An Accomplished Fire: Leslie Becker

Vinyl and its sound is a culture. As I have gone through collecting vinyl and the many artists that have albums, I have noticed that only certain voices are deserving of this medium.

slowburncoverfrontThis medium only does justice to true performers and musicians. Vinyl has depth and soul that reads artists correctly. Some musicians today haven’t been pressed on vinyl, but are truly deserving of this vinyl culture. One of these artists is Leslie Becker.

On the surface, Becker is a theater extraordinaire. She has a vast resume in musical theater playing roles that are accolades just to play. Once one digs deeper into her career, they quickly discover her songwriting and her many recordings. This performer’s talent does not stop when the spotlight is off. I recently had the chance to sit down with Leslie Becker in New York City to talk about her work and her vast array of talents.

From the moment we sat down, I was taken aback by the warmth of Becker’s personality and her genuine sincerity. I had to begin talking about one of her latest accomplishments, her song “Slow Burn.”

“Slow Burn” is currently sitting at around 20,000 spins and charted at number 4 on Billboards Hot Adult Contemporary chart. It’s video, which I have included at the end of this post, is also under the Grammy’s consideration for best music video. This song was solely written by Becker and produced by Joe Vulpis of AP Music, who is well-known for kick starting Lady Gaga‘s career and his large array of work in the music industry.

Ironically, Becker says that she originally wrote “Slow Burn” for another artist. But when she cut the scratch vocal for the demo, Vulpis was blown away and they decided to make it her debut radio single. She largely credits this song’s appeal to letting her be herself. This seems to be her success factor in many of her musical ventures, and its true vessel is writing.

Becker is an accomplished songwriter whose compositions go across pop, cabaret, musical theater, and country. She often wrote for other artists in the earlier stages of her career and recorded many scratch vocals on her material. It wasn’t long though until somebody noticed that she was not just a scratch vocalist. Her love for songwriting largely opened up through country music.

img_1546Many of her songs can be heard on SoundCloud, but one must brace themselves before they dive in to this musical playground. You will continually be aghast at the range her lyrics and voice can reach. Just when you think you have her figured out, she throws a wrench into the production. Leslie doesn’t fix things that aren’t broken, she just tweaks them to near musical perfection.

Her writing does not stop at just composing music. She is also a librettist with her first show, A Proper Place, opening in Seattle, Washington next year. There isn’t much in the music and theater field that Becker hasn’t ventured into.

What sticks out to me above everything else is Ms. Becker’s voice. It is a unique blend of warm tones, with pop personality loaded with emotion. Just like her song writing, her voice effortlessly goes over musical genres and finds its niche in each. Her voice can easily morph into many characters and embody the complete emotion of her new alter ego. At one moment she can sing a song of heartbreak while moving into a song of new-found love.

Leslie Becker produces competent pop music through her multi-faceted voice and pristine song interpretation. She is pretty much Judy Garland mixed with Lady Gaga.

This is why Leslie Becker’s belongs within the vinyl culture. Vinyl culture isn’t about just having your material pressed on vinyl, it’s about possessing the talent that shoots straight for the soul. This talent does require pomp and circumstance. It’s a vocalist who is just at home at the piano as well as with a dance tune.

Leslie Becker’s career is going to continue to burn with the flame getting hotter. Right now, she has barely scorched listeners with her talent. Her voice and career is moving into a full-blown fire.

Don’t forget to follow Leslie Becker on Twitter at

Check out Leslie Becker and other AP artists on December 20th at the AP music showcase. She will be performing her hit song “Slow Burn” along with others.

Click here to buy your tickets.

More Than Judy Garland: My Conversation with Stevie Phillips

It is not a secret to many of my friends and family, especially my mom, that I am slightly fascinated with musicians and performers. Some may even say that “slightly” is an understatement or some may just flatly tell you how annoying I am when I start spewing facts about random artists.

Now I can tell you some really odd things about random musicians. Did you know that Kiss was the first band ever signed to the Casablanca record label?? Did you know Adele wrote “Turning Tables” with Ryan Tedder who is from Oklahoma and I’m from Oklahoma?? Did you know that Madonna has to have her dressing room fumigated after each concert to make sure nobody sells her tissues?

