Here in Santa Fe we like to claim Roger Miller as one of our own, being that he lived in Tesuque for the last dozen years or so of his life.
But the fact is, he thought of his hometown as Erick, Oklahoma, where he spent most his childhood.
The good citizens of Erick are about to open a Roger Miller museum. Makes me want to head back to Oklahoma just to see it.
I met Roger shortly after he moved to Santa Fe backstage at a Michael Martin Murphey concert at Paolo Soleri in the summer of 1980. Roger was the "surprise guest."
It would have been the first time I'd seen him play since I saw him at Springlake amusement park in Oklahoma City, circa 1965. I was in sixth grade then. Roger was a true hero for most Okie kids -- especially those of us who thought we could write a song.
But it wasn't meant to be that night at Paolo Soleri in 1980. Roger came out on stage, said, "Hi, I live down the road aways," struck a chord -- and the rain came down. That's back when Santa Fe used to have a "monsoon" season. It rained so hard that the rest of the show was cancelled.
The next time he tried to perform around here was at the Downs of Santa Fe at a Barbara Mandrell show a couple of years later. It rained like hell that night too, but at least the stage was covered, so the show went on.
I interviewed him for The Santa Fe Reporter shortly after the Paolo fiasco. (The above photo was taken by my first ex-wife Pam Mills at that interview at Roger's home.)
For a couple of years in the early '80s, I ran into him and his wife Mary frequently. Once he introduced me to Dandy Don Meredith at the Shohko Cafe. But one of the biggest nights for my ego was when Roger Miller introduced me to Hank Thompson in the dressing room of The Line Camp in Pojoaque. "Steve grew up on Reno Street," Roger said, referring to an old Oklahoma City skid row.
So if you're traveling Route 66, check out Roger's museum in Erick.
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