Presented here is, more or less, my latest obsession… Mr. Roger Miller. Mono on the right, stereo on the left, this classic “greatest hits” album can be had for about a quarter online (this doesn’t include shipping, mind you), but you can likely find it in the $1 bin at your local brick and mortar. All the singles are here, Dang Me, Atta Boy Girl, Do-Wacka-Do, In the Summertime, England Swings, Chug-A-Lug, and of course, King of the Road. I’d define Roger Miller as country in name only. He’s more of a goofball with an acoustic guitar any anything resembling Waylon, Johnny, or Willie, which makes him an easy and likable target for those not too fond of the genre as a whole. I guess, if pressed, what I dig most about Mr. Miller is his shining positivity. You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.
Roger Miller is a goofy cat. Aside from voicing the narrative rooster in the famed Robin Hood animated feature from 1973, Mr. Miller championed fans and critics alike with his flavor for the funny. Do-Wacka-Do and You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd come to mind, but until the other day, I’d never heard of My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died. This king of the road country funnyman is well worth keeping tabs on, and even if you’re not too keen on that whole country thing, you should definitely give Roger Miller a shot. (Smash Records cat. no. MGS 27075)
I’ve got to admit, albeit amidst a cloud of guilt and shame, that I’ve been in a classic country mood since returning from my recent holiday in the rural Midwest. Yesterday I forced my girlfriend to join me in walking down the dusty road of Roger Miller and his hillbilly classic, Do-Wack A-Do, and lately I haven’t been able to stop Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A. from spinning inside my head. So with that frame of reference in mind, I offer Groovy Grubworm and Other Golden Guitar Greats by none other than Harlow Wilcox & The Oakies.
Now, this is the kind of “country music” I can get behind. No lyrics about hound dogs slurpin’ on Sally’s slippers, or Fakey-Flakey Hearts, just 12 tracks of electric guitar with just the right amount of twang and driving backbeat. Don’t even get me started on what the masses consider “country” music by today’s standards. In my cocky ignorance, I’ll proudly refuse to listen to any so called “country” released this side of 1986 (I stop with Dwight Yoakam’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.). This is, to be blatently honest, the only reason I can justify listening to country music in the first place. Ok, rant over.
You’d think by the stoned out, tree-hugging grubworm on the cover that this album is far out, man. Instead, Harlow Wilcox & The Oakies are strikingly conservative in re-imagining such classics as The Surfaris’ Wipe Out, Johnny Smith’s Walk, Don’t Run, as well as dropping in four original compositions of their own that match seamlessly with the rest of these compelling classics.
Groovy Grubworm feeds that bug, er…worm, for classic, guitar-driven country music. I suspect that it’ll only be a matter of days until my mood shifts and I’ll want nothing to do with country music for the unforeseeable future, but until then, I’ll grab me a beer, and my lady, and we’ll create our own little rustic oasis amongst this sea of 3.8 million Los Angelenos. My sincere apologies to my neighbors in advance.
If it’s on any other label in the monumental history of music recording, it’s a lemon. Smash Records is a bit full of themselves, don’t you think? Looking at their big guns, or at least the four featured artists on this insert (that was printed in the U.S.A., mind you), this bold claim, at first sight, seems justified, or at least viable. But, given that these are only four artists out of, oh, I don’t know, EVERY ARTIST OF EVERY COUNTRY OF EVERY GENRE OF EVERY GENERATION THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF MANKIND, the phrase, “if it’s a hit… it’s on Smash Records” can be read as a stiff middle finger response to “the rest” of the hitless noise polluting the ears of the music-loving public all across this giant rock.
Roger Miller, Charlie Rich, James Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis were all fantastic artists… but if your entire music vocabulary consists of only Smash Records recordings, 1) you’ve got a lot of work to do and 2) your lack of music-listening happiness gathers no sympathy from me.
Smash Records… Everything else is just noise.