Roger Miller – King of the Road

Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let… fifty cent
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain’t got no cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of pushin’ broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road

I love the lyrics and the feel of this song. This peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, #1 in the Billboard Country Charts, and #1 in Canada in 1965.

The song won 1965 Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Rock ‘N Roll Single, Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Best Country & Western Recording, Best Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song.

I remember the song because in Nashville they opened a King Of The Road Hotel…Miller opened two “King of the Road” Motor Inns in the early ’70s – one in Nashville, and another in Valdosta, Georgia. Unlike the cheap digs Miller sings about in his song, however, these Motels were billed as “luxury accommodations” and had a very modern motif. At the Nashville location, a music club on the top floor became a popular spot for many local musicians to perform. Ronnie Milsap played there many times, and Miller would often play as well.

From Songfacts

The title of this song is an allusion to hoboes and tramps, who were known as “knights of the road.” The song tells of the happy hobo lifestyle, with few creature comforts but plenty of freedom.

On Roger Miller’s website, it explains that Miller wrote this song over a 6-week span, beginning on a 1964 Midwest TV tour. He wrote the first verse when he saw a “Trailers for Sale or Rent” sign on the road outside Chicago. A few weeks later, he bought a statuette of a hobo in Boise, Idaho airport gift shop and stared at it until he had completed the song.

Miller has given at least one other explanation for how he came up with the song, however. When he was the co-host on the Mike Douglas Show August 11, 1969, he revealed that the idea for “King Of The Road” came when he was driving in Indiana and saw a sign offering trailers for sale or rent, and it stuck in his mind. Said Miller, “I was doing a show in a place you have probably never heard of called Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and I saw a statue of a hobo in a cigar shop were I was staying. I purchased it and took it to my room and wrote the song.”

So we know there was a sign and a hobo statue, but where they came from is unclear. Miller would sometimes introduce the song by saying, “Here’s a song I wrote on a rainy night in Boise, Idaho,” which is much more identifiable for American listeners (especially in Nashville) than Kitchener, Ontario. Miller’s widow says that she’s not sure, and the Kitchener story could very well be true.

To further complicate matters, Nashville lore has it that Miller drew inspiration from the “Trailers for sale or rent” sign at Dunn’s Trailer Court, where he lived when he moved from Amarillo to Nashville with his wife and three kids. This was a popular place for aspiring Country singers on tight budgets: Hank Cochran and Willie Nelson both stayed there as well.

MIller’s scribbling of King of the Road now hangs in a shadowbox at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The song won 1965 Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Rock ‘N Roll Single, Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Best Country & Western Recording, Best Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song.

This is the most popular song to mention the state of Maine in the lyric (“destination Bangor, Maine”). A contender for #2 is the 2009 hit “Out Last Night” by Kenny Chesney, where he sings:

There were girls from Argentina and Arkansas
Maine, Alabama, and Panama

King Of The Road

Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let… fifty cent
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain’t got no cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of pushin’ broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road

Third boxcar, midnight train
Destination… Bangor, Maine
Old worn out clothes and shoes,
I don’t pay no union dues,
I smoke old stogies I have found
Short, but not too big around
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road

I know every engineer on every train
All of their children, and all of their names
And every handout in every town
And every lock that ain’t locked
When no one’s around

I sing,
Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let, fifty cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain’t got no cigarettes
Ah, but, two hours of pushin’ broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

36 thoughts on “Roger Miller – King of the Road”

  1. I’m guessing this is the reason a lot of people, myself included, have heard of Bangor, Maine. This has to be one of the catchiest songs ever written. It’s so easy to start singing along to, and creates an instant visual. I didn’t know about the King of the Road motels. That’s a cool offshoot, but I’m kind of sad that they were upscale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was the first I heard of Bangor Maine until I started to read a Stephen King book.
      I would pass that hotel when I stayed with my grrandmothers. I would have loved to seen the top where the artists played.
      I know…the upscale didn’t fit. At the time it was the top hotel in Nashville.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard of Kitchener, Ontario, LOL. Classic song, timeless. If I had been asked I would’ve guessed it dated back to long before ’65 – that surprises me.

