57 years ago today, one of the best feel-good songs ever released was topping the country music charts.
Roger Miller is undeniably one of the most important artists in country music history. While not as big of a name as the Georges, Merles and Johnnies of the world, Roger had a unique style that allowed him to carve his own place in the country music record books.
After moving to Nashville and being rejected by Chet Atkins after an audition that didn’t go so well, Miller found work as a bellhop at the Andrew Jackson Hotel, where he earned a reputation as the “singing bellhop.”
He would eventually land a gig playing fiddle for Minnie Pearl, where he caught the attention of George Jones and the two paired up to write “Tall, Tall Trees,” a song that would go on to be released by not only Jones and Miller but also, years later, Alan Jackson.
After starting a family, Miller decided to leave his music career behind and moved back to Texas to start a career as a fireman – but that didn’t work out either after he “only saw two fires” and slept through one of them.
Miller would ultimately return to Nashville and give the music business another shot – and this time it worked.
“King Of The Road” was Roger’s second #1 and by far his most popular song to this day. Released as part of his 1965 album The Return Of Roger Miller, the song was a crossover success that tells the story of a man with nothing to his name, making his way through the world however he can.
Miller once recalled in an interview that the song was inspired by a sign that he saw while driving down the highway that read “Trailers for Sale or Rent,” which would later become the opening line of the song.
“King of the Road” would reach #1 on both the Billboard Middle Road Singles chart, and the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, where it stayed for over a month. The song also won Roger 5 Grammy Awards at the 1965 ceremony, including Best Country Song.
While it’s got some great lines (“I’m a man of means by no means”) its catchy melody is its defining quality. It’ll be in your head all day, guaranteed.
“Trailers for sale or rent, rooms to let 50 cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain’t got no cigarettes
Ah, but two hours of pushin’ broom
Buys an eight by ten four-bit room
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road”
Great stuff and one of my favorite underrated country songs of all-time.
Cheers to “The Wild Child.”