Among the early Cherokee Cowboys was the future King of the Road, Roger Miller, whose legendary career as a songwriter and entertainer got its real start as a member of Ray's band. Ray recalls how Roger came to join the group.
"I was looking for a front man, and Roger was working in the Fire Department in Amarillo, Texas. So he came out to try out and play fiddle...Played the worst fiddle you ever heard...And he played a song and said, 'Well, how do you like that?' I said, 'Well, brother, can you sing and play guitar?' And he really nailed that. So he came to work for me and was fronting the show and playing guitar and singing. And I recorded his song called 'Invitation to the Blues,' And that got him started on this writing thing. And then he became a star of his own. I’m real proud of Roger.”
Roger Miller was born January 2, 1936, in Fort Worth, Texas. the youngest of three brothers. His early life was not easy. His father died when Roger was only thirteen months old and his mother soon became seriously ill. Each of his father's three brothers took one of the boys to raise, and Roger grew up in Erick, Oklahoma. He became interested in music at an early age, and led a country band while in the military service during the Korean Conflict.
Miller got an audition with Chet Atkins of Nashville's RCA office soon after, but failed to win success at that time in the music world. He did get occasional songs recorded and put out a few records on a small label, before moving back to Amarillo, Texas, to support his pregnant wife. That's where he was when Ray Price found him and asked him to join the Cherokee Cowboys.
After Ray had a fabulous hit with Miller's song, "Invitation To The Blues," Miller became one of the hottest songwriters around. There followed such hits as Ernest Tubb's "Half A Mind," Faron Young's "That's The Way I Feel" and Jim Reeves' "Billy Bayou," "If Heartache Is The Fashion" and "Home."
Roger Miller was on his way. By 1964, Miller wanted to leave Nashville and give acting a shot. He flirted with the idea of acting lessons. But after a recording session for Mercury produced some big hits, he gave up that path to promote "Dang Me." which topped the charts for six weeks in 1964. He followed up with smash successes like "King of The Road," which sold over a million copies and won him six Grammys. Subsequently, he wrote the score for the Broadway musical, "Big River," which won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 1985.
Miller died October 25, 1992 of cancer. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.