Living Legend Miller ‘gets his mojo working’
By Judith Pannebaker
(Editor’s note: Complete coverage of the Bandera Music History Project Hall of Fame induction ceremony and Bruce Robison’s Guitar Pull at Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar will be published in the Thursday, Oct. 28, edition of the Bandera County Courier.)
Anyone who didn’t enjoy the performances during the Bandera Music History Project Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday, Oct. 17, was either brain dead or tone deaf. It was that good.
Although inductees in the various categories performed musical selections fronting Jody Jenkins’ designated “house band,” clearly the showstopper of the afternoon was the performance of the incomparable guitar man, 2010 Living Legend Johnny Miller.
Mary Schenk introduced Miller to the standing room only crowd that had gathered behind the Bandera County Public Library. Miller, she said, has a resume in the music business that was second only to his skill as a musician.
“Johnny is respected and known for his intricate and innovative guitar work that has endeared him to audiences and that has won him the esteem of his fellow musicians for over 50 years,” Schenk said.
Miller started his musical career at 10 years of age, playing an accordion purchased for him by his mother. However, he soon took up guitar because, in his words, “When Elvis came along, I knew I wasn’t going to make it with an accordion!”
Miller’s more interesting career turns have included playing a tango for aficionado Robert Duval during the filming of the iconic western television mini-series, “Lonesome Dove.” He also served as Moisés “Blondie” Calderone’s guitar player at Memo’s Restaurant in Del Rio, and even subbed with the rock band Iron Butterfly of “In A Gadda Da Vida” fame.
In between, Miller arranged music and played with Mickey Gilley at the world famous Gilley’s in Pasadena - Texas, that is - as well as with Merle Haggard, Johnny Rodriguez, Tom Jones and Hank Williams Jr.
“Except for the two years he spent in the US Army, Johnny has made his living his entire life with music - and that’s saying something,” Schenk said. “For the last 16 years, he has played guitar and keyboard in this area - and he hasn’t picked up an accordion unless he wanted to.”
Not to be outdone, City of Bandera Mayor Horst Pallaske proclaimed Sunday, Oct. 17, as “Johnny Miller Day” in the municipality.
Summing up Miller’s talent, Pallasked noted, “He’s been called the Keith Richards of Bandera and he can bend notes in a way that would make Eric Clapton weep. Johnny Miller has made the nights brighter for thousands of fans and has won the admiration of his fellow musicians.”
For his part, Miller simply said, “This is the biggest honor I’ve ever had in my lifetime and this is how it happened.” He then launched into a blistering rendition of “I’ve Got My Mojo Working.” Miller, it seemed, was rightfully content to let his fingers do the talking.