Emmett Miller (February 2, 1900–March 29, 1962) was an American minstrel show performer and recording artist known for his falsetto, yodel-like voice. Little-remembered today, Miller was a major influence on many country music singers, including Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Milton Brown, Tommy Duncan, and Merle Haggard. His music bridges a gap between old-time Southern music, minstrelsy, jazz, and western swing.
Miller was born February 2, 1900 in Macon, Georgia. Though his early life is largely undocumented, it is generally acknowledged that he was performing in minstrel shows by his early twenties. In 1924, his first recordings appeared on the Okeh label. His backup group - The Georgia Crackers - included noted jazz musicians Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Eddie Lang. He continued to perform in minstrel shows well into his fifties, long after they fell out of fashion. Finally returning to Macon, he died there in 1962 and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery.
Miller's influence on early country is most apparent in Hank Williams's cover of the 1922 Friend/Mills song "Lovesick Blues" and Bob Wills's recording of "I Ain't Got Nobody," both of which closely resemble Miller's versions. Merle Haggard, Van Dyke Parks, Ry Cooder, Leon Redbone, Louis Prima, Van Halen and their frontman David Lee Roth have all recorded Emmett Miller songs.
- Tosches, Nick (2001). Where Dead Voices Gather. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-89507-5.
- Tosches, Nick (1996). Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80713-0.
- http://www.takecountryback.com/features/blues2.htm. Accessed November 1, 2007.
- http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7989649. Accessed November 1, 2007.
- Biography of Emmett Miller
- Profile on Red Hot Jazz (includes numerous audio files)
- Emmett Miller entry on Allmusic
- Emmett Miller on Myspace