Wednesday, September 26, 2007
KING OF THE ROAD
Yesterday I visited two elementary schools in Edmond, Oklahoma--Clegern and Charles Haskell. Later Sequoyah Middle School sponsored an after-school event where I presented to some nice folks. Several of the people have supported my work from the beginning. Julie and Linda from Best of Books are two of those people.
After the presentation, my friend Merri Lynn and I joined some family members for dinner where we caught up on the last few years. My nephew's wife asked me if I liked driving to my events. I told her that I usually fly, but that I loved driving.
Interstate driving relaxes me. My mind usually drifts to the story I'm currently working on. And sometimes I find the answers to something I've festered about.
When I left Edmond this morning later then I'd planned, I decided to stick to the interstate. I filled the gas tank, bought my cappuccino, and headed west. At Erik, Oklahoma, I tried to ignore the billboard that beckoned to me--The Roger Miller Museum.
But life is too short to always stay on the interstate. Sometimes you have to detour. So I took Exit 7 off I-40 in Erik and drove south until I reached the museum on the corner of the town square. Erik is a small, but charming town with old ranchers that eat lunch at Sisters Cafe. It's also the home of Roger Miller.
My parents played Roger Miller albums when I was a young girl in the sixties. That's why I know the words to King of the Road, Dang Me, and Chug-A-Lug. But Miller was not only a country singer that wrote lighthearted songs and beautiful ballads. He also wrote the music to the Broadway hit, Big River.
Miller left Erik, Oklahoma at 17 with a stolen guitar. He struggled, but eventually wrote and recorded hit songs. One of his smash hits,Dang Me, took him four minutes to write.
Another time, he scribbled the first words to a song on the back of an airline advertisement. Those words came quickly, but unlike Dang Me , King of the Road took him six weeks to finish.
While at the museum, I forgot about rushing home, and settled down to watch an hour long documentary about Miller. The producer of Big River said, "Roger was a procrastinator. He didn't write to order." He said that Miller was dangerously late getting one of the songs to him for the musical. He couldn't think of anything else to do, but to lock Miller in a room and demand that he write the song.
When the producer checked on him an hour later, Roger said, "Look if you want something instantaneously I can give you a Sheb Wooley song, but if you want a Rembrandt, that takes time."
The producer released him and he eventually got the song. It was worth the wait. Big River won seven Tony Awards, including best musical of 1985.
Before I left the museum, I looked at the first display case again. A form that Roger Miller filled out in high school hung there. It asked: What do you want to do when you graduate? He answered: Write songs and sing. Next to the form was the first song he wrote, written on a page from a yellow pad. He was fifteen years old. He was already living his dream.
Posted by Kimberly at 6:32 PM