"And so the miller told his tale," go the pretentious lyrics of "Whiter Shade of Pale," but which Miller? The well-liked mandolinist Eddie Miller who died in a car wreck going to a gig in the fall of 2001 is not the same Eddie Miller who wrote the country smash entitled "Release Me." The mandolinist's brother John Miller, bandmate in Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, is not the same John Miller who does the fancy fingerpicking arrangements of George Gershwin, although he does also play guitar. Their father Ernie Miller, who taught them music and then hauled them off to work with him in the East Tennessee Mountain Boys, could no doubt be confused with some other musician as well.
Focusing the lens in on the mandolinist, the question was raised whether this might be the Eddie Miller credited with banjo on a 1989 album by the Athens band Drivin' N' Cryin'. Many Appalachian players can cover several stringed instruments, after all, and Georgia isn't that far from either of Miller's Tennessee bases of action, Knoxville and Nashville. An obituary about Miller had even mentioned him filling in on banjo when Smith's regular guy, Randall Conn, couldn't show up. An acknowledged expert on "mountain pickin'" was asked about this, wandering in off his front porch and planting a small puddle of chewing tobacco in the middle of a discographical report. "Not every five-banger can boil pasta on the mandolincini," he commented with a responsible use of technical jargon.
The previously mentioned article does not mention Drivin' N' Cryin', but does list quite a few bluegrass outfits the mandolinist was involved with since joining the Knoxville bluegrass scene as a teenager in the '70s. He gigged with the New River Boys, the Smoky Mountain Travelers, New Dawn, and the Possum Belly Band. A further contribution he made to the scene was encouraging younger players: apprentices including John Golden and Richard Bennett went on contribute greatly to important bands such as Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek and J.D. Crowe & the New South.
The mandolinist drifted south to Nashville in 1986, collaborating regularly with banjoist Mike Scott. One of his bands played at the Dollywood amusement park, where he could also be heard trilling in the thrilling Fire on the Mountain extravaganza. In the '90s, Miller remained active in Nashville but was toiling some of the time for an office supply company. In the latter part of this decade, he himself joined up with Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi