Billed early in her career as “The Little Girl with a Big Voice”, Jody Miller was Capitol Records most promising young female vocalist in the 1960s. In an era of petite belters who could shake the rafters with their powerful voices (Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Lesley Gore, Timi Yuro, et al.), Jody was, for a time, the Capitol Tower’s contender for the title of Pop Music’s Top Princess. A five-foot three-inch blend of girl-next-door beauty and charm, the dark-eyed brunette began her career singing folk songs in college coffee houses in Oklahoma before making her exodus to the west coast and a successful appearance at Hollywood’s Troubadour nightclub. Almost overnight, an encounter with westerns film star Dale Robertson brought her to the attention of Capitol Records executives, who promptly offered Jody a recording contract. Several fascinating singles followed—including the dramatic pop smash “He Walks Like A Man”, the controversial, hippie protest anthem, “Home of the Brave”, the mournful (and brilliantly written) “Long Black Limousine”, and Jody’s Grammy®-Award winner tribute to America’s Domestic Goddesses, “Queen of the House”. During this time, Jody cut seven albums for Capitol and made numerous appearances on national TV, performing alongside The Righteous Brothers, Sonny and Cher and The Rolling Stones on such wildly popular dance shows as Shindig, Hullabaloo, American Bandstand and Hollywood A Go Go.
For several frenetic years in the 60s, Jody toured Hawaii with The Beach Boys, entertained at an air base in Alaska with Bob Hope, and performed shows with everyone from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to Don Rickles. In the middle part of the decade, along with several other recording artists of the day, she also pioneered the music video format in some groundbreaking and eye-popping films for the Scopitone movie jukebox. A true road warrior, Jody’s musical journey has literally taken her around the globe —from England and Italy, to Japan and the Philippines.
For 15 years, Jody was a major attraction in both Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, where she drew huge crowds at The Sahara, The Riviera, Harrah’s and The Desert Inn Hotels with her energetic and musically diverse shows. Switching over from folk and pop to more country-oriented music in the 1970’s, she gained an even wider audience with eight successful albums for Columbia Records in Nashville, before retiring to her Oklahoma farm to breed and raise quarter horses with her husband Monty Brooks. Returning to recording in the 1990s, Jody cut over a half dozen gospel albums (earning her induction into the International Country Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and her being named 1999’s Entertainer of the Year by the Country Gospel Music Guild), and has now resumed performing her country and pop hits in her shows.
Throughout her entire career, Jody has proven to be such a gifted and versatile vocalist that it has often made classifying her as a singer almost next to impossible. In the past, however, this versatility in several different musical styles often created a dilemma for Jody when dealing with an industry so intent on pigeonholing performers. Exactly where, on the musical continuum, did she belong? The lady herself once asserted, “I love all music…from opera to the blues. One newspaper reporter once said my voice was smoky, but she really meant bluesy, I think. I could never be categorized. Maybe I shoulda done Broadway tunes…”
With questioning her proper musical niche long a thing of the past, Jody Miller has amassed a multitude of awards, accomplishments and fans in a multi-faceted career that in 2008 sees her nearing the half-century mark in show business. With her rich and resonant voice wonderfully intact, here’s hoping that Jody will continue spreading some good news –through some great music– for many years to come.
– John O’Dowd, author of the Discoveries magazine article: “Jody Miller: The Little Girl With a Big Voice”
THE MUSIC IN ME
I remember when I was 6 we lived in Oakland, Calif. in a big old house. It seemed like a mansion to me, but I’m sure it probably wasn’t. My dad was a mechanic … and there were five of us girls plus mom and dad in this big old house.
I was the youngest – the baby. When my sister Pat was 14 yrs old and I was 6, we spent a lot of time together. She was very talented. In fact the whole family was. Dad played the fiddle, even built them from the tree in the yard. Anyway, Pat and I would sing together. She taught me how to harmonize, and I picked it up real quick. I still love to harmonize. I loved how the music just flowed together. She had a guitar … I don’t know where she got it … but she told me about the strings and how they harmonized together and what would happen when you applied pressure to the strings.
She opened a whole new world of music to me.
Even though music was the center of our family … up until then all I could do was dance to the music … when she opened the door to me by singing with me and showing me the guitar, she allowed music to come into my very being.
I started singing then at about the age of 7, and that’s when mom and dad entered me in countless Amatuer Contests.
When I was a little older, I was sent back to Blanchard (Oklahoma) to live with Grandma. It was there that someone gave me one of those toy pianos. My sister Carol still talks about my being able to play real songs on that little thing!
