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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Fife

Roger Miller Sang What? | Haven't I heard That Before, Volume 1

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Those of you who have been following my blog may have noticed something:

I have a few different categories for my blog posts, one of which has yet to have an entry- UNTIL NOW!!!

Do you ever have one of those nights when your brain just won't shut up? To be honest, I tend to be more of the head-hits-the-pillow-and-I'm-zonked kind of guy. But it seems like when they do come they hit me full force. If you ask my wife, last night (a few hours ago at this point) was not one of my standard 'zonk' nights. It was more of a "my mind is spinning with ideas & won't shut up" kind of night. She's

a good sport & is almost always willing to talk with me about anything, but when it's after midnight & I'm still yammering away, I realize I should probably shut up. After I finally asked Alexa to shuffle our bedtime playlist, I was at least able to shut up. But 10 minutes in, my mind was still going, spurred on by something on the playlist. When I uttered my idea, no one was awake to listen and give me feedback anymore. So I tabled it & probably finally fell asleep in 5 more minutes.

Then... 2:30. Dang bladder. The mind starts going again like nothing interrupted it at all. I laid back down & the brain just kept at it.

One of those ideas has been percolating for more than 20 years. I LOVE MUSIC. I met my wife in my music theory class. Neither of us ever finished our degrees, but I'm willing to bet I have a better knowledge of Music History than plenty of graduated Music Majors (not to toot my own horn too much - I'm sure a good many of those music majors are much better at tooting their particular horns than I am anymore - Though I do still pick up my trumpet regularly, and while not quite as easy as "just like riding a bike," it still comes back to me fairly easily).


Simple. We live in an astounding time when you can say "Alexa, play 'X'" - and sure enough X is played.

Friday at work, passing a co-workers office after using the Postage machine, I made reference to "King of the Road," by Roger Miller. Because I'm a sponge and sometimes a bit of a know-it-all, and I just like to talk to people about random factoids, I poked my head in his office & said, "To think this used to buy an 8x12 room!" I got to share multiple factoids with him because he hadn't realized that's what "4 bits" meant (Fifty Cents - Shave and a hair cut was only 2 bits- 25 cents). After singing a couple of the lines to/with him, I came to my next factoid. "Did you know R.E.M did a cover of "King of the Road?" Blew his mind.

Blew my mind a few months ago when I was in a rock and roll mood & asked Alexa to shuffle songs by R.E.M and I heard their cover of it, for what I THOUGHT was the first time. But when my curiosity peaked enough to sit down at the computer and find out when they did the cover: Mind blown again. I had the cassette of the album it was released on (Dead Letter Office) back in the 90's. Some time in the ensuing 25-30 years since I bought it from Budget Tapes & Records, I either lost, sold or donated it. (I actually still have a cassette deck in my 1996 Isuzu Hombre that is my daily driver.) Sorry, I digress. I'm good at that.

I remembered some of the songs when I listened through the whole album again, but for some reason, this one just didn't stick with me then. To be fair to both Roger Miller, and R.E.M. - the cover is in some ways VERY different from the original. But when I heard it a few months ago, thanks to Roger Miller, the synapses in my brain went "Boing! - Hey, human! You know that song, and that's not quite the way it goes. But it's a pretty spiffy mash up." (Yes, I have some pretty loquacious synapses. Get enough of them lighting up at 3 am & POOF, you've got a blog post).

Most people know of Roger Miller like I did before I met my wife - He's the Rooster in Disney's Robin hood. She introduced me to an album (I think her parents had it on LP & we dubbed it to cassette - oh those glorious days of mixtapes & dubbing)

that I'm thinking was probably "Best of Roger Miller" or something, where of course you get King of the Road, Do-wack-a-do, Dang Me, 3 sheets in the wind, etc. If you're not familiar with the not-animated-poultry version, do yourself a favor and ask Alexa (or Siri, or Hal, or Big Brother) to shuffle songs by Roger Miller. That's what I did on Saturday morning that elicited from me the title of this post.

I'm quite certain there are scads of folks out there who already knew it (probably even me subconsciously), but apparently Roger Miller was the original singer of "Me & Bobby McGee." For the other scads of folks like me, you might be more familiar with the Janis Joplin version. But when I asked Alexa to shuffle Roger Miller and I heard it, I thought Roger was doing a cover of it. Nope. His predates the Posthumous release of Joplin's recording by a year and a half. And listening to them both? I can't decide which I like better! Miller's topped at #12 on the Country Charts & Joplins at #1 on the Rock charts in their day.

It's funny how some things just get stuck in our mind one way & then something else comes along & blows that out of the water. Sometimes depending on our state of mind when we encounter something, it doesn't quite stick. Sitting here this morning, I'm pretty sure I've heard the Roger Miller version of Bobby McGee before, but this is the first time that it really clicked in my mind that its the same thing. Somewhat akin to it registering out that 'Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,' 'The Alphabet Song,' and 'Bah, Bah Black Sheep, Have you any wool' are all the same tune (I'm sure there are more than that too). If that connection hasn't registered with you until now, don't feel stupid. Synapses have to fire a lot to make solid connections & if you're mind is somewhere else, so be it. And you get enough firing synapses...

(Pluto's still a Planet... I don't care what you say, Neil)

And all of our synapses meet up a little differently, based on any number of events, experiences, etc. So even though I love both the Beatles and the Carpenters, Ticket to Ride is a Beatles' tune & shall forever remain so. My wife has it in her mind the other way, even though Beatles did it first. (I really do like a lot of the Carpenter's stuff but their 'Ticket to Ride'? Ech..)

I love covers. I love that one artist can take another artists material and make it their own. King of the Road? Recorded or performed live by more than 32 well known singers / bands (The Proclaimers is my personal non-Roger Miller Version). Me & Bobby McGee has been done by at least 13 well known singers / bands.

Mondays will now be my Musical Musings blog post if you're wanting to follow it closely. At this point, I'm planning on alternating mostly between 2 basic outlines - "Haven't I Heard That Before" (Something like this one, discussing the some of the history of a particular song, musical theme, etc) and Classical Music you won't hear on a sampler or usually even in Music 101 (And for you people out there who are sticklers for labels - I'm going to apply the term "Classical" music to music ranging from The Epitaph for Seikilos to Phillip Glass' 'Einstein on the Beach').

So here's my first "Musical Musings" Blog post. Enjoy & Check out both versions of Bobby McGee! (And however many versions you want to hear of King of the Road).

Happy Listening!

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