Roger Miller – “King of the Road”
If we’re playing the technical version of this game (and I think we are), an “oldie” is considered to be a song released between ’55 and ’72 (I dunno, ask her). Fortunately, “King of the Road” lands smack dab in the middle of 1965, and is one of my recent favorite songs.
I discovered Roger Miller through an unlikely source: he’s the voice of Alan-A-Dale in the 1973 Disney version of Robin Hood. I remember my mom making an off-hand comment that her dad used to listen to Roger Miller back in the day, and I was fascinated that Disney would hire a country legend to provide the voice of a Rooster in one of its lesser flicks. This lead to some research on my part, eventually culminating in the discovery of the playful “Dang Me,” but my far-and-away favorite Roger Miller song is “King of the Road.” Incidentally, I actually didn’t hear Miller’s version first; it was covered by Randy Travis on some album or other, and found play on our local country station de temps en temps.
“King of the Road” is, first and foremost, a fun song to sing. The melody is simple, and I appreciate the absence of the now-standard verse/chorus structure—it’s an old-sounding song, and by gum, I appreciate its vintage. The Miller version has pretty sparse instrumentation (light piano, a stand-up bass, and some slight jazz drums), making it easy to sing a cappella and sound reasonably natural. “King of the Road” has an enjoyable, carefree bounce to it, and I find it all-too-easy to absent-mindedly hum when I’m in a good mood.
My favorite part, I think, is the bridge. The second melody is catchy, but I’ve always loved the delivery of the line “every lock that ain’t locked when no one’s around;” I remember the line being an earworm even before I knew what the rest of the song was.
Since I have a slightly untrained singing voice, it’s rare for me to find a song I heartily enjoy that can be sung in its native pitch, but “King of the Road” has me covered. It’s “Hakuna Matata”-esque tale of transient living always puts a smile on my face, and it’s one of the oldest songs to make it onto one of my Testermix compilations.