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Elva Ruby Miller (October 5, 1907 – July 5, 1997), who recorded under the name "Mrs. Miller", was an American singer who gained some fame in the 1960s for her series of shrill and off-key renditions of popular songs such as "Moon River", "Monday, Monday", "A Lover's Concerto", and "Downtown". Singing in an untrained, Mermanesque, vibrato-laden style, according to Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace in The Book of Lists 2, Miller's voice was compared to the sound of "roaches scurrying across a trash can lid."
Nevertheless, "Downtown" reached the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in April 1966, peaking at No. 82. The single's B-side, "A Lover's Concerto," barely cracked the Hot 100 that same month at No. 95.
Life and career
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Elva Ruby Connes was born in Joplin, Missouri, the third of seven children born to Edward and Ada (Martin) Connes. She grew up in Missouri and Kansas. She married John Richardson Miller, a professional investor thirty years her senior, on January 17, 1934. They moved to Claremont, California the following year, where she studied music, voice, and composition at Pomona College and involved herself in church and community projects. She said singing was "a hobby", but she produced several records, mainly of classical, gospel, and children's songs. She self-financed and recorded at least one 45 ("Slumber Song"), and distributed it to local orphanages. It was while making a recording that arranger Fred Bock heard her. He convinced her to try more modern songs and took the recordings to different record labels.
Radio disc jockey (and later Laugh-In announcer) Gary Owens featured Miller on his radio program as early as 1960, and she also appeared on a limited-run album of his comedy routines. Owens can be credited to have discovered her, since her later success on Capitol Records was not until late 1965. Miller was signed to Capitol Records by Lex de Azevedo, a young up-and-coming producer at the label. His uncle, Bill Conkling, was then president of Capitol Records. Azevedo was also a member of The King Family. He is now a successful music producer in the LDS Church, but does discuss his involvement with Miller.
Miller's success, like that of Florence Foster Jenkins and Wing, was due to the amateurishness of her singing. Capitol Records seemed eager to emphasize it —in a 1967 interview with Life magazine, Miller claimed that during recording sessions she was deliberately conducted a half beat ahead or behind time, and said the worst of several recordings of a song were chosen for the finished album. Her first LP, bizarrely titled Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits, appeared in 1966. Made up entirely of pop songs, it sold more than 250,000 copies in its first three weeks. KMPC disc jockey Gary Owens wrote the liner notes. Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller?! followed, and The Country Soul of Mrs. Miller came a year later.
Miller sang for US servicemen in Vietnam, performed at the Hollywood Bowl, and guest starred on numerous television shows. She also appeared in Roddy McDowall's film The Cool Ones, where she sang "It's Magic". However, public interest in Miller soon waned. She was dropped by Capitol, and in 1968 she released one album, Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing, on the small Amaret Records label. Before issuing several singles on her own Vibrato Records label, she recorded two albums of material at Radio Recorders for Dunhill Records, which went unnoticed. She then retired from singing in the early 1970s. Her last known recording was a self-released EP in 1970.
Miller retired officially in 1973, when interest in her career had almost virtually ended. She spent her remaining years doing charity work. She lived in a condo in Northridge, California, until an earthquake in 1994. She then moved to a retirement home.
She may have been the inspiration for a similar act called Mr Miller and the Blue Notes, who released their 1966 version of the Herman's Hermits hit, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" among a number of other similarly themed novelty acts of the era.
Elva Miller died in Garden Terrace Retirement Center, in Vista, California, in 1997, aged 89. She was interred in Pomona Mausoleum, at Pomona Valley Memorial Park, in Pomona, California. Two years later, a compilation CD of her work was released on Capitol's Ultra-Lounge label: Wild, Cool & Swingin,' The Artist Collection Vol. 3: Mrs. Miller.
|Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits||1966||15|
|Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller?!||1966||-|
|The Country Soul of Mrs. Miller||1967||-|
|Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing||1968||-|
|Wild, Cool & Swingin'||1999||-|
|The Turned-On World of Mrs. Miller||2000||-|
"-" indicates did not chart
|Single||Year||US Billboard Hot 100|
|A Lover's Concerto||1966||#95|
- Leona Anderson
- Florence Foster Jenkins
- Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller
- William Hung
- William Topaz McGonagall
- William Shatner's musical career
- Jonathan and Darlene Edwards
- Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace, The Book of Lists 2 (1983); ISBN 0-688-03574-4
- "Mrs. Miller - Chart history | Billboard". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
- Skip Heller (1999), Searching for Mrs. Miller; The Link Between Charles Ives and Ed Wood, 
- Profile, danacountryman.com; accessed 26 September 2015.
- Darryl W. Bullock, The World's Worst Records: Volume One: An Arcade of Audio Atrocity Page 76
- "Mrs. Miller | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
- "Mrs. Miller | Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-02-20.