    Like

  3. This was my favourite song on the radio in my youth (1965=15 years old). It was the only sheet music I ever bought that was not “classical”. My mother banned me from playing it because she didn’t like the words.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was/is a very catchy song. It was part of my youth in the seventies. My mom banned me from Kiss…who I didn’t like to begin with so I didn’t mind.
      If she only knew what kind of songs were coming down the pike.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a great song and I love “Rooms to let… fifty cent”, as one time I stayed in a flop house for a night and I got a bed and a doughnut and coffee in the morning for a quarter. Not a bad deal and I didn’t get any fleas.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think what makes this song so catchy is how he pauses during the lines. It really pulls you in. It’s funny but I remember visualizing King of the Road as he sang it, pushing his broom and looking for stogies. I was 6 or 7 at the time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well that visual would probably make Roger proud… I think of the Hotel…can’t help it…When I first heard the song I thought…wow they made a song about the Hotel.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so cool…you have met a lot of people in your business.

      A couple of weeks ago I went to that radio site you worked out….Honey I believe…that had to be incredibly sad on that last day.

      I will check out the one with Dean Martin!

      Like

      1. My heart is sunk…the Dodgers were winning 3-1…now in the 10th losing 7-3…baseball breaks your heart…it’s designed to do that. Football fans have it easy…16 games big deal…baseball 162 and it comes down to this.

        Like

      2. I was…they just lost. Movies and Music for me for a while! No I will watch some more of the playoffs.

        LOL… no more sporting events for me tonight. I do have an idea for the blog though…baseball.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sorry for you about that game! I can’t decide if I’m moe suprised by the way STL came out of the gates against Atlanta or the Dodgers blowing that lead. I read their explanation about why they played it like they did, can’t really fault them. Would be risky to let Buehler got beyond 120 pitches, Kershaw should be money in the bank for 3 outs, keeping Kelly out there that long was iffy but who else would they go to? Guess you called it a couple of months back saying their bullpen was questionable.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Kenta Maeda has been money and he was ready… that is what is irking everyone. Kelly doesn’t go more than one… and my question is… after the walk and double… it’s time to pull him… it reminded me of the Yu Darvish 5 run fiasco without pulling him… but who knows… anyone could have given the runs up.

        It was a harder loss than the WS in 2017… because this team was good enough… but that is baseball.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah, on paper it looked like they should have at least made the World Series. Now I think a Houston-Washington series. reminds me of Buffalo years ago… like you, I’m not a football fan, but I sure remember the Bills (the ‘local’ team in toronto) making the Super Bowl, 3 times I believe, and losing each. Fans sure weren’t too happy at being the always bridesmaid, never the bride.
        Do you think they should change managers? Wouldn’t be surprised to see that occur.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. They anticipated that question and the Dodgers announced he will be back next year. From reading what I do about them…it was considered. I’ve see die hard Dodger fans and normal Roberts defenders really rip him.

        No I don’t think it would be good right now.. As a baseball fan who invests reading the box score of 162 games…we have so much time invested….so I get the anger but I do hope he learns from it….on the other hand…who knows if the FO had something to do with the decisions.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Thing that came to mind to me was , well, they were criticized for not getting Vasquez from Pit. at trade deadline, but as it turns out that would have helped them like a hole in the head anyway. I bought a few baseball cards not long back – a frivolous whim but fun- and got the dude’s card & the writeup on back said he was known for crazy behavior & his nickname was ‘Nightmare’. LA dodged a bullet there…

        Liked by 1 person

      8. LOL…Nightmare is right. I bet Pittsburgh is kicking themselves for not trading him for one of the Dodgers or anyone’s prospects.

        They couldn’t have had a clue anything was happening or they would have traded him.

        Like

  6. A classic country song. “King Of The Road” has been covered again and again – including by Randy Travis, R.E.M. and the Proclaimers. There was already a reply song in 1965: Judy Miller – not related or married to Roger – sings in “Queen Of The House” about the not particularly romantic life of a housewife.

    Liked by 1 person

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