Mrs. Miller (Elva Ruby Connes)
BiographyJoplin, Missouri, USA
Mrs. Elva Miller rates highly as one of the single most colorful, unlikely, and hence oddly endearing musical celebrities to ever achieve a considerable amount of fame in the mid 60s. Armed with an off-key, quivering, sub-Ethel Mermanesque operatic vibrato soprano voice, a sweetly humble, matronly and old-fashioned persona, and a delightfully dotty penchant for strange bird-like wobbly whistling, Mrs. Read more... behold. She was born as Elva Ruby Connes on October 5, 1907 in Joplin, Missouri. Elva was the third of seven children born to Edward Connes and Ada Martin. Mrs. Miller grew up in Kansas and began her music career as a member of a Lutheran church choir (she also did some broadcasting on the radio station KGNO in Dodge City, Kansas). She moved to Oklahoma after graduating from high school and worked as a live-in housekeeper for a minister's family. Elva married her much older investor husband John Richardson Miller in 1934. The couple moved to Claremont, California in 1935. Mrs. Miller studied music theory, voice and composition at Pomona College and sang in the choir at the Claremont Presbyterian Church. It was during this time that Elva began recording 45 singles of gospel, classical and children's songs as a hobby. Mrs. Miller was discovered by organist/pianist/arranger Fred Bock, who in turn convinced her to record a cover of "Downtown." Capitol Records A&R man Lex de Azevedo heard a demo recording of "Downtown" and signed Elva to a contract with the label. Her debut album "Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits" was released in 1966, when Elva was 59 years old. It went on to sell over 250,000 copies within the first three weeks of its release. Mrs. Miller became an immediate star: her rendition of "Downtown" cracked the Billboard charts at #82 in 1966, she appeared on such TV programs as "The Ed Sullivan Show," "Toast of the Town," "Malibu U.," "The Mike Douglas Show," and "The Hollywood Palace" (she sang a duet with host Jimmy Durante for the song "Inka Dinka Do"!), performed at the Hollywood Bowl, the Coconut Grove, and the Sahara Club (she shared a bill with the Kingston Trio on this latter gig!), entertained American troops in Vietnam as part of a two week USO show with Bob Hope, and pops up as herself singing "It's Magic" in the 1967 comedy feature "The Cool Ones." Capitol Records released her second album "Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller?" in late 1966. Alas, her third and last album for Capitol "The Country Soul of Mrs. Miller" proved to be a flop when it was issued in 1967. Elva's fourth and final album "Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing" was released by the obscure Amaret record label in 1968. Undaunted, Mrs. Miller recorded two unsuccessful 45 singles on her own label called Mrs. Miller's Records in the early 70s. She spent her latter years living in Hollywood, where she took care of her niece and nephews, frequently contributed to many local charities and organizations, and regularly attended the LA Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. Elva Ruby Miller died at age 89 on July 5, 1997 at the Garden Terrace Retirement Center in Vista, California. Although she's sadly no longer with us, Mrs. Miller's unique brand of lovably amateurish singing and genuine (if misguided) passion for music shall continue to amuse and entertain countless folks for all eternity.