Bluegrass And Roger Miller, Where have all the average people gone?

I’ve always loved Roger Miller both as a songwriter and as a performer. He’s Americana, he wrote about us, our style of life, who we are, and what we are in a rather whimsical way be it King Of The Road, Chug-A-Lug, Dang Me, or Husbands and Wives. It’s our story as Americans, the people that make it work and fit; make all the pieces run on time or not.

As a Christmas present our daughter, who lives in Africa, brought back a three-CD set by Miller dated 1995 PolyGram Records…it’s cool, very me, and sings to my soul.

We were recently at the Lake Havasu Bluegrass Festival, “BlueGrass on the Beach” promoted by Larry and Sondra Baker. It’s always a good festival with great acts and this year was no exception.

Listening to the songs and watching the acts some of them were very whimsical like the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, others traditional, still others that where hard driving with songs of middle-America, the sometimes forgotten America, the nuts and bolts that made it work.

Between acts, while Old Blue did the sound checks, I was watching the folks sitting and milling around, many of them retired no doubt. They all appeared t have two things in common, they loved Bluegrass and most where the nuts and bolts people that made the country work.

While sitting there one of Roger Miller’s more obscure songs came to mind.

The people in this city call me country.
Because of how I walk and talk and smile.
Well, I don’t mind them laughing in the city.
But the country folks all say I’m citified.

The fighting men they say that I’m a coward.
Because I never push no one around.
Gentle people call me troublemaker.
Cause I’ll always fight and stand my ground.

Funny I don’t fit.
Where have all the average people gone?

My neurotic mind began to obsess again over Miller’s simple but reflective question, that’s about the time The Gibson Brothers hit the stage with a hard driving song reminiscent of a misspent youth…you can’t really appreciate it unless you’ve lived it and I dare say many in the audience had lived it a time or two.

Just waking up is killing me.
I still taste last night every time I breathe.
This shirt I’m wearing it ain’t mine.
And it’s covered in that homemade wine.

I got one shoe on and the other’s gone.
I can’t figure out whose couch I’m on.
I look for clues but there’s no sign.
Been washed away by homemade wine.

Homemade wine, homemade wine.
It ain’t fancy, it ain’t fine.
But it will get you every time.
Can’t leave alone that homemade wine.  Leigh Gibson

Interesting, been there, done that. Later in the set another musical epiphany this time by Eric Gibson first relating a story about the song, his mother, and a phrase she would use at times.

Fool’s hill, fool’s hill.
Some won’t make it but others will.
When you’re young and you’ve got time to kill.
You take a ride up on fool’s hill.

Wagging tongues, a little town.
Brother’s got heads spinning all around.
Mom just sighs. She’s had her fill.
Say’s “my boy’s just climbing fool’s hill”. Eric Gibson

Yes sir, climbed more than my share only to fall down the other side, get up, and do it again. One of the advantages of being old is that you learn to climb smaller hills as you age. Then the Gibson’s served up another slice of life.

Son, I’ve tried to show you the best I could.
Some days I fell short but most were pretty good.
Now as I watch you leave to find your shining star.
When you get there remember who you are.

I can see you going places I have never been.
You might wind up winning hearts that I could never win.
No matter where you’re going whether near or far.
When you get there remember who you are..
Eric & Leigh Gibson

The songs while contemporary have a traditional bluegrass theme, a weaved fabric, punctuated by the pulse of everyday people, their loves, their voices, their lives, and aspirations. It’s Bluegrass, the place where Roger Miller’s “average people” have gone.

And the government has given me a number.
To simplify my birth and life and death.
And still my woman thinks I’m awful important.
Like the moon and sun and the sea and the sky and breath.

Yes, it’s funny I don’t fit.
Tell me, where have all the average people gone…
Roger Miller