I think I just annoyed myself.

One of my favorite artists to study is Judy Garland. I have literally been a fan for nearly my whole life. I saw “The Judy Garland Christmas Special” on Nick at Night when I was 4 and the rest is history.

41olfurhcl-_sx326_bo1204203200_-2So naturally as I went to pick out a book to read after my recent move to New York state, I decided to pick out another book about Garland. My choice was Judy & Liza & Freddie & David & Sue & Me by Stevie Phillips. Phillips is a very successful former agent of many of music and films biggest stars. She got her start with Garland and she had loads of success with Liza Minnelli. Not to mention she also worked with David Bowie, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, and Hollywood’s “super agent” Sue Mengers. Basically this book couldn’t be more up my alley.

This book left my mind loaded with new knowledge. I was taken aback by Phillips candor over her workings with Garland and Minnelli. Her career fascinated me to no end. So to make a long story short or to prevent a short story from being long, I got in contact with Phillips and asked her if I could interview her. To my delight, she obliged.

I hope that my interview with Phillips will serve as a teaser to her book.  I fully encourage you to read this book. It will leave you with so much more than what Garland’s favorite wine was. I have included all links to purchase this book at the end of this article.

To start off the interview, I wanted to basically ask Phillips, how she survived the fickle world of show business. Once you read this book, you will see that her path was one less traveled.

Well. There are two things I have to respond to in answer to your question. One is my upbringing, my loneliness as a child. My parents were both in retail as you read in the book. They were gone from before I woke up in the morning until after I went to bed at night…

Movies were my best babysitter…If I had to name my favorite picture I would have to say at the time it was Meet Me In St. Louis…I wanted to be Ester Smith. I wanted her family. I wanted to have a crush on the boy next door. I wanted that life. A paradox in my life was that of Esther Smith, the role that Judy played in the picture turned out to be nothing like the real Judy. That was what it was…

Now, the second answer to that question is, Judy became the prism of which I viewed my life. I wrote that also. She taught me, not because she was a mentor, she was anything else but. I had to survive and help her to survive. I learned how not to fold.

This is one of the major themes of the book, how not to fold. Phillips first began her career has Garland’s “shadow.” She followed Garland everywhere she went as she embarked on a tour in hope to revive her career. Garland had signed with Phillips’ bosses, Freddie Fields and David Begelman. She became to know all of Garland’s idiosyncracies and erratic habits. She often cites this as one of her biggest challenges, but proves that nothing can stop ambition and drive.

I entered my life in show business with the ambition born out of my loneliness and was not going to let Judy or any other name stop me. 

It was a humongous amount of drive, but finally Judy Garland was Judy Garland up there on the screen, but in the living room Judy Garland was just another human being and not a very nice one by any means.

Now I have a huge amount of respect for musical icons and Garland is at the top. I imagine that if I met Garland today, I would stop dead in my tracks. I was immediately taken aback by Phillips’ candor. She was very honest in her book, but that wasn’t just in writing. She began to lay everything out just the way she saw it.

As I did research for this book, I found many positive and negative reviews. There was harsh criticism coming from Garland’s die-hard fan base that Phillips was tainting her legacy. Although I would consider myself somewhat in this base, I took a different approach. This memoir actually made me a bigger fan of Garland’s. Phillips humanized Garland and her troubled life. Garland isn’t a myth.

I am grateful that you said that. You are not the first to say that and I appreciate that criticism. I have looked on Amazon and at some of the criticism I have gotten. Some of it is really, really hard to take. I looked at it and thought to myself, ‘Whoa, I’m sorry I made that person so unhappy.’ Mostly, the worst of the criticism came from people who found it very presumptuous of me to criticize her [Judy Garland] at all. That her legacy should be left intact. Her legacy is a great one and perhaps all those critics are correct. I’m not going to imagine that I know more than they. They are entitled to their opinions and it is what it is. Judy was a real person and it was the realness of her life that informed mine. So why would I pretend that she was anything else

Phillips’ book chronicles many of Garland’s mishaps that Phillips ultimately had to manage. This included putting out many fires and she means this both literally and figuratively. Some may think that Phillips has a grim view on Garland, but that simply isn’t so. Garland had become a victim of addiction through her surroundings and her own making. Although Phillips had many times with Garland that were completely scary, like Garland chasing her with a knife, this isn’t what she holds on to, nor does she blame Garland.

