Can I Shoot Your Gun?
The legacy of Roger Miller
Published August 3, 1999 in Dirt

Success never set well on Roger Miller. His hobo anthem "King of the Road" bought him four motorcycles, five cars, and an on-call Learjet that deposited him without a limo on the airport tarmac at least once. "Damn. I'm freezing the majority of my rear off," griped Miller in a 1969 New Yorker profile.

See also...
... by David Cassel
... in the Dirt section
... from August 3, 1999

Seven years after his death in 1992, the former drifter's career is recapped on a Web site controlled by The Roger Miller Estate. All Rights Reserved. The people who sold Miller's anthem to Burger King offer t-shirts, photos, and CDs in a "General Store," but display just four token samples of Miller's folksy humor. (L.A. Cop: "Can I see your driver's license?" Roger Miller: "Can I shoot your gun?")

"The Wild Child" has been gelded. Posthumous handlers at have eliminated all but one of his trademark scat-filled songs from the site's five-selection jukebox -- a ditty called "Dang Me." Better-known numbers like "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" have been banished to the "Comedy Radio" site, along with wacky hits like "My Uncle Used to Love Me (But She Died)," and "Chug-a-Lug," Miller's infectious ode to "grape wine in a mason jar."

This site doesn't give us the Roger Miller that a People obituary remembered -- the crazy ol' boy-made-good who once left hundreds of baby chickens outside Johnny Cash's Las Vegas hotel room. The only hint of a bad reputation on the site is the quip from a band member who was asked if Miller ever slept. "I don't know, I've only been with him three years," he replied. But, as People remembered in 1985, Miller's post-success woes led him to a difficult amphetamine addiction that culminated in a 1972 appearance before the Oklahoma Legislature urging a ban on over-the-counter amphetamines. That joke is suddenly a lot less funny.

The site notes that, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, Miller replied, "I just don't want to be forgotten." So it's especially sad that it offers a "memory book" containing just seven photographs, and a bulletin board holding fewer than two dozen posts.

The site's biography of career highlights ends with a poem Miller wrote describing being "no more a stranger" when he meets Jesus on the other side. Characteristically, something even stranger happened to "The Wild Child." From beyond the grave, Miller found an adulating audience of 17 million when one of his song samples became the voice of the hamster dance site.

David Cassel is Interactive Media Editor at GettingIt. He interviewed the creator of the Hamster Dance site in June, and the U.K. band that sampled it for their smash hit in England.