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Mrs. Elva Miller
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Elva Ruby Connes (October 5, 1907 – July 5, 1997), who recorded under the name Mrs. Elva Miller (and usually simply called “Mrs. Miller”), was an American singer who gained some notoriety in the 1960s for her versions of popular songs like “Moon River”, “Monday, Monday”, “A Lover’s Concerto”, and “Downtown” rendered in an untrained, Mermanesque, vibrato-laden voice, often out of tune and off the beat. Her whistling, which was equally wobbly, also featured on a number of her records. According to Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky, and Amy Wallace in The Book of Lists 2, her voice was often compared to the sound of “roaches scurrying across a trash can lid.” 
Her rendition of Downtown sounds like a karaoke version as she sings over a professional instrumental section. It includes an instance where she briefly breaks into giggling and several moments where she apparently forgets the lyrics she is singing. Despite this, her “Downtown” single cracked the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1966, peaking at #82. A subsequent Mrs. Miller single, “Let’s Hang On!”, did not fare as well.
She was born in Joplin, Missouri and eventually settled in Claremont, California. She sporadically studied music at Pomona College. Later, she sang at churches around Claremont and, although she said that her singing was just “a hobby,” she self-released a small number of records, mainly made up of classical, gospel and children’s songs. It was while making one of these records that the arranger Fred Bock heard her. He convinced her to try some more modern songs, and took the resulting recordings around record labels.
Thanks to this, Mrs. Miller was signed to Capitol Records by their A&R man, Lex de Azevedo. Her first LP on that label, ironically titled Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits, appeared in 1966, when she was 59 years old. It was made up entirely of pop songs, and sold more than 250,000 copies in its first three weeks. Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller?! followed later the same year, and The Country Soul of Mrs. Miller a year later.
Mrs. Miller sang for the troops in Vietnam, performed at the Hollywood Bowl and appeared in Roddy McDowall’s film The Cool Ones. However, as with other novelty acts who were popular in the ’60s, interest in Mrs. Miller soon waned. She was dropped by Capitol, and in 1968 she released her final album, Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing, on the small Amaret label. She later put out a couple of singles on her own Vibrato Records. By the mid-1970s, she had retired from singing.
Mrs. Miller’s success, like that of Florence Foster Jenkins and Wing, was due to the perceived awfulness of her singing. It seemed that Capitol was keen to emphasize this—in a 1967 interview with Life magazine, she said that during recording sessions she was conducted half a beat ahead or behind time, and the worst of several different recordings of a song would be included on the finished record. She claimed to be initially unaware that her technical inability was being ridiculed, but eventually realized what was going on. At first she resented this, but eventually decided to play along with the joke. Nonetheless, she later attributed her split with Capitol to her wanting to sing “straight” and record ballads, and Capitol wanting to continue with the “so bad it’s good” angle.
Mrs. Miller died in Vista, California and is buried in a mausoleum at Pomona Valley Memorial Park. In 1997, a compilation CD of her work was released on Capitol’s Ultra-Lounge label: Wild, Cool & Swingin’, The Artist Collection Vol. 3: Mrs. Miller.
The other Mrs. Miller
Although the Mrs. Miller discussed here appeared on the Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, Joey Bishop, Mike Douglas and Jack Paar shows, she is not to be confused with the “other” Mrs. Miller, the perennial TV-studio audience member Lillian Miller, an elderly woman who frequented talk shows and would often be seen on camera with the hosts. Lillian Miller was actually called “Miss Miller” by Jack Paar.
01 – Renaissance of Smut
02 – Up Up and Away
03 – Anything Goes
04 – Green Tambourine
05 – Tiptoe Through The Tulips
06 – Green Thumb
07 – The Roach
08 – I Sleep Easier Now
09 – My Pet
10 – Mary Jane
11 – Granny Bopper