Sometimes what remains in my mind about her is absolutely terrific. I still think, without a doubt, she is certainly one of the finest performers that this country has ever produced. She was amazing. She woud get out there on the stage and I would not care how much havoc she had brought in my life. She would perform and it would all go away. It was just extraordinary to watch her. At the same time there is the other part that is mean and nasty and I don’t blame her. How do you blame somebody for having a disease? Addiction is a disease and it’s a terrible disease and she was terribly afflicted and there were times when I swear if I could have put her through a brick wall I would have done it, but I never wanted less then to save her. I got angry, but in the end I wish I could have changed the addiction. I wish I could have changed the things that made me angry. It made me angry that she suffered. It made me angry that she did the things she did that she could not control.

Her addiction defined her. It cut her off from understanding that she had other options. She never recognized that the poor choices were hers…

I wanted her to be able to perform. Not just so that my bosses would make the money, not just so I would earn my salary, but because she was magnificent on the stage. I wanted to see her career go on.

Even though Phillips may have had these awful experiences with
Garland, the end resulted in who she became as an agent and, more importantly, a person. Would Phillips give Garland any thanks?

I am absolutely grateful to her. No question about it. She taught me how not to fold…I went through some seriously scary, seriously challenging events with her and discovered in the process how strong I was, that I could be confident of my intelligence. I owe her. I am grateful for all of that.

phillips_stevie__c_daryl_edelstein_2After Phillips finished being Garland’s shadow, she had proved to her bosses that she had what it took to hold the real power in show business. This eventually led to her representing Liza Minnelli in her career’s most formative years.

The fact that I survived was an indication to my two bosses that I was dependable, that I could be counted upon. Of course it was the gateway to representing Liza. My success with Liza opened doors for me in other areas..Certainly the most important thing that I learned besides surviving was what I learned from my real mentor, Freddie Fields, which was like in all businesses, not just show business, the business belongs in the hands that sign the clients. And I became a client signer.

Now Phillips was signing the clients and Minnelli became one of the biggest stars she represented. Although their history is far from just an agent and a client, they were connected by Garland.

I felt a connection to Judy, but mostly I felt sorry for Liza. Judy abandoned Liza. I’m not saying Judy didn’t care for Liza. Judy had genuine affection for her children, but that didn’t make her a great mother. There is no doubt in my mind she loved them, but her life was affected by the addictions and the pressures put on her that she couldn’t handle and it was hard under those circumstances to be the mother of all mothers.

When Garland left to record her TV show in California, Liza did not move with her. Phillips quickly became the most stable figure in Minnelli’s life and guided the foundation of her career. She was Minnelli’s agent when Minnelli won an Academy Award for Cabaret followed by her legendary concert for television Liza With a “Z”. In addition to guiding Minnelli’s career, Phillips lent her home to Minnelli through many of these formative years. She even hosted Minnelli’s wedding in her apartment. Sadly, Minnelli and Phillips severed ways due to a personnel decision made by Minnelli and they don’t have a relationship today.

By this time in our conversation and while reading the book, the legends that Phillips wrote and spoke about became second. I began to resonate with Phillips’ story in a different way. Her book no longer belonged in the “Music” section at Barnes and Noble, it now belonged in the inspirational section.

I quickly realized that Phillips is everything I want to see in myself. The tenacity she portrays during her trials with Garland, Minnelli, and in her personal life is nothing short of an education. Phillips taught me to never fold and to always keep moving, no matter the setbacks that life throws at you. If you keep moving and keep your eyes on your ambition, then success is inevitable.

As I briefly told Phillips of some of my ambitions, she even starting giving me advice.

A lot of people have opportunities; they just don’t see them. Opportunity comes knocking on the door and people don’t recognize it. When you see a chance to do something, however little sense it may make, if you feel that it’s going to lead you down a road that is exciting, take the chance! There is nothing as exciting as change and a lot of people are scared of it.  A lot of people don’t see opportunity when it comes and slams them in the face.

So in the end, this book wasn’t just about Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, or Robert Redford. Although, I did learn a lot of new facts to annoy my friends with. When I asked her why she wrote the book, this just backed up my reasoning.

