NOW IT'S MILLER TIME

JODY "QUEEN OF THE HOUSE" MILLER IS BACK JTO RECLAIM HER CROWN

Another Capitol Records artist, Mary Taylor, brought a lyric she wrote into Douglas' office, hoping to get a green light to record it for herself. Taylor had taken a current huge hit, "King of the Road," and penned her own version, "Queen of the House." Douglas--and Robertson, who had been following Miller's progress and happened to be at Capitol just then, looking to see how his prot‚g‚e was faring--convinced Taylor to give up the song for Miller.

"Capitol made every effort to get it out quickly, of course, because it was right on the heels of 'King of the Road,'" Miller says. "It became a big hit on the pop charts, then it crossed over to country, which was most unusual at the time. I think I pioneered the crossover movement with 'Queen of the House.'" The album, Queen of the House, which featured the Johnny Mann Singers, contained "He Walks Like a Man" and such country standards as Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," Harlan Howard's "Odds and Ends" and Don Rollins' "The Race Is On," best known as recorded by George Jones.

The success of Queen of the House spawned Miller performances on such classic TV tune fests as Shivaree, Shindig and Hollywood A Go Go, and she recorded title tracks for two films, A Swingin' Summer and One Way Wahini. Miller performed on American Bandstand, and did her patriotic duty entertaining troops in Alaska with Bob Hope.

More albums, hits and awards followed: Home of the Brave yielded that huge title hit and found still more country lurking within, including Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" and the Johnny Tillotson classic "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin.'" Later, 1971's "He's So Fine," a luscious take on the Chiffons' standard, earned Miller still another Grammy nomination.

Miller enjoyed the success, certainly, but her own tastes were changing. Her daughter had been born just after "Queen of the House" was recorded, and Miller and her husband, Monty Brooks--a racehorse trainer at Remington Park in Oklahoma--wanted "to raise her where we were raised."

"We didn't like L.A. all that much, anyway, because we were just a couple of Okies out there," Miller says, laughing. "Besides, I wanted to move into Nashville. Country music was really taking off, you know, and then I heard a record called 'Stand By Your Man.' The production behind it blew my mind. I thought, whoever it was who put that together, I want him to do my albums."

The person responsible was famed Nashville producer Billy Sherrill, and he soon had Miller signed up. In 1970, after eight fruitful years with Capitol, Miller was now with Sherrill at Epic. In 1971, they experienced the resounding success with "He's So Fine," and Miller shared a Country Music Association Best Duo award with Johnny Paycheck. Yet country music had hit a down cycle, and by 1980, Jody Miller decided to call it a career.

"I just decided to get off the road," she remembers. "I was tired, burned out. There weren't any battles or fights or anything else to it. I decided to have some fun, take it easy. So I quit and went back to Oklahoma."

For the next seven years, Miller helped her husband with his horses and traveled with him to races around the country. In 1987, the long-dormant urge to get back into music returned, and was all wrapped up in red, white and blue.

"I had this idea to do a patriotic album," she says. "It was a crazy idea because everybody kept telling me it wasn't going to sell--and they were right. It didn't sell. At the time, though, George Bush was running for president, and someone heard it up at some campaign breakfast in Milwaukee, and the next thing I know, I get a call from his people wanting to know if I wanted to go out campaigning for Bush. Well, I hadn't been on the road in seven years, but I did kind of have the itch to go back. So I said, 'Yeah, I'll go--even though I'm a Democrat.'" Miller later performed at President Bush's inaugural ball, and it rekindled the urge to perform.

"I spent the next couple of years trying to get back into it," she says. "Man, it was hard. My old friend Ralph Emery had me on his show [Nashville Now], but there just really wasn't anything going on with me, nothing they could promote. It's my own fault, really. I kept jumping around from one type of music to the other, moving about, disappearing. But I still kept going out, playing little theatres and such, trying to find a break. "I was working at a theatre last summer and I had a band that I hired. I didn't know it, but they were Christians, and I came to find out they were praying for me. They moved me, and I rededicated my life to Christ and started singing nothing but gospel music. I went in and recorded an album of gospel songs. Since then I've been working in churches. An agent, Bonnie Shannon, heard me. She was booking Verne Jackson [country-flavored superstar hymnist on Rolex-Christian CBN, Channel 21], and she wanted to book me. She lives here, and she called me up to tell me about this new theatre, said it would be the greatest theatre in Scottsdale, and would I come here to help them out? That's why I'm here. Well, at least partly."

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