J. D. "Jay" Miller

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J.D. "Jay" Miller
Miller with a gold record awarded to Kitty Wells
Miller with a gold record awarded to Kitty Wells
Background information
Birth nameJoseph Denton Miller
Born(1922-05-05)May 5, 1922
Iota, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedMarch 23, 1996(1996-03-23) (aged 73)
Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S.
GenresCajun, country, swamp blues, swamp pop
Occupation(s)Record producer, songwriter, musician
Years active1940s–1990s
LabelsFais Do Do Records, Feature Records

Joseph Denton "Jay" Miller (May 5, 1922 – March 23, 1996) was an American record producer and songwriter from Louisiana, whose Cajun, swamp blues, and swamp pop recordings influenced American popular culture.


Miller was born in Iota, Louisiana, on May 5, 1922,[1] and spent many childhood years in El Campo, Texas.[2] He lived most of his life in Crowley, where in the late 1930s he played guitar with several Cajun bands, including the Four Aces, the Rice City Ramblers, and the Daylight Creepers. In 1946,[3] he began to record Cajun musicians, using a studio belonging to the record producer Cosimo Matassa, in New Orleans.[4][5] 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).[6] After a few records, in 1947, he changed the name of the label to Feature Records, which recorded Cajun musicians such as Amidie Breaux, Aldus Roger, Austin Pete and various 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,[7] Spot, Action, Kay, Ringo, Tribute, and French "Hits".[3]

In the 1950s he began to record swamp pop artists, including King Karl, Guitar Gable, Warren Storm, Rod Bernard, and Johnnie Allan, among others.[2][8] In 1952, Miller wrote the lyrics to "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" (an answer song to the recent Hank Thompson hit "The Wild Side of Life"). The song, as recorded by Kitty Wells, became gold and stayed number 1 for several weeks.[9]

Around this time he also began to record swamp blues artists, such as Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown and Slim Harpo. Miller 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 by Neil Young. From 1962 to 1965, Miller also recorded sides by Silas Hogan, until Miller argued with the new owners of Excello Records and his input to that label dried up.[10]

Miller's recording studio attracted a handful of mainstream recording artists, including Paul Simon, who used the studio to record "That Was Your Mother", a track from his acclaimed album Graceland, and John Fogerty, who traveled to Crowley to record a cover of "My Toot Toot", by the zydeco musician Rockin' Sidney.[citation needed]

Miller's songwriting credits include "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels".[11]

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.[citation needed] He professed to enjoy African-American blues music more than any other musical genre, and he wrote blues songs under the pseudonym "Jay West" (a name he used to disguise his race).[citation needed] Yet in the 1960s he also produced and released several racist recordings on his own Reb Rebel label, most notably those of Johnny Rebel (the pseudonym of a local Cajun/country musician, Clifford "Pee Wee" Trahan).[citation needed]

Miller died in Crowley, on March 23, 1996, after complications following quadruple bypass surgery.[1][11] The Jay D. Miller Award, granted by the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame, is named for him.[11]

GenreCajun, country, swamp blues, swamp pop
Country of originUnited States
LocationIota, Louisiana, United States
Feature logo
GenreCajun, country, swamp blues, swamp pop
Country of originUnited States
LocationIota, 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)[5]


  1. ^ a b Kingsbury, Paul; McCall, Michael; Rumble, John; Orr, Jay (2012). The Encyclopedia of Country Music (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-539563-1.
  2. ^ a b Bernard, Shane [K.]. "J. D. Miller and Floyd Soileau: A Comparison of Two Small Town Recordmen of Acadiana". Louisianafolklife.org. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  3. ^ 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". Louisianafolklife.org. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  4. ^ Bernard, Shane K. (1996). Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues. University Press of Mississippi. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-87805-896-9.
  5. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Acadian All Star Special: The Pioneering Cajun Recordings of J.D. Miller". AllMusic. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  6. ^ Miller, J. D. Interview by author, February 21, 1991. Crowley Louisiana. Tape recording. Acadian and Creole Folklore and Folklife Collection, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
  7. ^ Broven, John (1983). South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Pelican. pp. 36–65. ISBN 978-0-88289-608-3.
  8. ^ Bernard, Shane K. (1996). Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues. University Press of Mississippi. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-87805-896-9.
  9. ^ Davis, Bill; Pugh, Ronnie (1994). Liner notes for From the Vaults: Decca Country Classics 1934–1973.
  10. ^ "Silas Hogan". AllMusic. Retrieved January 19, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1996–1997". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  12. ^ "Doug Kershaw | Songs". AllMusic. January 24, 1936. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  13. ^ "I'm a Lover Not a Fighter – The Kinks | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved October 5, 2015.


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

External links[edit]