I think it’s because I thought I had wonderful stories to tell. I think it’s because I felt that people could benefit, could learn something from the stories I had to tell. They were such wonderful stories that were worth telling….

These stories were definitely worth telling for they are not just historical, they are impactful. Phillips’ life needed to be secured in the books and she cemented it in. Even today she is still working on projects and talks about producing more musicals on Broadway, something we weren’t even able to touch on in our interview.

It’s been a hell of a ride, Gabe. I have had a wonderful career and the fact that I am still trying to create it amuses me.

Not only did I learn about some of my favorite musicians through Phillips, but I also learned valuable life lessons from real world experience. This is not a book I can only read once. Phillips has given me more than history; she has shared the wisdom she gained from these experiences. I only hope to emulate half of what she was able to portray and I hope this is not our last encounter.

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with what Phillips would say to Garland today if she was still alive. These are profound words that many of us need to live by today. She speaks of this not because she is a puritan; she assured me she is far from it. So what would  Stevie Phillips say to Judy Garland today?

Stop drinking. 

I just hope Phillips doesn’t mean coffee. I would sure love to have another conversation with her over a pumpkin spice latte this fall and learn some new facts to annoy my mom with. Ohh, the dreams of a music aficionado.

Purchase the book on Amazon here.

Purchase the book on Barnes and Noble here.

Yesterday is Not Over: The Sound of Melinda Doolittle

As I have dived deeper into the music listening world of vinyl albums, I have found a culture emerge, especially in the realm of vintage vinyl. I have vinyl records ranging from the 1940’s to today, but there is a different quality to some of my more dated albums and artists.

Back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s performers had a real task on their hands. Their career could not simply evolve around annual albums and recordings. These performers had to prove themselves time and time again in front of audiences. They had one shot to prove who they were, if it was an audience of 5 or broadcast to millions of people across the world. Their performance and raw talent defined their success.

FOX+American+Idol+Finale+Farewell+Season+Arrivals+1CsQg0FYyxRlThese performances did not have rewind, pause, or “do over” opportunities. It was a one shot game. If they missed, the audience in front may walk away, but if they made it, they had audiences for a lifetime.

That is exactly why I am a fan of Melinda Doolittle. Many of you will remember her from American Idol season six where she came in 3rd, yet I remember her for her timeless performances and how she encompasses the vinyl culture.

I recently sat down with Doolittle via Skype for a one on one conversation about her career, performance style, and what the music world means to her. After speaking with her one on one, I can tell you she is an artist of sincerity, skill, and raw talent.

To know Doolittle’s career and to understand her character and ambition, one must first start at American Idol. Ironically, this was a competition based solely on performance. We quickly began discussing different aspects of her season on American Idol, like what was it like to have Diana Ross as a mentor and the audition process. Doolittle told the story of how she went to try out for American Idol with a group of friends, frankly not expecting to get anywhere.

“When my friend talked me into auditioning for Idol, I thought of it like a joke. First of all, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Secondly, that I would make it as far as I did.”

This wasn’t a lack of confidence on Doolittle’s part though, she was simply content in her line of work. She had become a “first call” back up singer in Nashville. Often producers would wait for Doolittle to come into the studio and lay down background vocals for different artists, including Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Michael McDonald.

“I loved singing background and I had the delusion that when the show was over that I would go back to that…It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to have to do the artist thing.”

Many of Doolittle’s performances dominated season six of American Idol. She got rave reviews for many of her performances from the judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Her first big breakthrough was her rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” after which Jackson said she was the one to beat. Cowell began to call Doolittle his personal favorite. When she was eliminated in the top three Cowell has remarked that she should have won.

Although, Doolittle was actually at ease when she didn’t win the American Idol crown. She said she was content and “not upset at all” when Ryan Seacrest called her name to be eliminated.

a98cdbaa5e964c4c82ab029d7d201700“The fact I made it to 3rd doesn’t sound right in my head and I never expected it, but it forced me to learn I really did have a voice as an artist. It taught me what my voice was.”

American Idol may have taught Doolittle what her voice was, but what she channels in her talents today is remarkable.

