J. D. "Jay" Miller

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This article is about the musician. For the painter, see JD Miller.
J.D. "Jay" Miller
Jdmiller-1979.jpg
J.D. Miller standing next to Kitty Wells gold record.
Background information
Birth name Joseph Denton Miller
Born (1922-05-05)May 5, 1922[1]
Iota, Louisiana[1]
Died March 23, 1996(1996-03-23) (aged 73)[1]
Lafayette, Louisiana[1]
Genres Cajun, country, swamp blues, and swamp pop
Occupations Record producer
songwriter
musician
Instruments Acoustic guitar
Electric guitar
Years active 1940s-1990s

Joseph Denton "Jay" Miller (May 5, 1922 Iota, Louisiana[1] - March 23, 1996 Lafayette, Louisiana[1])[2] was an American record producer, musician and songwriter[2] from Crowley, Louisiana whose Cajun, swamp blues, and swamp pop recordings made an impact on American popular culture.

Biography[edit]

Miller was born in Iota, Louisiana, but spent many childhood years in El Campo, Texas.[3] However, he resided most of his life in Crowley, where in the late 1930s he played guitar with several Cajun bands, including Joseph Falcon and His Silver Bell Band, the Four Aces, the Rice City Ramblers, and the Daylight Creepers. In 1946,[4] he began to record Cajun musicians using a studio belonging to producer Cosimo Matassa of New Orleans.[5][6] In 1946, his new label, Fais Do Do Records, recorded most notably the string band, Happy, Doc, and the Boys (Happy Fats and Oran "Doc" Guidry).[7] After a few records, in 1947, he changed his label name to Feature Records, which recorded Cajun musicians such as Amidie Breaux, Aldus Roger, Austin Pete and a variety of other country musicians. Later, Miller would create and record for smaller labels for different genres of music: Rocko Records(originally Rocket), Zynn Records, Showtime Records, Rebel Records, Kajun Records, Cajun Classics, Blues Unlimited, Swade, Excello,[8] Spot, Action, Kay, Ringo, Tribute, and French "Hits".[4]

In the 1950s he began to record swamp pop artists, including King Karl, Guitar Gable, Warren Storm, Rod Bernard, and Johnnie Allan, among others.[3][9] In 1952, Miller wrote the lyrics to "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" in which Kitty Wells recorded. The song became gold and stayed #1 for several weeks. [10]

Around this time he also began to record swamp blues artists such as Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown and Slim Harpo. It was Miller who produced Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" and "Rainin' In My Heart," significant swamp blues recordings later covered respectively by The Rolling Stones and Neil Young. From 1962 to 1965, Miller also recorded sides by Silas Hogan, before Miller argued with the new owners of the Excello Records label, and his input to that label dried up.[11]

Miller's recording studio attracted a handful of mainstream recording artists, including Paul Simon and John Fogerty. Simon, for example, used the studio to record "That Was Your Mother," a track from his acclaimed Graceland album, while Fogerty traveled to Crowley to record a cover of zydeco musician Rockin' Sidney's "My Toot Toot." His songwriting credits included, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels."[2]

Although he claimed to be a segregationist, Miller nonetheless used interracial studio bands during the Jim Crow era, when black and white musicians in the South were not permitted to mingle onstage or elsewhere in public. He professed to enjoy African-American blues music more than any other musical genre, and he even penned blues songs under the pseudonym "Jay West" (a name he used to disguise his race). Yet in the 1960s he also produced and released several racist recordings on his own Reb Rebel label, most notably those of Johnny Rebel (pseudonym of local Cajun/country musician Clifford "Pee Wee" Trahan). Today, compact discs of Miller's racist recordings can be found for sale on various racist and hate group web sites.

Miller died in Crowley, on March 23, 1996, after complications following quadruple bypass surgery. The Jay D. Miller Award, granted by the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame, is named for him.[2]

Fais-Do-Do
Genre Cajun, country, swamp blues, swamp pop
Country of origin United States
Location Iota, Louisiana, United States
Feature
Featurerecords-logo.jpg
Feature logo
Genre Cajun, country, swamp blues, swamp pop
Country of origin United States
Location Iota, Louisiana, United States

Recorded songs[edit]

Songs by Miller, covered by other artists:

Compilation Discography[edit]

  • "Acadian All Star Special: The Pioneering Cajun Recordings of J.D. Miller" (BCD 17206-1/2/3 CK Bear Family Records, 2011) [6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Kingsbury, Paul; McCall, Michael; Rumble, John; Orr, Jay (2012). The Encyclopedia of Country Music (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195395631. 
  2. ^ a b c d Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1996 - 1997". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  3. ^ a b Bernard, Shane [K.]. "J. D. Miller and Floyd Soileau: A Comparison of Two Small Town Recordmen of Acadiana". Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  4. ^ a b Tucker, Stephen R. "Louisiana Folk And Regional Popular Music Traditions On Records And The Radio: An Historical Overview With Suggestions For Future Research". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  5. ^ Bernard, Shane K. (1996). Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues. University Press of Mississippi. p. 72. ISBN 978-0878058969. 
  6. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Acadian All Star Special: The Pioneering Cajun Recordings of J.D. Miller". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  7. ^ Miller, J.D. Interview by author, 21 February 1991. Crowley Louisiana. Tape recording. Acadian and Creole Folklore and Folklife Collection, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
  8. ^ Broven, John (1983). South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Pelican. pp. 36–65. ISBN 978-0882896083. 
  9. ^ Bernard, Shane K. (1996). Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues. University Press of Mississippi. p. 59. ISBN 978-0878058969. 
  10. ^ Davis, Bill and Ronnie Pugh of the Country Music Foundation, liner notes for From the Vaults: Decca Country Classics 1934-1973, 1994.
  11. ^ "Silas Hogan". Allmusic. Retrieved January 19, 2010. 

Sources[edit]

  • John Broven, South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous (Gretna, La.: Pelican, 1983).

External links[edit]