Postscript: Bravo for Mrs. Miller - She Had to Be Free
One reviewer gave a listen to Mrs. Miller's singing talents in 1967 and proclamed: "Sometimes she's ahead of the beat, sometimes behind it, and once in a while squarely in the middle." Another heard her renditions of "These Boots Are Made for Walking" and "Downtown" and labeled her "the Petula Clark of Sun City." And Time magazine declared that "Her tempos, to put it charitably, are free form... While Elva may not replace Elvis, her rockingchair rock features a kind of slippin' and slidin' rhythm that is uniquely her own... "
Elva Miller burst on to the pop scene 10 years ago with a first album called Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits, a collection of teen-age standards of the day that sold 250,000 copies in a mere three weeks.
That success propelled the 58 year-old Claremont housewife onto the personal appearance and television circuit and took her to Vietnam to entertain American troops. Then there were two more albums for Capitol Records- Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller? and The Country Soul of Mrs. Miller.
Then, as suddenly as it began, Mrs. Miller's career fizzled in 1968 and she dropped out of the spotlight.
Which is OK with her. Today, at 67, she counts herself among the retired and says that she never took her show business career seriously in the first place.
She doesn't sing at all anymore. "People ask me, 'What do you do without it?" she said recently. "I tell em that I never needed it to begin with."
But while the career may have been a gag, Mrs. Miller took her music seriously. In fact, she says now, it was this conflict between comedy and her desire to sing seriously that cut her career short. Capitol, she says, wanted to make her into "some kind of kook," and she wanted to do her material straight.
"I belonged in opera," she says. "I wanted to do ballads but they wouldn't let me."
"Life was full of turmoil because of that," she says. "I didn't need it, so I got out. I was glad when it ended."
Mrs. Miller went home to Claremont to care for her invalid husband. When he died in 1968, she sold the family home and moved into an apartment in Los Angeles, where she now lavishes her time on her four nieces and nephews and on her first love, the theater.
"I'm a theater buff, a movie buff," she says. "That's what keeps me in Los Angeles."
And while she feels her career was misinterpreted and mis-managed, she holds no bitterness.
"These are the best years of my life," she says. "I was never really a show business person."
"It's like they say in the song. I've got to be free. I've got to be me."