After season six, American Idol went on to set up meetings for Doolittle with various labels, most of tem being Christian labels. Doolittle, who is an avid Christian, didn’t want to sign with a Christian label.  Although she is a woman of strong faith and her concerts today are not complete with out a few gospel numbers, she wanted to make a different kind of record.

In the end, Doolittle was happy with the path her career initially took. She was free of a contract and in charge of her own musical fate. Doolittle began to shop around labels and eventually signed with Hi-Fi Records and recorded her debut album Coming Back To You. This was Doolittle’s coming out record for she took 10 steps up to the front mic for a full record. Now she needed backup singers.

“Idol forced me into being an artist, which is great. I feel like God tricked me into actually being an artist.”

Although this gave Doolittle freedom, she was also sceptical. When Doolittle began looking for labels she didn’t know what kind of music she wanted to do. She had already ruled out a Christian record at the moment and she was now ruling out pop, for a very observant reason.

“I feel when I try to sing pop it’s like an elephant stomping on a track. The track is all nice, light, and airy, and then I sing. I have a heavy voice.”

18888-coming-back-to-youSo Coming Back to You resulted in a pure soul album that was reminiscent of Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, and Al Green. Doolittle said that she is just an old school girl and she didn’t know anything different. She made an album that was her style and by her own rules.

Doolittle has gone on to release various recordings that have received praise. Her most recent set of recordings is an extended play titled You’re The Reason in 2013. These tracks find Doolittle experimenting with modern R&B with a dash of pop while keeping in touch with her old-school, soulful roots. With this EP Doolittle co-wrote 3 of the 7 tracks. Writing was some what new for Doolittle and this process became therapeutic.

“When I went into the studio we were supposed to write a fun, up-beat, really great song. They asked me ‘What has been going on in your life?’ These people on Twitter had just reamed me. I posted a picture and they were saying ‘you’re so ugly.’ They were saying the worst things and I was so hurt by it, but I was trying to be strong about it…I needed to find out what my reaction to that is.”

Rolling with the punches was not an option for her and it was time to take a stand in her professional and personal life. Doolittle said she really didn’t find out who she was till about two years ago when this EP was released. This is obvious in the song content and the history behind these recordings.

melindadoolittle-epAlthough Doolittle had recorded with success, she stated that making records was not her favorite aspect of being an artist. So instead of delving deeper into her recordings we began to discuss her favorite way of delivering music: live performance. She was quick to say why she loved singing live.

“If there is not an audience I am bored out of my mind.”

Since American Idol Doolittle has performed around the world. She has performed at such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall and The White House, amoungst many others. These experiences led Doolittle to look at making music differently then the industry’s generic formula. She decided to define herself through performing, not an album.

“From now on I’m going to let the shows determine the record. A lot of people let the record determine the show.”

Today, Doolittle decides what works with her voice by watching an audience’s reaction. It’s all about what the crowd brings out in her at that moment. The song has to work for both her and the people she is singing for. Then, I was curious what the determining factors assisted Doolittle in making musical choices.

“It’s the give and take with the audience. It doesn’t have to be because of applause. Sometimes I see it in somebody’s eyes, somebody cries when I’m singing or just like, I see joy on people’s faces in the audience….If their joy matches the joy I have singing it, then I found the song that works for both of us.”

Melinda_Doolittle_performs_in_the_East_Room_of_the_White_House

Singing at The White House.

For Doolittle it is completely about the performance of the music in the here and now. Sure, she makes brilliant recordings, but that’s not the only aspect she is focused on when it comes to music. She stated how she didn’t care about the production or how grand the show was, the most important thing to Doolittle is how her music connects with an audience. She likes to see this first-hand, when she has her one chance to prove to the people immediately in front of her that she is a true artist with real talent.

This is a little reminiscent of days past.

“I need people to have an experience when they come to a show. I need it to be an escape, because the world we live in is not fun.”

Number one songs and awards don’t determine Doolittle’s status as a musician, nor does she particularly care about accolades. An artist’s true mission should be the music, the message, and the performance. If the music doesn’t resonate what does it mean? If the performance isn’t an experience, why would you go?

Doolittle isn’t of the old school, she’s of the real school. She can really sing and she can really perform.

