WELL I'LL BE DANGED
They say roses are red and violets are purple
Sugar is sweet and so is maple surple
Well I'm the seventh out of seven sons
My pappy was a pistol
I'm a son of a gun.
In the above picture, Roger Miller is shown teaching me how to sing those whimsical lyrics from his hit song, “Dang Me.” Roger couldn’t lip sync very well and he said he would teach me to sing if I would teach him how to lip-sync. Roger never learned to lip-sync and I never learned to sing. He ended up singing the song live while I lip-synced along side: A rather bizarre act, even for The Lloyd Thaxton Show.
A month before Roger’s appearance, a record promoter had sent me a copy of “Dang Me” with a note, “You’ll love this song,” he wrote, “It’s so ‘Lloyd Thaxton.’” What he meant is that it would be a perfect song for me to lip-sync on the show. As I remember, I got the record about 2 in the afternoon, listened to it, and did my thing at 5 the very same afternoon. I couldn’t wait. The record promoter was right. It WAS perfect.
A short time later Roger was in town and I asked him to come on the show. It was like we had been friends all of our lives and this friendship kept growing over the following years. When my likeness was carved in wax and premiered at the Hollywood Wax Museum (I’ll tell you about that spooky experience in a later blog), Roger was there to perform and do the introductions. When he did his first starring gig at the prestigious Los Angeles Greek Theatre, I was there to introduce him. Roger personified the meaning in my oft-repeated statement, “Because of the Lloyd Thaxton Show, I met some wonderful people.” No matter how famous Roger got, he always returned to do my show. He never lost that warm “country boy” charm. That was because he really was a warm country boy.
One of my favorite stories was when Roger brought his band to the show to introduce “King of the Road.” This was his first TV appearance since writing and recording the song. In the middle of the first chorus he started hesitating. It was obvious that he had forgotten the (his own written) words. I walked in when Roger stopped singing altogether. Roger apologized and asked, “Can we start over?” I answered, “Roger, we are live.” He said, “LIVE? Like in ‘ON? RIGHT NOW?’” At that point the guys in the band started picking up from where he had stumbled and started singing the words themselves. Roger picked up the cue, and finished the song; to thunderous applause, I might add. Thunderous, that is, for a studio audience of only 30 teen-agers.
After the show a dejected Roger came up to me to apologize again. “I really ruined your show Lloyd.” “Are you kidding?” I answered. “It was the best thing that could have happened. You were great. Didn’t you hear that thunderous applause?”
I don’t think Roger ever believed what I was telling him. He was a perfectionist and truly felt he had let me down.
But if he was depressed that day, it certainly didn’t hold him back. This “country boy” went on to, not only write and record many more hits, he also won 11 Grammy Awards. If that wasn’t enough, he won a TONY for writing the score of the Broadway musical, “Big River - The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn.” I am so proud of him.
I only wish there was a happy ending to all this. Roger, a lifelong cigarette smoker died of lung and throat cancer in 1992 at the too young age of 56. In a TV interview, he once explained that he composed his songs from "bits and pieces" of ideas he wrote on scraps of paper. When asked what he did with the unused bits and pieces, he half-joked, "I smoke 'em!"
I’m mad at Roger. His doctor warned him that if he didn’t stop smoking, the node on his vocal chords could become cancerous and end his life. He didn’t stop and became the third smoking friend I’ve lost to throat and lung cancer. Enough is enough!
If I could ask Roger about this today, I’m sure he would look at me with that great big smile on his face, strum a chord or two on his harp, and sing out …
“Dang me, dang me
They oughta take a rope and hang me
High from the highest tree
Woman would you weep for me.”
Truly “a son of a gun.”