sign his divorce decree. (Laughs). He wanted me as a witness on his divorce decree. He was such a wild character. You couldn't really be around him very long. And so I remember him. It seems to me I remember The Mamas And The Papas really well because the girl who sang so good. I can't remember her name.
Q - Cass Elliot.
A - Cass. I remember her. I remember her look. Nobody looks like her you know. (Laughs).
Q - Since you were on Capitol records in the early '60s, did you ever cross paths with Sinatra or The Beatles?
A - Well, I finally saw one of my heroes, Burl Ives. I love him. And also Glen (Campbell). He was not signed as an artist when he was backing me up at Capital. He was on nearly every session I did. Plus, he backed me up on the road going to Hawaii with The Beach boys. He sang all the Roger Miller songs on that gig too. I can't remember meeting anybody else besides that. When your session ends, you leave. You don't stick around for who's next. But I did run into Burl Ives in the hallway.
Q - You did tour behind "Queen Of The House", didn't you?
A - Yes, I did.
Q - Did you tour the US as well as overseas?
A - Well, a little later I went to Europe. I went back to Europe. That was back in '68, '69. My career was kind of fluctuating a little bit and kind of dropping. What happened was, Steve (Douglas) found a song for me, "Home Of The Brave", which was really the bestseller I ever had. It outsold "Queen Of The House" only because they couldn't press the record fast enough for "Queen Of The House". "Home Of The Brave" was a Bubblegum song, so it sold more. The Country DJs stopped playing me. They thought I was their "Queen" by giving me the Country single Grammy and I got played on the radio so much even though the "Queen Of The House" LP had a bunch of horns on it. You see, Steve wanted me to bridge the gap. He wanted me to be a crossover artist and with that, I was. I have been ever since I was recording, even on Epic (Records). So, my career went down after "Home Of The Brave", even though it was a giant hit for me. It sold a lot of records. I'd loved that song. The production is so fantastic. Steve was so talented. Oh, my gosh. But when my career kind of slowed down a bit, I had to go back to Europe to work.
Q - What kind of venues were you playing at the time?
A - Oh, I played all the big stuff. I played like all the big rodeos. They thought I could ride a horse because my husband was in the horse business, but I couldn't. It was just hilarious. They thought that was part of my act. I played all the big concert halls and I went on tour with Bob Hope to Alaska and I did some Fairs. I did a lot of Fairs. E.O. Stacy was my agent and he was like the number one agent in the world. But see, my records stopped and when they stopped, my career went.
Q - In the early '80s or mid-80s you went into semi-retirement?
A - Oh, yeah. When my career was failing so badly in '69, '70, I called Billy Sherrill at Columbia records because I'd heard "Stand By Your Man" and I loved the production. I called and asked him if he would record me and he said yes. So when I met him, he went ahead and signed me to Columbia and we had several years of good, good success with hits on the charts and a Grammy nomination. I got to work with Bob Hope again. I worked all the big rooms in Vegas. I was the opening act for Bob Newhart and Don Rickles, people like that. I was kind of a crossover artist in my stage work, as well as my radio airplay because I was a crossover artist. I didn't sing Country enough to be Pop and I didn't sing Pop enough to be Country. I was just kind of a weird artist out there, flailing along, but that's the way I wanted it. I can't help the way I sing.
Q - What's going on with Country music these days? It sounds more Rock 'n' Roll than ever before.
A - I don't think the new Country music is that bad versus the Pop music of today. They've got to sell records. They sell it to these younger people. And that's what they want. The young people don't actually know some of these old Country classics. They never heard of 'em. They don't know what you're talking about. You can't blame them. (Laughs).