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John Miller grew up in the farm country of Pennsylvania, a short drive from Philadelphia, in a community called Unionville. Born to a classical pianist, he grew up with a strong background in music and performance. Although he started playing the piano first, he began to play the clarinet at nine years old, and the guitar around the age of 11. He would travel to Philadelphia to see folk musicians at an early age, going to festivals and coffeehouses with his brother and sister, and soaking in the culture they loved so much. His siblings were also musicians, giving Miller a very supportive home environment. He graduated from high school in 1969, and after moving to Florida for a year he began schooling at Cornell University. He started Country Cooking after discovering there was not a musical performance program at the college, changing his major to U.S. History in the process. He began to write his own songs around this time, although he did not contribute much to Country Cooking. Instead he wrote for other musicians, finding it easier to write with someone else in mind. Once he graduated from college, he began to write much more frequently, indulging in some experimental forms just to test his own boundaries. When Country Cooking began to lose members around the same time, Miller jumped ship and began to make solo records for Blue Goose Records. The first record, First Degree Blues, was a country blues record, while How About Me, his sophomore effort, included instrumentals and jazz standards. He also did a record for Rounder during this period, the old-time blues record Let's Go Riding. He would go on to release two more for the company, Safe Sweet Home and Biding My Time, both of which featured mostly standards and jazz numbers. After he left the label, he worked on other people's material until he was finally disenchanted enough with his career that he left the business in the early '80s. He worked for a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., for a while, then moved to Seattle where his experience in housing management kept him working until the mid-'90s. He did manage to start a band in his spare time, Wide Awake, but the group was more for entertaining each other and never did record. He would also make appearances at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, but his insistence on staying out of the industry kept him from doing anything more than this. He eventually stepped back into music, starting the band Catwalk in the late '90s and playing around the Seattle area. The band recorded two albums, both which are only available in the Seattle area. ~ Bradley Torreano
1950 in Pennsylvania