THE MILLER SISTERS
Not exactly sisters, Elsie Jo Wages and Mildred Miller (born 1936, Saltillo, Mississippi) were in fact sisters-in-law. Elsie Jo was married to Mildred's elder brother Roy Miller who accompanied them on guitar. As the Miller Trio, they worked around their hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, and eventually auditioned for Sun in 1954 at the suggestion of a DJ on WTUP. The two girls impressed Sam Phillips with the honesty and clarity of their harmonies. A recording session was arranged for March 14, 1955, which resulted in the single "Someday You Will Pay"/"You Didn't Think I Would", issued on Flip 504. Backing musicians included Stan Kesler, Quinton Claunch, Bill Cantrell and Charlie Feathers. Although "You Didn't Think I Would" was credited to Roy Miller (by now contented with the role of the girls' driver and manager), it was in fact written by Jo and Millie in Roy's car on the way back from a local gig.
Their first single on Sun per se was "There's No Right Way To Do Me Wrong", recorded on July 1, 1955, coupled with "You Can Tell Me" (Sun 230). Sam Phillips had great faith in the Miller Sisters and was never able to understand why his faith in the girls couldn't be translated into record sales. Sister acts were selling and the Millers' clean harmony was surely as good as anything on the market. Phillips gave it one last shot with "The Cats Down"/"Finders Keepers" (Sun 255), released on August 3, 1956. "Ten Cats Down" was their first attempt at rockabilly, written by Cantrell and Claunch, but this didn't sell either. Though Sam had recorded at least 16 different titles by the Miller Sisters, he did not issue release any further singles and their contract was terminated. The unissued material was gradually unearthed after Shelby Singleton's purchase of the Sun catalogue and included some real goodies like "Chains Of Love" (written by Gene Simmons, who also recorded the song himself) and the R&B classic "Got You On My Mind".
Jo and Millie went on singing and appearing locally until 1957, when Millie left for Indiana, headed for a new life without music. As a non- drinker, Millie was adamantly against Roy's increasingly destructive drinking habit, which only worsened his sometimes terrifying temperament. That was the end of the Miller Sisters as an act. Jo stayed in Mississippi with Roy and their four young sons. They became heavily involved with the Pentecostal Church in a country parish near Tupelo, where they have pretty much kept to themselves. Jo refused to be interviewed for Now Dig This in 2002, but Millie had no objections. The Miller Sisters were essentially a pure country act at a time when pure country was swept away by the undeniable force of rock n roll.
Many tracks by the Miller Sisters have been reissued on compilations, see http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/artists/m/mill6400.htm But strangely, Terry Gordon fails to include the two most comprehensive sources of their material. The AVI label issued an entire CD in 1996 (now deleted), called "The Miller Sisters : Sun's Singing Sweethearts" (AVI 5022, 24 tracks) and Bear Family included 14 tracks by the "sisters" on the 6-CD set "Memphis Belles : The Women Of Sun Records" (Bear Family BCD 16609, released 2002).
Acknowledgements: - Opal Louis Nations, Ten Cats Down : the story of the Miller Sisters. In : Now Dig This, issue 235 (October 2002), page 19-21.
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