Interview With Jack Miller

By Dave Acker

Jack Miller was sound engineer on many of Duane's early recording sessions.

DA: When did you and Duane do the initial recording sessions?

JM: Right off you hit me with a toughy, don't you? I can't remember exactly to the year...isn't that weird? All the sessions are documented as to the dates but I don't keep track of that...Jamie Records in Philadelphia would probably have them...Harry Finfer in Philadelphia.

DA: Did you have anything to do with "Soda Fountain Girl?"...Duane's first record in which he sang with Jimmy Dell (or Delbridge). This was on the EB X Preston label. It was a local thing. I mentioned it to Duane and he told me to forget about it...that it was terrible.

JM: I think I did work on that...but he's was a terrible record. By the way...Jimmy Dell was in town awhile ago. He used to work for Goettle Air Conditioning when he did all his stuff for us (at Audio Recorders). Eight trillion records later it's pretty hard to remember which ones I did. I did a couple of vocal things with Duane. I'm not sure if any of them were released. One may have been that. I did do stuff with Jimmy Dell.

DA: Did you do Jimmy Dell's hit?

JM: Yes, it was on RCA, I think.

DA: The fellow that did back-up on "Soda Fountain Girl" was Buddy Long and the Melody Mountain Boys, or something like that. Remember them?

JM: (laughs) yeah.

DA: How could I get a hold of him?

JM: There's a guy named Buddy Wheeler. He lives here in town...but works mostly in Prescott.

DA: Wasn't he a "Rebel" at one time?

JM: Yeah. He played bass on lots of Duane's early hits. If you can get hold of him, he'll be able to tell you where everybody is...The musicians stick together...engineers are in their own little group. They keep tabs on each other that way.

DA: Do you have any memories of Duane's sessions...any humorous stories?

JM: I could spend a whole night talking about some of the experiences I had. We were doing one of Duane's early songs. It was either "40 Miles" or the thing that started with guitar breaks thing..

DA: (prompting) "Ramrod?" "cannonball?"

JM: "Cannonball," I think. Anyway, we were doing that and it was like four in the morning. By the way...the type of echo we used on Duane was a 250 gallon water drum. We had a speaker in it...along with microphones. It worked too. This tank was sitting outside of where the studio was. About forty feet from where the water tank was an apartment building. We were really going to it about 4 or 4:30am....and at that time everything was done live in the over-dubbing...all the sax solos and all the guitar solos were done at the same time. Anyway, there was a knock at the door...and here was a guy with bloodshot a robe, and he says, "My God! Can't you guys stop goofing around! I'm trying to get some sleep!" It isn't that funny when you repeat it, but at that time of morning, it was pretty hilarious...cause our echo tank was out there twangin' with Duane! (laughs)

DA: That was the old Audio Recorders building, right?

JM: Yeah...that's where we did all of Duane's early stuff. Behind a barber shop.

DA: Is that barber shop still in existance?

JM: No, I think it's a poodle grooming shop...

DA: Did you record Lee Hazlewood's material?

JM: All the time. All his demos and everything.

DA: He did a thing on Jamie under the name Mark Robinson called "Want Me." Duane did back up on that. Did you do that?

JM: Originally, if my memory serves me, I think they tried to get Duane to sing it. Then it turned out that Lee sang it and released it on Jamie.

DA: Did you know that Duane released a single with Nelson and Jennings?

JM: I heard it...if you don't mind me saying so, I thought it was pretty awful. It sounded like they went into some toy studio and did it. It didn't sound at all professional.

DA: Were you impressed with Duane when you first met him?

JM: I was always impressed with Duane as a person. Easy guy to work with. Rarely ever got high-strung or angry. Never Tempermental...just an easy guy to be around.

DA: Some of those pictures you gave me have people I don't know. There is one with Duane and a girl playing acoustic guitars...

JM: That's Corky Casey...Al's ex-wife now.

DA: There was another photo of a guy with glasses, kinda short and pudgy. Was that Al Casey?

JM: Yeah.

DA: How about Duane's wife...Mirriam? Was she easy to work with?

JM: No! (laughs) When we first met her she was a little tempermental. Last time I worked with her, I have to say she was a super person. I did the demos for "I'm Not Lisa" and those tunes that she released on Capital.

DA: Can you give me some background on yourself and how you got into the business? Who else have you recorded?

JM: I bought the first tape recorder ever sold in Old Brusch. It recorded a mono track right down the middle of the tape. And I used it at weddings and parties and that sort of thing. If someone wanted a demo tape, we'd make it for them. When I moved to Phoenix, I started doing some country sessions at a company called, I think, Desert Records. Then I worked for Floyd (Ramsey at Audio Recorders) and we recorded Waylon Jennings, Wayne Newton, Duane. Then I left Phoenix and went to LA (at RCA) and was involved with Glen Yarborough, Ed Ames. I also did Herman's Hermits "Leaning On A Lamp Post" (for MGM).

DA: In your personal collection, do you have any of Duane's records?

JM: Most of them. I've got some that wern't released. They were test pressings with blank know, we'd do a session for a test pressing and they'd send it to the DJs... and for some reason they wouldn't get paired with another song. So it'd be shelved.

DA: And they've never been released on record?

JM: Possibly on albums, but not in the form that I have them in.

DA: Are there any other stories you could relate about Duane?

JM: Okay, to give you an idea of how "up town" this studio was where Duane did his early hits (behind the barber shop). The building had a door on each side of the door went out to the alley, and the other went to the office. Across the alley was a Square Dance Record Company. We were doing a tune..and right in the middle of the song, a mailman walked in from the office area and out the alley door. This surprised everybody so much that they just broke down and started laughing. So, after everyone calmed down--we were on like take 45--in those tense moments with Hazlewood...he would just pound and pound and pound--and we were half way through the next take and the mailman comes right back through again. (laughs)

DA: About how many takes--normally--did you do to get a song down the way you wanted it?

JM: Usually an enormous amount. Not because of inability on anyone's part, or because the guys were a bunch of Klutzes and couldn't get anything right..Hazlewood was a believer that the harder they worked, the madder they become and the more aggressive the music is, the better chance for a salable product. So he would push us to the point where we couldn't play it anymore. I'd say an average was sixty takes. Some times tempers would flare, but we were still making million sellers so everybody in the back of their minds was saying, "well, maybe he is right."

DA: How would you classify Hazlewood to work with?

JM: He used to be difficult..I havn't seen him for such a long time, over ten years...

DA: How long did a recording session last?

JM: After we got into doing sessions for hits we were in the studio for many hours...maybe ten hours for just two songs...before that, way back when it was just for the fun of getting in there and doing it, the sessions were alot quicker... six or eight hours for three maybe four songs. When Duane became big, we we had more budget to work with, too. Sometimes we went fifteen and twenty hours.

DA: Any other memories?

JM: Yeah, about Lester Sill. We decided to break for remember the studio was behind a barber shop. This particular was a Monday and the barber shop was closed. We decided to go to lunch and everybody was getting ready to go to their cars and I went and locked in the studio door that leads to the barber shop and it also leads to the restroom. Then we all went to lunch and took our good old time. When we got back from lunch, we all heard this little voice saying, "Yoo Hoo. Hey you guys!" It turned out to be Lester Sill. I'd mistakenly locked him in the bathroom. (laughs) Here he was on his hands and knees looking through thr grating of the restroom yelling at us.

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