Today, we look back at a Roger Miller classic release. In the mid-1960’s, Roger was one of the hottest acts in music, finding success in country music, as well as the pop field. The Third Time Around was Roger’s third album of original material for Mercury’s Smash subsidiary. Released in June, 1965, the album became Roger’s only number one LP, topping the Country album charts for 2 weeks in early October, while climbing to thirteen on the pop side. The album contained four singles, of which three were top ten hits.
Roger’s classic “Engine, Engine #9” kicks off the album. A top ten hit in the Summer of 1965, it’s one of Roger’s best hits, in my opinion.
Roger’s writing ability was truly unique, ahead of its time, in a lot of ways. “This Town” is classic. The depressing dying little town and the citizen who is determined to leave. But the story is told in a rather lite, upbeat way. It works.
“The Last Word In Lonesome Is Me” was a big hit for Eddy Arnold in 1966. It’s also one of Roger’s best compositions. Roger may have been a master at the zaniness and craziness, but he could write heartbreak as well as anyone who ever set words to music. This song is a prime example, and Roger’s performance is outstanding.
The intro to “Water Dog” is reminiscent of “Chug-A-Lug”, but the beat is stronger and the track is as close to Rock ‘N’ Roll as Roger ever got. Good rocking’ little tune.
It’s easy to underrate Roger’s vocal ability, yet when you really listen to his serious work, he could convey heartbreak and loss as well as anyone of his era. Listen to the ballad “I’ll Pick Up My Heart And Go Home”, and you’ll hear the despair dripping from each word. Great piece of lyrical work, too.
Side one ends with a good story song titled “Swiss Maid”. The song has an ending that leaves you wondering how the story concludes.
Side two opens with the only single that didn’t become a hit from this album, “It Happened That Way”. The single failed to chart on either the Country or Pop charts, and while it’s not quite the same level as his biggest hits, quality-wise, it’s still a good record that as hot as Roger was, at the time, makes you wonder how it completely missed.
Next, Roger reminisces about the 1920’s and 30’s, calling them “The Good Old Days”. I’m sure the song brought some memories for those who grew up in that time. Catchy tune.
As I mentioned, earlier, Roger could convey heartbreak and despair as well as anyone. And he did so with his voice, and his pen. An incredibly gifted songwriter, and one of his best dark compositions is “One Dyin’ and A Buryin’. It climbed into the Country top ten, during the Fall of 1965. Sad, but not sappy. Great piece of work, both writing and singing.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Roger Miller, without a bit of his silliness or whimsy. You’ll find that on the hit, “Kansas City Star”. Lighthearted tale of a local TV host, who spurns a better job, because he’s happy right where he’s at. Perhaps one of the first Country hits to feature a trombone in a prominent role?
“Big Harlan Taylor” hit in 1959 for George Jones. Roger takes the old subject of losing a girl to a best friend, and leads you to think someone is going to die. But in the end, the man decides she’s not work dying or killing for.
The album ends with “Swing Low, Swingin’ Chariot”, a song taken from the old spiritual. Not anything spectacular, but still a catchy tune and gives a nice ending to this disc.
Overall, this was another quality release for Roger Miller at the height of his popularity. The album showcases his abilities to handle both the serious and silly, as both a singer and a songwriter. A classic LP well worth searching the bins for. I give a 4.5 out of 5.
About Thy Author
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. After convincing Vincennes University in Indiana to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting, he has spent most of his adult life on the radio, having worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig, hosting the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. The show is heard Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LP/AshevilleFM, which is at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as online at ashevillefm.org. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.