“Queen of the House” Singer Jody Miller Has Died

In the early eras of country music, they became known as “answer songs.” And in a time when women often played second fiddle to male singers, answer songs helped put some of country music’s earliest and most important women on the map. “I Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” became such a massive hit for Kitty Wells, it helped coin her as “The Queen of Country Music.” The 1952 single was an answer song to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life.”

When Roger Miller won five Grammy Awards in 1965 for his smash hit “King of the Road,” it was Jody Miller who answered the song with “Queen of the House.” It won a Grammy of its own for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and helped ensconce Jody Miller as a national star in country music.

Jody Miller passed away on October 6th in Blanchard, Oklahoma due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. She was 80 years old. First signed to Capitol Records as a folk artist in 1962, Jody Miller’s contributions spanned multiple genres, including pop, folk, country, and eventually Gospel. Similar to the trajectory of Roger Miller (no relation), Jody’s “Queen of the House” made her an early “crossover” star in country music, with appeal in both pop and country.

It was in the early 1970s when Jody Miller’s country career really kicked off in earnest. Working with Countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill and signed to Epic Records, Miller released Top 5 hits such as “He’s So Fine” and “Baby I’m Yours” that put her at the forefront of country music’s crossover success, opening the door for the later successes of artists such as Linda Ronstadt and Olivia Newton-John.

Jody Miller also had deeper, and more country-sounding material as well, like her recording of “Long Black Limousine” from 1968, and her duet with Johnny Paycheck, “Let’s All Go Down the the River” which peaked at #13 in 1972, and set the table for her later move to Gospel. Miller’s career was also marked with the re-recording of popular songs in the country space, songs like “Be My Baby” from the Ronettes, “House of the Rising Sun,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Jody Miller’s propensity for re-recordings kept her out of the top echelons of country music popularity, but also helped make country music and Miller popular to a wider audience.

In the early 80s, Jody Miller retired from touring and moved to Oklahoma to help manage a quarter horse ranch with her husband Monty Brooks. Later in the 90s, she launched a career in Gospel music, including a Gospel music ministry, and released multiple Gospel albums. After the death of her husband, Miller began performing with her daughter Robin Brooks Sullivan and her grandchildren Montana and Layla Sullivan as “Jody Miller and Three Generations.” In 2020, Miller recorded a final upcoming album called Wayfaring Stranger for Heart of Texas Records.

Born on November 29, 1941 in Phoenix, AZ, and growing up initially in Los Angeles, Jody Miller moved to Blanchard, Oklahoma when she was eight to live with her grandmother after her parents divorced. Over her life she became a fixture of Blanchard, which sits on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. In 2021, Blanchard Public Schools dedicated the Jody Miller Performing Arts Center to the singer.

In a week that saw the passing of Loretta Lynn, it can be easy to overlook an artist like Jody Miller who helped open doors for women as well, and helped popularize country music to a wider audience.

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