She doesn’t take music lightly and she is a master of her song in its rawest environment, a live performance. This is what the singers of yesterday possessed, but that doesn’t mean it is an antiquated idea. This is what I believe is the vinyl culture. The reason I collect vinyl is for its genuine, warm, and pure vocals. Basically, the over all performance.

Vintage vinyl has within its groves some of the best, unaltered voices and performances of some of the greatest artists. It took a certain caliber to make a record and perform when these albums were made. Doolittle is of the vinyl caliber.

Doolittle does not take this feat lightly and she is aware of the torch she is carrying. She explained how it meant the world to her when people compliment her and tell her how she channels the great soul and classic artists.

Cnb2kwmUkAANGVi.jpg-large“I met Percy Sledge before he died. He stopped me backstage at an event we did together. He said ‘You carry our mantle and there aren’t many who will. Please don’t loose that. Please continue to do this. Promise me that you will.’ I was like ‘Oh yes sir'”

As I talked with Doolittle and as I have listened to her music, I have fumed over so many names in my head of who’s mantle she is carrying. I’ve thought Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, and many more. The true question is now, how does Doolittle want to be remembered? Who does she look up too.

“I want to be Barbra [Streisand] with a side of Gladys [Knight].”

That, my fellow vinyl collectors, is the essence of a true performer, one that belongs on vinyl. Doolittle reminds me of the legends and performers that have come and gone, but the most important thing Doolittle reminds me is that….

Yesterday is not over.

Check out Doolittle’s latest performance with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox and hear Toxic like you’ve never heard it….

More Than The Queen of The House: Cleaning Up With Jody Miller

I often say that you will discover the best people you will ever meet down a red dirt road. Last weekend I found out you will also find the best music down those same roads.

4py19c0rowb444yoI had the chance to sit down with Jody Miller. She invited me over to her home to sit down and talk about her career and life. As I walked up to the door of this country house, I felt right at home in the middle of a pasture with the red dirt still in the wind from my tires.

I received a hint from a friend of Jody’s, that she was quite fond of Vanilla Sonic Milkshakes. On my way to her home, I stopped by Sonic and purchased her a milkshake and myself a Vanilla Dr. Pepper.

As I walked to the front door, I had my hands full of records, my notebook, and these two drinks. Jody’s dog greeted me with nothing but charm. I later learned he was nearly 14! I then knocked on the door and was greeted with one of the friendliest smiles I had ever seen.

“How did you know I liked those shakes?” said Jody.

It’s easy to say it was love at first sight.

She ushered me in and as she went to the kitchen to grab a spoon, she told me to go look at her records and memorabilia. On the wall hung every album she had made under the Capitol and Epic labels. Then as my eyes slowly looked down, I saw one of the most coveted awards every singer longs for.

After I was finished gawking at her albums and her Grammy, we went and sat down at her dining room table. That’s where our conversation began. I started out with a question I wonder about every singer.

As a singer myself, I know what makes me tick. So I wanted to ask, why singing?JodyMiller-1 When you were little, what possessed you to start singing?

“Well I came from a family of music people. My dad played the fiddle and my mother sang real good. I had four sisters. We would get together and harmonize and dad would play the fiddle. We would dance and sing every Saturday night. It was a lot of fun, but I knew the rest of them couldn’t sing the way I could [she said this through laughter]. So I had that feeling that I was really good. 

As we cracked a few more jokes, I had to learn about her other musical talents and what instruments she played. The answer surprised me.

Now you play the fiddle, correct?

“No, I make it look good for two songs. If you notice [in a “Thank God I’m a Country Girl” Youtube video] I don’t crack a smile. I was so serious, thinking I was going to mess this up. I do play guitar. I have a four string tenor that I bought back in 1962. It was 8 years old when I bought it!” 

We then jumped into the beginning of her music career. We briefly discussed her time with singing in a local folk act, until she and her husband started making their way to LA to begin her singing career. Along this path is where she met up with fellow Okie, Dale Robertson in 1963.

“He is really a brilliant artiste. He has a lot of taste in the music world, acting, and everything else. He’s gone now, but boy he was smart. I went to visit him unannounced. I had no invitation, but he heard me. When he heard me, he contacted Capital Records. He was doing an animated feature at the time. He was using all of Walt Disney’s artists and then he contacted the people at Capital for some one to do the music.” 

