Dissertation Defense AnnouncementCollege of Communication and Fine Arts annonunces the Final Dissertation Defense of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
February 25, 2020 at 03:00 PM in Music Building, Room 125
Advisor: Dr. Kenneth Kreitner
Bob Miller: The Irving Berlin of Memphis
ABSTRACT: This dissertation is a study of the life and music of early country music songwriter Bob Miller (1895-1955). Miller was a prolific songwriter, who wrote music of multiple genres, but he was also a performer and recording artist during the 1920s and 1930s. As an early white composer of blues, he was an important figure during the blues craze of the early 1920s. The research and musical analysis that have been the foundation of this study answer questions about Miller's life and his lasting influence. This study begins with the details of Miller's early life and his career as a bandleader in Memphis during the 1920s. It continues with Miller's move to New York in 1928 and his subsequent career as a recording artist, A&R representative, and owner of a publishing company. The evidence presented in this dissertation also demonstrates that Miller was a versatile songwriter, and I have analyzed several of Miller's songs lyrically and musically in order to illustrate the methods he used to write such a large number of songs. Finally, this study addresses the thematically populist undertones to some of Miller's output both as a songwriter and a publisher. The evidence shows that Miller was a complex figure. While he wrote songs with populist themes, the majority of his songs were apolitical and lighthearted. He was an early populist country songwriter, but his legacy is not solely tied to songs with political commentary. With a catalog of songs that rivals the numbers of many of the Tin Pan Alley greats, Miller has had a lasting influence on American music, and his songs continue to be recorded and performed.