J. D. "Jay" Miller
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|J.D. "Jay" Miller|
|Birth name||Joseph Denton Miller|
|Born||May 5, 1922|
|Died||March 23, 1996(aged 73)|
|Genres||Cajun, country, swamp blues, and swamp pop|
Joseph Denton "Jay" Miller (May 5, 1922 - March 23, 1996) was an American record producer, musician and songwriter from Crowley, Louisiana whose Cajun, swamp blues, and swamp pop recordings made an impact on American popular culture.
Miller was born in Iota, Louisiana, but spent many childhood years in El Campo, Texas. 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 the mid-1940s he began to record Cajun musicians, most notably the string band, Happy, Doc, and the Boys.
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.
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."
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.
Songs by Miller, covered by other artists:
- "I Made A Big Mistake" - covered by Iry LeJeune.
- "Diggy Liggy Lo" - covered by Doug Kershaw and many others.
- "I Hear You Knocking" - covered by Dwight Yoakam and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
- "I'm A Lover Not Fighter" - covered by The Kinks
- John Broven, South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous (Gretna, La.: Pelican, 1983).
- Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson, Miss: University Press of Mississippi, 1996).
- J. D. Miller and Floyd Soileau: A Comparison of Two Small Town Recordmen of Acadiana by Shane [K.] Bernard, originally published in Louisiana Folklife Journal, Volume XV, December 1991.