The following story stems from material derived from the correspondence between Sun Records historian Hank Davis and Jo and Millie as well as an extended conversation with Millie at
his home in Canada: The Miller Sisters got their start while Millie was still quite young. She recalled, ''When I was a kid we listened to Hank Williams. We used to listen to the radio at night. On weekends we listened to the Opry. If the battery went dead
on the radio, God forbid, it was a catastrophe. Neither of my parents played any instruments but my dad would sing all the time''.
''My mother sang in church. I was real
small when Jo and Roy got married. Jo is ten years older than me. I have two older brothers. Roy is in his sixties. It was Roy who was the ambitious one for the Miller Sisters. He pushed us a lot. Of course, he didn't have to push that hard, but he really
pushed us more than he had to. And that sometimes made us not want to do it even though we loved it. If we had a practice that night, I couldn't go out on a date.
was a very good singer but no one wanted Roy after they heard us. He never recorded, never got a chance. Maybe that's why he pushed us so hard. I don't think it was for the money''.
managed the Miller Sisters throughout their career although an interesting alternative appeared early on. ''At one point, Col. Tom Parker saw us perform and came over afterwards. He wanted to manage us and take over out careers. Roy turned him down because
he thought he could do a better job of it himself. He really didn't know what he was doing, as far as managing went. I can't blame him, he probably thought he was doing right. And we couldn't question him. He was the type who thought he knew what he was doing.
Other men might have been able to question him, but not his wife and sister. Not at that time''.
It is hard for Millie or Jo to gauge the success of their Sun records.
''We never saw a cent. If there ever was money, Jo and I never saw a penny of it. I don't even know if the records sold that well for there to have been any money. Everyone around me was buying them, but that doesn't really count for much''. Millie recalls
three recording sessions for Sun, but there may have been more. Indeed, Jo remembered several additional titles which weren't on the session logs and have not yet turned up in the tape inventory. ''We had an old Jimmie Rodgers tune we did as a trio with my
husband Roy. I believe it was called ''Listen To Me Mama''. Also we had a trio gospel song called ''Believe In His Name''. I recall Millie and I recording ''Satisfied Mind'' and another gospel tune called ''I Saw A Man''. I'm sure there were more''.
Roy Miller arranged for the Miller Sisters to record for Sun. At the time, Roy, Millie and Jo had a daily half hour radio program over WTUP in Tupelo. ''We did it live, Jo and I and Roy.
Roy played the guitar and we had another guy who played the fiddle. I used to play a little guitar too but never on records. I haven't played in years. Anyway, the disc jockey gave Roy Sam Phillips' telephone number. He called to get an audition, Actually,
the audition turned out to be our first session''. The three hour trips to Memphis from Tupelo were recalled vividly by Millie. ''We'd take Roy's old Buick. Roy would have his acoustic guitar and the three of us would make the drive. We's sing all the way
up. Not just what we were going to record, but anything. Out of the blue, whatever came to us. When we got to the studio on Union Avenue, Sam would greet us at the door. Very friendly guy. Usually the musicians were there already. Everything was set to go.
Sometimes the session would last all day''. The material by the Miller Sisters came from several sources. Roy wrote some, and Jo and Millie wrote songs as well. Sometimes Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch contributed the song. ''We lived in Memphis for a year
or so later in our Sun career and it was easier then. During that time we had a lot of dealings with Bill and Quinton''. Jo and Millie's versatility led to additional session work. In addition to an early demo with Gene Simmons, also a Tupelo resident, the
Miller Sisters sang backup for other Sun artists. Their harmonies can be heard behind Glenn Honeycutt on Sun 264, ''I'll Wait Forever'' b/w ''I'll Be Around''. Millie also recalled a project involving another male vocalist. ''At one point, Sam had us come
in and work with a male singer. It was an experiment. I can't remember his name, but he had a really great voice. The three of us harmonised very well. We worked a lot with him. I wish I could remember his name. He never made it. I vaguely remember what he
looked like. He had brown hair, nice looking, and a little chubby''. Jo was equally unsuccessful in recalling the mystery singer's name, although she immediately recalled the song ''I Can't Find Time To Pray''. Subsequent research has identified the mystery
singer as Cast King.
Tracking down a clean copy of the Miller Sisters' official publicity picture became a major concern during the original LP production, Millie recalled,
''There was one on the front desc when you walked into Sun. There was a glass top over the desc and our picture was under it. They were taken because Sam was thinking of doing an album with us. He sent us down to the Webbs. I remember they draped these black
things around our shoulders. It was supposed to look sexy''. An early photo of Scotty Moore reminded Millie of her meeting with Elvis back when he and the Miller Sisters both recorded for the fledgling Sun label. ''I wasn't crazy about Elvis as everyone else.
I guess he struck me as very stuck up. Conceited. Expected the girls to fall all over him. I always liked Carl Perkins' music better than Elvis or Johnny Cash's. I remember seeing Elvis several times. Once was when he came into the studio to watch us recording.