I never saw a real piano before! And this one was red!
I remember Grandma played the fiddle sitting in her rocking chair. She was 78 when I came to live with her and I was 8. One day I discovered Mario Lanza singing “La Donna Mobile.” That to this day was the greatest song and singing I had ever heard. I played the record over and over, learning every word phonetically. That is when I first realized that I would be a singer. I was bitten.
Back at Blanchard High I joined the Chorus and a couple of my friends formed a trio and sang all the McGuire Sisters hits. My teachers in school were a great support, always reassuring me that I was gonna be a big star …
A friend from California sent me a ukulele and I learned to play it and graduated to a Tenor Guitar. Now I own a Martin Tenor, I bought it in Los Angeles in ’63 and still have it. I use it on nearly every show.
I love all kinds of music, and it’s hard for me to find a favorite style or a favorite song. I especially like to listen to classical music because the music is so beautiful and the singers have such incredible voices. I think to myself, “How’d they do that?” then I try to do it. So everytime I listen to classical music, it turns into a clinic for me. Fortunately, in Gospel music, the fans are appreciative of good voices, holding notes, things like that, so I get to use that classical training when I sing Gospel.
I also like to hear good harmonies like Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. They’re the best.
When I do the dishes at home no telling what’ll pop into my head. My cat Zero, now deceased, used to love to hear me sing “On The Street Where You Live.” Come to think of it, who else would she have heard sing that song?
Music is so important to me. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone not putting music into their everyday life because it connects with your soul.
Have you ever noticed someone cry when they hear a good singer sing the National Anthem? Music affects your emotions and it makes your body react through tears. That’s how music has affected my life.
When some bad stuff happened in our family in the latter 1940’s, music was what bailed me out. Well, music and basketball bailed me out!
Celebrity has not changed my life much. I guess money changed my life more than anything, which celebrity is why I made money, so I guess it did change my life.
I was able to see and feel and touch the ‘best of everything’ during my career. I am able to live in a house on a hill in the country. It’s a bungalow. Nothing fancy, very comfortable. But even with the comfort that my career has brought me, I’m still ME. Even though I experienced some outstandingly different situations and ‘moments of grandeur,’ I’m still Myrna Miller from Blanchard, Oklahoma.
I may be ‘looked up to’ by others in some ways … and this does give power … but the only power I possess is from God. He has given me a powerful testimony to influence others to practice His principles in their lives so that they may experience Heaven on Earth.
My favorite musicians and people in the business to work with were the ones with the great attitudes. We were all there because we all had a gift, so what’s the big deal? We tried to steer clear of the ones who treated it like a big deal. The people I liked to work with were the ones who were fun to be around.
Of course, of everyone, Billy Sherrill was my most favorite producer because he himself was so very talented and creative. I don’t write music or lyrics, but he sure could and did.
When I think of my favorite kinds of music, I guess I would have to say that I love the songs of the 50’s. Someday I’d like to record some of those songs. I guess the reason why I love that music so much is because those songs were playing on the radio when I was growing up. Or maybe it’s because the lyrics are so romantic and the melodies so beautiful. I’m sure it’s the music itself that inspires me and makes me want to sing and record them.
I’ve been in this industry since the 1960s. I’ve seen a lot and done a lot. And I think if I could start over again, I would hope to try to do the very same thing.
If I couldn’t be a musician, I’d have to do something that required me to be creative … like writing or Interior Decorating or a hairdresser.
This career has been hard. Road life was hard, especially being away from the family — not getting to do your dishes and sing to your cat.
My recording of “Queen of the House” thrust me into country music. I won a Grammy® for that song in the Country category, and all of a sudden my producer at Capitol, Steve Douglas, started thinking “Country.” I don’t know what he was thinking before … maybe he didn’t know HOW to produce me. Let’s face it, if he was producing Loretta Lynn he’d know just what to do … right? I didn’t fit the mold then and I feel I still don’t. I’m singing gospel music in a quartet world!
But I don’t mind that I don’t fit a mold! If we don’t sing what is in our hearts and minds, what do we sing? Didn’t the first singers get their start because newspapers weren’t even invented yet?
Because I sing what is in my heart, I think the most important song I sing is “The American Trilogy.” I’m told I sing it better than any song I sing. I know it’s the best written song I sing. It has a terrific message and it’s the song I like most to perform mostly because of those things. But I gotta be honest, that song lets me use my voice and show off a little too.