A Guide to the Townsend Miller Collection, 1952-1983
Born in Gainesville, Texas, Townsend Miller (1919-1989) was a country music columnist for the Austin American-Statesman from 1972 through 1983. Having attended Rice University intermittently from 1937 through 1941, Miller served as a navigator on a B-17 bomber during World War II. Upon his discharge in 1944, he enrolled in North Texas State University as a journalism student. After graduation, Miller worked as a reporter and editor for Texas Game and Fish Magazine, True West, and Frontier Times before becoming a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith in 1959. His love for journalism continued, however, as Miller wrote freelance articles between 1952 and 1974, including pieces for Country Music Magazine on Ernest Tubb and Anita Rodgers Court.
Miller’s interest in country music spanned his lifetime but developed in earnest when he began to seriously collect country music sound recordings in 1969. He began gathering published and unpublished discographical information and also compiled his own discographies as well as corresponding with other collectors on the subject. In 1972, Miller approached the Austin American-Statesman about writing some articles on country music, which led to a twice-weekly column by Miller. Originally intended to reflect his interest in country music history and record collecting, the column shifted focus to the "progressive country" music scene emerging in Austin as the city’s reputation as a live music venue grew in the early 1970s. Miller amassed a vast collection of sound recordings and artist biographical information during the eleven years he wrote the column. He also visited local clubs three to four nights a week, while he still held his day job at Merrill Lynch. Miller wrote his last column for the Statesman in April 1983, retiring from Merrill Lynch the following year. He died in April 1989 of smoke inhalation and burns from an accidental car fire at Town Lake in Austin.
Consisting of correspondence, photographs, printed material, creative works, legal and financial documents, diagrams, scrapbook material, and audio recordings, the Townsend Miller Collection, 1952-1983, documents Miller’s journalism career and involvement in the country music industry. Divided into two subgroups, the collection comprises over 8,000 sound recordings including 78s, LPs, 45s, reel-to-reels, and cassette tapes, including Texans, trend-setters, mint-condition recordings, and autographed special editions. Artists include Marcia Ball, Willie Nelson, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings, Kitty Wells, Light Crust Doughboys, Vassar Clements, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and Vernon Dalhart.
The second subgroup, manuscript materials, contains promotional and biographical material with photographs of country music artists supplied by record companies and promoters between 1970 and 1983. Miller’s correspondence concerns his association with such country performers as Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, Gary P. Nunn, and Loretta Lynn (1972-1983). The collection also includes Miller’s correspondence with other record collectors, record catalogs, and auction lists, as well as brochures of the festivals, performance contracts and riders, stage plots, and photographs, which illuminate Miller’s influence as an organizer or talent promoter for Aqua Fest (1974-1983), Kerrville Folk Festival (1974-1982), Austin City Limits television program (1976-1982), and Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic (1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, and 1981).
The collection also includes final copies of Miller’s Austin American-Statesman columns and freelance articles, discographies on certain musicians, subject files on topics for possible articles, such as fiddle players and harmonicas, and newspaper clippings on all aspects of the country music scene. Lastly, the collection includes published music material and journals, like Texas Fish and Game Magazine, Frontier Times, JEMF Quarterly, Music City News, Billboard, Country Rambler, and Country Style.
This collection is open for research use.
The heirs of Townsend Miller maintain the copyright of unpublished materials.
Use of audio material by appointment only; please contact sound archivist for more information.
Townsend Miller Collection, 1952-1983, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
This collection was processed by Teresa Mullins, December 1992.
Subsequent revisions were made by Esther Kirchner, November 2014; and Amanda Reyes, December 2015.
Detailed Description of the Papers