He was wearing his truck driver suit. Sam introduced us but we didn't really talk. Another time we were playing on the same program as Elvis in Saltillo, Mississippi. At a baseball gymnasium. Must have been in 1954. He came up to me backstage and offered me
pills. Aspirin, he said it was, but I don't think they were. He was really cocky. Very nice looking man, you know, but I think he knew it. Seemed very sure of himself. He was the headliner of the show then and we were both waiting to go on, just chatting,
killing time backstage. When we went on, Roy backed us up on stage and Scotty and Bill played for us too. I remember Elvis asking me to hold his guitar and I said, 'Hold it yourself. I'm not your flunky'! And I walked away from him. 'Cause he was the type
to say 'Here, hold my guitar' and I wasn't about to. Even though I wanted to''.
Millie also recalled Johnny Bernero, who played drums on one of the Miller Sister's sessions,
as well as playing behind Elvis. ''I had a crush on him at the time. He played locally with Gene Steele. Gene was known as the ''Singing Salesman''. He was sort of a Bill Monroe type. A high voice. Very popular in Memphis, had a show on WMC. We toured around
Memphis with Gene and Johnny Bernero. He was a very good drummer. I think he played on ''Ten Cats Down''.
Millie had some interesting memories about how some of the Miller
Sisters' material was written. ''Jo and I wrote ''You Didn't Think I Would''. We wrote it in the back seat of a car going to Memphis. It turned out pretty well. That's the way my brother Roy did a lot of his writing also. Just go off somewhere by himself,
or take a drive''. Davis pointed out to Millie that ''You Didn't Think I Would'' deals with divorce, a pretty gritty topic for a 17 year old trying to be writing about. ''Well, its was from my heart. A lot of country music is depressing. That's why it's so
pretty. I think the only way you can sing from the heart is to have something depressing to sing''.
Millie had a number of reactions to listening for the first time in
decades to titles she and Jo had recorded thirty years ago. ''Isle Of Golden Dreams''. I loved that one. I remember it was terrible to sing. It had such a range. But it was pretty after you got it. I really had to do some tall singing there. ''Ten Cats Down''
was a fun song. Either Bill or Quinton wrote it. We were living in Memphis when they wrote it. We got together and decided to do it. We auditioned it for Sam and he decided to try it, then to put it out. ''Woody''. I remember that stupid song. I think Roy
wrote it. We must have gone through about ten takes of it. It was a hard one to sing, actually, as I recall''. Hank Davis asked Jo about Charlie Feathers presence in the studio and how he came to play spoons on ''Someday You Will Pay''. ''Charlie wasn't an
old friend. We met him for the first time at Sun. He was a very pleasant guy, always clowning around, seemed to always be in the studio. I don't rightly know how he came to play the spoons. I suppose they were just trying different sounds''. Jo recalled, ''I
very remembered that Stan Kesler was a very good steel guitar player. The session that had drums on it was Johnny Bernero. Scotty Moore also played on one or two of our sessions. Also Elvis' bass player Bill Black. It also stands out in my memory that Blind
Jimmie Smith played piano on some tapes we made, and also Sonny Haley, the bass player who worked with Gene Steele on WMC in Memphis''.
In 1976, Millie and her family
went back to Tupelo to live for a brief period. She recalled: ''There was a barn dance down there, run by a guy named Archie Mackie. on Saturday night they'd set up a PA system, it was amateur night. But a lot of the artists were good. He conned me and Jo
into going on stage. He didn't have to con me too much! We still had it. Our voices weren't as young as before, but we harmonized well. We always had this thing, like mental telepathy. We could switch parts if we sensed the other was going to have trouble
hitting the note. We used that switching a lot on ''Finders Keepers''. We just know who was going to sing what, where and when. I was usually the high part. Jo had a very low voice''.
Millie recalled some of the excitement and highlights of their brief recording career. ''I recall that once before I moved to Indiana, I came north to visit my sister. Somewhere between Mississippi and Indiana the bus made a rest stop and
the waitress said to me, 'Aren't you one of the Miller Sisters'? I said 'Yes! How did you know'? She said she'd seen us somewhere. That was kind of a thrill. Someone that far away knew about us. Another high point was when we sang on the Louisiana Hayride.
I had laryngitis so bad that night I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it. I got up on stage and it suddenly disappeared. Lots of people. I was so high. The more people, the better! I recall some of the other people playing on the Hayride that night: George
Jones, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton. I remember after the show, Johnny Horton had a radio show and he interview Jo and me. Jo never wanted to talk so it was always up to me to do the interview. Afterwards, we went to a place where all the stars went to drink
and be together. Jim Ed Brown was there with his sisters and I danced with Little Jimmie Dickens. I thought I was little at the time. I can't recall if we were down there plugging a record or what. I don't even remember the song we sang. But I remember we
were dressed exactly alike. Had little blue wedge teal plastic shoes on, little blue dresses. At the time that was anything. Roy paid for the outfits, the whole thing. He wanted us to look nice. Roy had to wait off on the side. That wasn't good. The trip back
was pretty bad too. We drove straight from Louisiana to Mississippi. Shreveport to Tupelo.