From there, she went on to try out for the Capital records. They were immediately smitten with her as a folk singer.

As Jody admits humbly, “At least I could carry a tune, they thought.” 

11881409_10200899605530180_404911533_oCapital was attempting to jump on the successful folk band wagon of the early and mid 1960’s with the likes of Joan Baez and The Kingston Trio. She said that they wanted somebody who presented themselves like the former, but that didn’t bother her at all. At the time, she had no direction in where she wanted to go with her music.

Jody also really enjoyed the men who backed her during her audition, Glen Campbell and Billy Strange.

“I got my foot in the door and they weren’t going to get it out,” Jody quipped.

What was it like being a Oklahoma girl and walking into a Capital recording studio?

“I was overwhelmed really. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I couldn’t believe it.”

I then pulled out her first album, Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe. This album is beautifully arranged and folk to its core. Yet, as Miller pointed out, it wasn’t a hit. The majority of the songs on this album were story songs and she explained how at the time she knew 200 folk songs and the stories that went behind them. That’s where she found her conviction, which is one of her ultimate strengths to this day.

Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe did not garner any hits and didn’t make it on to the
charts, but that did not detour Miller’s dream and determination to cut a hit record.

Jody“I have always believed in my talent and knew that I could sing better than anybody else. I hate to say that, but I really felt that and I believe we have to feel that way or we can’t push ourselves into doing the job. If you keep on going with what you have, you’re going to make it. I don’t care what anybody says.”

After her first album, Miller was then teamed up with a young Joe Allison. He placed her with 42 musicians, which quite intimated Miller, and they cut her first hit single “He Walks Like A Man.” She then had a brief stint in the Italian music world, where she debuted “Io Che Non Vivo,” which later became “You Don’t Have to Say you Love Me” in English. The Italian version was written especially for Miller.

She then began work on her next recordings in 1966. It just so happened that Mary Taylor had written a song, which she wanted to record, but she already had a hit song on the charts. In those days an artist did not have multiple songs on the chart at a single time.That song was “Queen of The House.”

Miller recorded this song in just one day. This was another one of her strong suites as an artist.

How long did it take you to record an album?

“Well not too long. I was a one take wonder. I could go in and learn a song just like that and go into the studio and cut it. It was one of the things that made me good.” 

DSC00235Once the single “Queen of The House” was released, the pressing plant for Capital could not press the single fast enough for it’s demand was so high. This all happened right before she was to deliver her daughter.

We then went on to discuss whether it was an answer record to “King of The Road” by Roger Miller. Jody then stated that this wasn’t an answer record, but it was a stand alone tune that used the same melody.

There was a Scopitone “music video” made to “Queen of The House.” Scopitones were jukeboxes that featured a screen which projected three-minutes of what we would now call music videos. Although the Scopitone quickly faded, many of its originally videos have been recovered, which include 3 starring Miller.

These videos were often thought to be risqué which took Miller by surprise.

When I was watching the “Queen of The House” video I found that it was pretty risqué for the time period?

“I didn’t know they were going to do all that. People don’t believe me, but I didn’t know.”

Now you weren’t risqué though. You were classy. 

“Yeah, I was dressed.”

In 1967, is when Miller won the Grammy for best female country vocal performance at the 8th annual Grammy awards. She was up against some of the most iconic country singers including Skeeter Davis and Dottie West.

Who did you thank?11120051_10200917721703073_1782923907_n

I didn’t have a speech prepared. I said ‘I’d like to thank everybody that knows who they are.’ [laughs] Jerry Lewis cracked up and said can I use that? I meant those people who helped me, but it came out like there was a psychological thing people were going through [thanking those who KNEW who they were]. 

After the overwhelming success of “Queen of The House,” Miller’s next hit came in the shroud of the Vietnam war. She sang a song entitled “Home of the Brave,” that many country music disc jockeys were weary to play due to its content. Her producer, Joe Allison, grabbed this song from his friend Ronnie Spector, because he knew it was a hit.

