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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 17 January 2006 at 13:05

"A Labor Of Love"

By Ronald Fischer

Vic Miller is a name known to just about everyone on the Hi-Line for many things, but at his core, heís a musician; specifically, a drummer. About five years ago, Vic had a flash of inspiration; a dream, if you will. With a lot of effort, hard work and the support of many local friends, artists and businesses, that dream has come true. He has just finished a two-CD compilation of recordings titled No Dance Ė Band Late Again. "It is the realization of a dream," he says; "a labor of love that is no longer in my system."

To understand the dream, however, one needs to go back to the beginning. Vicís first "paid gig" was playing at Fred Thackerayís garage in April of 1967. It started to become quite an event, with people coming from Hays, Malta, Harlem, Chinook and even Havre to hear covers of the current hits of the day. Popular music from The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival would bang away on Saturday nights, and the band grew in popularity. Keeping with the music of that time, Vic notes that the songs played were largely filled with instrumental improvisation, which allowed the band members to develop and demonstrate proficiency with the guitar, bass and drums.

Through those early years, Vic got to play with many local artists. When he left College in 1979, Vic began to record his music locally, and in California, and recorded quite a few songs between 1981 and 1997. In more recent years, his "music thing" simmered in the background as he performed other, more civic duties, but he never really let go of it.

About five years ago, Vic had an idea. He was listening to his home recordings, and thinking about how much technology has changed. He decided that he wanted to compile his best recordings over the years into a CD project, and he wanted to do it locally. For someone who grew up in this area, left it, and then came back, the importance of making this a local project cannot be overstated. A love for the land can be appreciated by anyone living here, but to build something that is all Montana, from the ground up, is quite a feat. Modern technology makes this look easy, and sound easy to do, but it is still took several years and the efforts of many people to accomplish.

Over the first two years of the project, Vic was able to get all of the preparations in order, including making agreements with the songwriters. This last summer and fall, the final edits, printing and copying were finished, just in time for release before Christmas.

"Itís really exciting," he says, "coming here and finding that we could do all of the printing and duplication locally. Every part of this project, except for one recording from California, was conceived, planned and executed in Montana; most of it was done on the Hi-Line, with a large portion of the work being done by Keith and Keri Hanson and Heather DePriest of the Blaine County Journal. I canít thank them enough for their help with this."

The project did grow a bit, becoming two CDs instead of one, and it did manage to stretch the budget by a wide margin. Vic considers it to be worth every penny, however, if for no other reason than the fact that it was accomplished.

Between modern technology and local talent, Vicís project succeeded beyond even his expectations. The direct involvement and lack of middlemen allows the transformation "straight from your vision to finished product, without dilution or compromise. This truly is my baby." He adds that the support from local talent was amazing, and that thanks to "lots of people who know what they are doing," the finished product is every bit as professional as something coming from L.A, Nashville or New York.

Vic believes that thanks to modern technologies that allow recordings to be produced anywhere, a fundamental shift in the recording industry is on the horizon. Where those cities used to be Meccas for young talent, it is now possible to produce some of the best "home-grown" music without even leaving your hometown. This development in recording represents a return to the days when local musicians could press a record at just about any radio station, but because of the ability of the internet to reach the world, that local talent can spread a lot farther out.

The CD project contains recordings that Vic made from 1981-1997 as well as several monologues that reveal his historical interest and ties to this area. While it started out as a simple compilation, it transformed into a project of historical preservation and what this area means to him. One example is the song, Spirit Mountain, a statement on what has happened to this special place in the Little Rockies, which is gone forever.

Vic also mentioned an interesting tie between the fiddlers around the Fort Belknap area and woodchoppers who would come up-river on steamboats from New Orleans. "That Cajun influences can be found in the folk music of north-central Montana is amazing," says Vic, "but there it is." As there is a good deal of historic preservation of the area in this compilation, Vic stated that a copy will be sent to the Montana Historical Society in Helena.

There are also ties to the club circuit in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which relate to how Vic started out himself. "The circuit is big up there, and there is more talent than most people are aware of," he said. " The ĎCanada connectioní canít be ignored, because just as we have little towns across Montana on Highway 2, they have those same little towns; itís just different names on a different highway, and it ties us together."

The title of Vicís project, No Dance Ė Band Late Again, is a tribute to Bill Baker, one of the originals in the area. "Itís a bit of an inside joke," says Vic; "Iíll leave the telling of that joke to Bill."

The cover art is something that a person who grew up in a small Hi-Line town can appreciate. The photo shows Vic sitting on a bus in front of the Grand Theatre in Harlem, where Vic and his band played a rock concert with the Campbell Brothers. More than that, however, the Grand Theatre ties to nearly every small rural town in America, and is another example of the historical ties that Vic made with this project. "You knew that you were in a small town," he said, "but the Grand Theatre, and theatres all across the Hi-Line, really did give a kind of New-York feel to things. Every town up and down the line had a nickelodeon and vaudeville going on during the weekends; The Grand in Harlem, the Chinook Theatre, The Judith in Lewistown, you name it. I donít know if Ďclassí is the right word, but you could go to these places, and get a gritty, New York ambience just by standing out front in front of the lights of the marquee."

Of importance is that in later years, long after the silent pictures and vaudeville plays had faded away, local bands would play at these theatres on the very same stages, and local performers would cut their teeth at these small-town venues. Vic Miller was one of them.

The liner notes of this project are filled with tributes to songwriters, artists and talent that can be found right here in the area; musicians who have gone before and who are also still with us. Walt Campbell of Chinook, Ted Olson of Havre, Scotty Olson of Missoula, Roddy Shawl of Harlem; Mel Michaelson, Art HaugeÖthe list goes on. Vic also mentioned other local artists such as Shannon Fox and the late Sonny Shields, people who are simply filled with talent, but may never be known outside their hometowns.

As someone who considers himself a preservationist, Vic characterizes this project as the realization of a dream. That he was able to do 99% of it right here on the Hi-Line is icing on the cake, in his mind. Anyone who is interested in acquiring a copy of this outstanding work can call Vic at 353.2819 (cell phone 945.2310) or email him at docdrums@mtintouch.net.



Edited by TasunkaWitko
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kingpin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 January 2006 at 15:24
What's the area code?
There are times when a normal man must, spit in his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Larry in Bend Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 January 2006 at 06:51
Hey, If you can make it in Cleveland --- you can make it anywhere!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 January 2006 at 16:53
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 August 2012 at 06:18

R.I.P Vic Miller - I'm going to miss your wit and your stories

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 August 2012 at 09:01
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