Gary MillerView in iTunes
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b. Neville Williams, 1924, Blackpool, Lancashire, England, d. 15 June 1968, London, England. Miller was a popular singer in the UK during the 50s and early 60s, with a smooth and polished style. As a young man, he was a talented soccer player and played for Blackpool Football Club as an amateur. During World War II, he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and, on release, enrolled as a student at London University with the intention of becoming a teacher of languages. After performing in college concerts, and with the experience of singing at a Welsh Eisteddfod festival as a schoolboy, Miller embarked on the learning process of small-time cabaret and concert tours, and made his first radio broadcast on Beginners, Please. As well as singing, he also included dancing in his act, and was involved in negotiations for a small part in the Ray Bolger movie Where’s Charley?, when it was being made in England, but nothing materialized. His first real break came when he was discovered by record executive and songwriter Norman Newell during a Variety appearance at Northampton, which led to him making a few tracks for Columbia Records. He also made regular appearances, singing and dancing, on television in Shop Window, and appeared on the fortnightly Kaleidoscope series. By 1954, Miller was headlining in variety on the Moss Empires circuit. After a spell with Newell at the newly formed Philips Records in 1953, during which he released mostly romantic ballads, Miller switched to another new label, Pye Nixa, and started recording more up-tempo material. His first hit, ‘The Yellow Rose Of Texas’, in 1955, was overtaken by the US Mitch Miller version, but ‘Robin Hood’ made the Top 10 despite opposition from Dick James, who benefited by having his version played over the titles during the weekly television show. During that era it was commonplace for several versions of the same song to jostle each other in the singles chart. This was the case with Miller’s ‘Garden Of Eden’, which lost out to Frankie Vaughan. There was also strong competition on ‘Wonderful! Wonderful!’ from Ronnie Hilton, and on ‘The Story Of My Life’ from Michael Holliday. Miller’s record of the latter song is said to have suffered in popularity because he was touring North Africa at the time of its release. Perhaps in an effort to avoid the competition, Miller reached back to 1945 for his final chart entry, ‘I’ve Heard That Song Before’ (1961); it proved to be one of his best vocal performances. His first album, Meet Mister Miller, contained standards such as ‘Manhattan’, ‘April Showers’ and ‘Stella By Starlight’. This was followed by Gary On The Ball, with the Kenny Ball Jazz Band. In 1964, Miller appeared in the West End production of She Loves Me, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s musical based on the Hungarian play Perfumerie. Miller returned to the London stage in 1966 to play the role of the crooning Agent VO3 in Bryan Blackburn’s comedy musical, Come Spy With Me, starring female impersonator Danny La Rue, at London’s ‘home of farce’, the Whitehall Theatre. Two years later he died of a heart attack at his south London home.
1924 in Blackpool, Lancashire, England