Born Isaac Clinton Miller, 24 May 1939, Ferguson, North Carolina
One of seven children, Clint Miller was born in a shack in Ferguson, NC, without electricity or running water. During his school days in Woodstock, Virginia, he commenced singing with some friends. His main influences were country crooners like Eddy Arnold and Carl Smith. Miller's musical career started in Washington D.C., where he performed country and rock on local television stations (WTOP, WMAL).
In the autumn of 1957, ABC-Paramount Records signed him as a singer. The company had attempted to buy the master of "Bertha Lou" by Johnny Faire (aka Donnie Brooks) from Kenny Badcock, the owner of Surf Records. When Badcock refused, Don Costa (then A&R man at ABC) decided that ABC-Paramount would record its own version and Clint Miller seemed just the right man for the job. His version of "Bertha Lou" was rush released in the first week of December 1957 and, thanks to Costa's slick production and appearances on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand", managed to outsell the Johnny Faire version. Miller's "Bertha Lou" peaked at # 79 in Billboard and # 49 in Cash Box. The flip-side was "Doggone It Baby, I'm In Love", which had been a # 7 country hit for Carl Smith in 1954. Some radio stations banned "Bertha Lou", because of the line "I wanna conjugate with you". In the UK, Clint's record was not released as a single (unlike the Johnny Faire version, which came out on London HLU 8569), but both "Bertha Lou" and "Doggone It Baby" were included on a compilation LP of 14 ABC tracks called "Black Slacks And Bobby Socks" (HMV CLP 1167).
Clint soon became a regular on "Town and Country Jamboree", a country music barn dance based in Washington, D.C., hosted by Jimmy Dean. There were other TV appearances as well.
A second session for ABC in June 1958 (like the first at Bell Sound Studio in NYC) yielded two singles, of which the first, "Teenage Dance"/"Polka Dotted Poliwampus" (ABC 9938) was by far the most interesting. "Teenage Dance", though more poppy than "Bertha Lou", became very popular at dances and the flip was an amusing answer to Sheb Wooley's # 1 hit "Purple People Eater". But there was no chart action this time. After one single for Big Top Records, Miller moved to the newly formed Headline label in New York City. Of the four Headline singles (1959-1961), easily the best was "Till the End Of the World Rolls Around" (Headline 1011, 1960), which was recorded in Nashville, as were two subsequent singles for the Lenox label (1962-63), including the Johnny Horton-styled "Drummer Boy Of Shiloh".
Meanwhile, Miller continued his education. In 1959 he went to the Stella Adler Theatre School in NYC (graduating in 1961), before earning a degree in government and public administration from American University in 1962 and a law degree in 1965 (in Lexington, Virginia). Though he did not quit the music business entirely, Miller now concentrated on his legal career. In 1972 he was elected as a (Republican) member of the Virginia House of Delegates, serving there until 1996, the year that he ran (unsuccessfully) for governor of Virginia. This was the end of Miller's political career and he returned to practicing law, becoming a judge for the Virginia State Corporation Commission. He retired in 2006.
After a one-off single in 1976, Miller returned to the recording studio in 1993 to cut three songs which were released as a mini-CD. Particularly enjoyable is "Learning How To Love", an adaptation of Lonnie Mack's "Florida".
Hydra Records from Germany have now assembled Clint Miller's complete recordings on a 25-track CD : "At A Teenage Dance" (Hydra BCK 27142, 2010). Don't expect too much in the way of rock 'n' roll : many tracks are pure pop and some pretty ordinary at that. The fact that Terry Gordon includes only two Miller tracks on his website http://rcs-discography.com/rcs/artist.php?key=mill2200 should serve as a warning. Nevertheless, there are quite a few worthwhile tracks.
See also message 7513 in the archives ("A rock 'n' roll lawyer").
For the interesting story behind "Bertha Lou" see
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