“Did You Ever Hear The Blues?” BIG MILLER (1922-1992) does “deep blues” by Langston Hughes. United Artists.
Clarence Horatio Miller’s first influence in music came from his father’s church but he also heard the blues sung by men working on the railroad. In the 30s, while still a student, he formed a band, but with the outbreak of World War II he joined the army. After serving in the Pacific and in Europe, he began entertaining his fellow soldiers. In 1949 he joined Lionel Hampton’s band, then had a five-year spell with Jay McShann. Miller had a commanding style and his rich voice lent itself especially well to the material he favoured. His influences in the blues were Joe Turner, Jimmy Rushing, T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Witherspoon, whom he followed into the McShann band. He also admired the ballad style of Billy Eckstine. Miller’s abiding interest in the blues was such that writer-poet Langston Hughes wrote a series of songs especially for him.
Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) published more than three dozen books during his life, starting out with poetry and then expanding into novels, short stories, and plays. He is closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of African-American literature and music in New York City following World War One, but he wrote poetry, books, and newspaper columns right through into the 1960s. Hughes’s work often spoke plainly about the lives of ordinary black people, which in later years earned him a reputation as one of the major black voices of the 1900s. His works include the poetry volumes The Weary Blues (1926) and Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), the novel Not Without Laughter (1930), and the short story collection The Ways of White Folks (1934). He wrote two personal memoirs: The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956).