University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Townsend Miller Collection, 1952-1983

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Miller, Townsend, 1919-1989
Title: Miller, Townsend, Collection
Dates: 1952-1983
Abstract: 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.
Accession No.: 91-088; 98-081
OCLC No.: 719599173
Extent: 65 ft.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

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 He began gathering published and unpublished discographical information and also compiled his own discographies as well as corresponding with other collectors on the subject.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.

Scope and Contents

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.


Access Restrictions

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.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Miller, Townsend, 1919-1989 -- Archives.
Jennings, Waylon.
Nelson, Willie, 1933-.
Wells, Kitty.
Dalhart, Vernon, 1883-1948.
Wills, Bob, 1905-1975.
Clements, Vassar.
Lynn, Loretta.
Ball, Marcia.
Tubb, Ernest, 1914-1984.
Rodgers, Jimmie, 1897-1933.
Hall, Tom T.
Nunn, Gary P.
Court, Anita Rodgers.
Subjects (Organizations)
Texas Playboys.
Light Crust Doughboys.
Aqua Fest.
Kerrville Folk Festival.
Austin American-statesman.
Frontier times (Austin, Tex.)
Texas game and fish magazine.
True West.
Country music (New York, N.Y.)
Austin city limits (Television program).
Country music -- History and criticism.
Country music -- Texas.
Country music -- Periodicals.
Music journalists -- Texas -- Austin.
Austin (Tex.) -- History -- 20th century.

Related Material

See also The Townsend Miller Poster Collection

Separated Material

Some materials have been separated to the Artifacts Collection and Library Unit.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Townsend Miller Collection, 1952-1983, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

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.

Processing Information

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



4Za85-4Za124 Audio discs
4Za125-4Za156 Manuscript and printed material
4B300 Talent and promotional files; artists A-E
4B301 Talent and promotional files; artists F-O
4B302 Talent and promotional files; artists P-V
4B303 Talent and promotional files; artists W-Y
Promotional; artists A-L
2M512 Promotional; artists M-Z
Local artists; A-Z
Pioneers of Country Music
Festivals, performances and associations
Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic, 1975, 1980
Country Music Association Awards, 1972, 1973, 1975
Austin City Limits, 1976-1982
Country Music Awards, undated
Subject file photos, Country Music Hall of Fame
Freelance articles
Austin music scene (Billboard)
Threadgill, Kenneth
Longnose gar, 1953
2.325/V15 Oversized
Miscellaneous photos and paintings
2.325/A72a Awards and certificates of appreciation
Music related ephemera, including invitations and backstage passes
2.325/A101 Miller’s Austin American-Statesman columns, October 1979-December 1982