TOY MEMORIES

Recording wizardry pairs singer Dean Miller with his late legendary father, Roger

It's usually not a good idea to make your mama cry. But Dean Miller, son of legendary star Roger Miller, recently did just that.

"I played her the recording of the 'duet' I did with my dad," reveals Dean, 37. "She flipped out!"

It's been a decade since Roger died, but through the wonders of studio technology, Dean was able to add his vocals to his father's 1967 recording of "Old Toy Trains" - a song Roger wrote when Dean was just two. The result is an emotional holiday duet that brings together father and son.

"When I was born, he wrote this song for me - and about me - at Christmastime," explains Dean. "He was inspired by watching me crawl around with my toys. It's always had a special meaning to me all my life and at Christmas. When I hear it I kind of feel like my dad's saying hi to me - it's a gift I get from him every year."

Dean, who has penned tunes for everyone from George Jones to Terri Clark and Trace Adkins, wasn't always eager to be so closely identified with his well-known dad.

"He raised me and was always there," says Dean of his father, who left behind a string of hits in the '60s and '70s, including the smashes "King Of The Road" and "Dang Me."

"But when I began my own career, I wanted to sing my own songs that create my identity as an artist. It took a long time to get the courage to step up behind my dad. I was intimidated by his success. But he left such a wonderful legacy that somewhere along the way, I came to the point where I wanted to embrace it."

"Old Toy Trains" - with its tight father-son connection and holiday theme - was the perfect song for Dean to honor his dad's legacy. "I knew that recording with his voice was going to be emotional, but I didn't know how emotional," confides Dean. "It gave me chills."

The song that tugged Dean's heartstrings - and made his mama cry - will be heard on the radio throughout the Christmas season. Dean will also perform "Old Toy Trains" on the Grand Ole Opry on Dec. 21.

-- M.B. Roberts

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