She then recorded The Nashville Sound. This album contains her hit “Long Black Limousine.” Miller was again teamed up with Joe Allison. She stated that this was her favorite album and that she loved how glamorous the cover was. She fondly took my album and looked over the songs and cover in admiration, silently reminiscing over her work.

At the beginning of the 1970’s, Miller slightly fell off the radar. She said it was due to a change in record labels and a fuss between her and legendary producer Billy Sherrill, who passed away on August 4th. She thought he was supposed to bring songs and he expected her to bring songs. After the confusion came the “Look at Mine” album. The title track proved to be a smash on the charts along with “If You Think I Love You.”
Jody_Miller_-_He's_So_FineMiller then said how her and Sherrill became wonderful friends. They cut many songs knowing they could find a hit. He went on to produce her album, He’s So Fine and There’s A Party Goin’ On. Both title songs were hits. These albums also contained her well-known version of “Baby I’m Yours” and “Darling You Can Always Come Back Home.” By the end of the 1970’s, Sherrill and Miller had worked on 8 studio albums.

“He was such a wonderful musician to work with. I just had a ball working with him.” 

Although Miller was achieving success any singer would die for, she stated that the 1970’s were not a very good time for her.

“I was working a lot. The 70’s was not a very happy decade. I didn’t get any joy out of them and what I was doing. I had a family back here [Oklahoma], my daughter and my husband, and I missed them so much. I was on the road all the time. So I said ‘Hey, life is too short for this, I’m going home.'”

You’d rather have your family then your music career?

“Yes.”

Then Miller returned home to Oklahoma to continue raising her daughter and spend time with her husband, Monty. She had achieved musical success, but she was ready to head back down the red dirt road. Her and her husband went into the horse business, raising more than 90 head of horses at one point. They reared many championship horses and her house is adorned with these trophies.

At this point, Miller became the most proud during the interview. She loved talking about her husband’s love of horses and how he raised and trained them.  I told her about how I had read she was a family woman. I loved her response.

“Well why not? They are just gorgeous kids and my husband was one in a million.”

jody2Yet Miller’s carreer still was not over. She went on to record a patriotic album in the 1980’s. She was always told that wouldn’t sell, but she really wanted to make one and it did catch the attention of then presidential hopeful, George H.W. Bush. She went on to sing at many of his campaign stops and at one of his inaugural balls. She then had huge success in the gospel world, being inducted into various gospel hall of fames and working with Dove award-winning producers.

To this day, Jody still performs with the act she is most proud of. It’s called Three Generations and it consists of herself, her grandson Montana, and daughter Robin. They play all the instruments, including piano, bass, drums, and guitar. You could tell by the smile that shinned across Jody’s face, that this was her pride and joy. Those hit records and million sellers are a by-product of what she is doing with her family today.

We haven’t missed a standing ovation yet,” stated Miller with pride.

After around nearly two hours, Jody and I concluded our interview. She ended our time together by taking a genuine interest in what I wanted to do with my life. I told her about my dreams to be a performer myself and start my own record label here in Oklahoma. She was ecstatic to hear of my dreams, and provided encouragement. She even showed me a book to read to learn more about the industry and how to start my label.

This further set in cement what I thought of Jody after our time spent together. Yes she is an extremely succesful performer, having numerous million sellers and winning numerous awards, but she is still that girl from the plains of Oklahoma. She is a family lady who places God first in her life and is genuinely concerned about others above herself. She is a superstar, but by more than musical means.

I can honestly say, that I will never forget that gracious afternoon that Jody granted me a seat at her dinning room table to just chat. I had asked for an interview, but it became so much more about life, her interest in myself, and just down home country chatter.

Although Jody should be exclaiming “Look At Mine!” with all her accolades, she is doing “just fine” down the country roads of Blanchard. She doesn’t look at her music as her ultimate success, but yet a by-product of her family and faith. Being a musician is a way of life, and she is a true musician who doesn’t strive for money or fame, but to make a difference.

Humility and love were the undertones of this conversation. She taught me confidence is
key, but humility is golden.
I told Jody during our interview that she is a true artist who sings with so much conviction, that she literally paints a picture with her voice.

Jody felt like she didn’t deserve this compliment. In a humble laugh she answered, “I think I’m going to have to use that one.”

She is the true essence of a daughter of the red dirt

Thank God she’s a country girl.