Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dan Miller: An Authentically Kind, Southern Gentleman

by Dee Newman

I will never forget the moment I first met Dan Miller. It was over thirty years ago in the late 1970s. I was leaving the old H. G. Hill grocery store on West End Avenue across from the Bell Meade Theater. As I approached the door with my arms full of groceries suddenly a large figure rushed by me. A very tall, strikingly handsome man who I immediately recognized opened the door for me. It was Dan Miller. I thanked him. I don’t remember much of what we talked about as we walked to our cars, only the impression he left with me – that I had just met an authentically kind, southern gentleman.

Last week Dan Miller died of a heart attack in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia.

His good friend and colleague, Channel 4’s Sports Director Rudy Kalis was with him when he died. After eating dinner together the two of them went for a walk through Dan’s old neighborhood where he grew up.

“ . . . we were walking and he was telling me the same things he told me last year. Who lived here, who lived there, we went in front of his old house where he was raised. And then, he really got short of breath a little bit and we had to stop a couple of times . . . starting to walk back . . . all of a sudden he grabbed my arm and collapsed . . . We were there on the street, and I was trying to help him as best I could . . . A car came at us and I flagged them down, and they stopped and two guys came out and I said, 'Call 911!' . . . I kept trying to work on Dan . . . the emergency vehicles got there very quickly . . . in 5 minutes or so and I gave it over to them . . . they took him to the hospital and we followed . . . It really scared me because the way he fell, he grabbed my arm, and the way he looked at me. My dear friend. (I did) resuscitation as best I knew how. I just didn't know, but believe me, I knew it was serious. My heart was racing, and I was doing a lot of praying . . .”

According to those who knew him best, the man who for nearly forty years we nightly invited into our homes was truly what he appeared to be on air – a genuinely nice guy. There was no pretense about him.

For those who knew him and those of us who devotedly read his Blog we also knew him to be a lover of a good story and good laugh. He not only appreciated a good story, he knew how to tell one. Read his Blog.

I’m sure he would (more than most of us) appreciate the story of his death – that he would die in his hometown, walking the streets of his boyhood in April in Augusta during the week of the Masters with two of his best friends, Rudy Kalis and Terry Bulger, though sad, is satisfyingly sweet.

Back in February of this year Dan wrote the following on his Blog:

By Dan Miller

Keep reading, because I'm going to reveal to you the best recording of a song ever done, and even let you listen to it.

In selecting the best recording, I'm taking into consideration the arrangement... the orchestration... the quality of the recording... the vocal performance... and, of course, the song itself.

Impossible you say?
Too subjective?
Too many recordings to pick from?
All that is true.
But since I'm the one writing this, I get to pick.
And I've been listening to this particular selection for almost half a century, and still haven't heard anything that tops it.

A person who likes only country music might suggest it's one of Johnny Cash's gems, or perhaps Marty Robbins or Patsy Cline.
Opera fans might select from the work of Luciano Pavarotti or Leontyne Price.
Those who like big band music would lean toward something recorded by Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman.
Rock historians could turn to the recordings of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin or perhaps Lynard Skynard's classic "Free Bird." Gospel fans might say Mahalia Jackson surely made the best recording ever.
Jazz aficionados might find their best among the hundreds of Louis Armstrong's tracks.
All could be worthy places to look.

From time to time I've discussed with my son Stephen -- who's a long time appreciator and player of rock music -- what's the best ever recording.... and even he (sort of) agrees with me on this one.
And it's definitely not a rock song.

Here it is.
Based on all the considerations and criteria I mentioned above, I believe the best ever recording of a song is Nat King Cole's understated, dreamy rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's 1927 composition "Stardust."

It was recorded at Capitol Records for inclusion in Nat King Cole's 1957 album "Love Is The Thing."
It was arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins.
If you're not familiar with this particular recording, or if you haven't heard it in a while, I found several offerings on YouTube....
CLICK HERE and listen.

As Dan said, "If you know of any recording that's better, let me know, I'd like to hear it."

Dan, though we dream in vain, in our hearts you will remain, our stardust melody, the memory of loves refrain.

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