Eddie "Piano" Miller

Biography by Eugene Chadbourne

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Among the many existing performers named Eddie Miller, only a few chose to fancy credit details up with a nickname. In this small realm of the nicknamed, some chose something simple, announcing clearly…
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Artist Biography by Eugene Chadbourne

Among the many existing performers named Eddie Miller, only a few chose to fancy credit details up with a nickname. In this small realm of the nicknamed, some chose something simple, announcing clearly what sort of instrument they would be playing. Eddie "Piano" Miller is an example of this type of crediting in practice, another is an R&B vocalist from New Orleans, Eddie "Sing" Miller. The former is not the only Eddie Miller to come sliding along on a piano stool: others that show up on recording credits include a classic blues pianist from the '20s and '30s, and a session man out in Los Angeles who chose a different sort of rhyming, bragging, maybe even threatening nickname, Eddie "Killer" Miller.

Songwriting and publishing credits involved with the name Eddie Miller are even more of a potential mess, but the subject does require the immediate pulling back of the wizard's curtain to reveal the man hiding behind it. Eddie "Piano" Miller was simply a stage name used by a performer whose real name, also used frequently in credits, was Eddie Lisbona or Edward Lisbona. The Lisbona name was the one used for the man's songwriting catalog, which in nearly 30 years in the music business, grew quite extensive. As Lisbona he collaborated with a series of different writing partners from the '30s through the '50s, overt sentimentality being an almost consistent trademark whether the accomplice was Tommie Connor in the '30s or Joe Lubin in the '50s.

Credits for songwriters named Eddie Miller inevitably have nothing to do with Lisbona's composing efforts. As for who they do have something to do with, it is an extensive subject spanning the history of the recording industry, including some of the most popular recorded efforts in blues, rock & roll, country & western, classical chorale and gangsta rap. Lisbona's use of the Miller name avoids all of this -- he seems to have been Eddie "Piano" Miller only on certain piano playing occasions, including gigs where he fronted an orchestra. There are recordings featuring Eddie "Piano" Miller's Orchestra such as the British version of "Daddy's Little Girl" with singer Dick Todd. In this case, it is a good thing the nickname is in there, helping to avoid confusion with the orchestra fronted by the famed reed player Eddie Miller.

Lisbona made heaviest use of the name in the second half of the '50s as the hi-fi and lounge music fad swept the hippest bachelor apartments. Retro worshipers of these eras sometimes forget that there were styles of music not involving bongos that actually were considered commercial, such as ragtime and honky tonk piano. Producer and record company owner Joe Davis hired this artist as both Eddie Lisbona for a 1954 session featuring drummer Cozy Cole and as Eddie "Piano" Miller on a set of eight tracks pitched at the honky tonk piano market a few years later. Davis surely got his money's worth, issuing and reissuing the material on several different labels and really hitting pay dirt with an innovative new budget line. Most of the customers who exchanged a dollar for a copy of Mr. Honky Tonk knew absolutely nothing about the man calling himself Eddie "Piano" Miller, not even that he pronounced the words "honky tonk" differently since he was British.

His career began in the early '30s in London. At that time, he recorded regularly in a band led by Jerry Hoey and was firmly under the sway of jazz innovations from the United States. A 1926 performance by Paul Whiteman would have been said to have blown his mind had this expression been in usage during Whiteman's reign. Yet another important influence was the dance band maestro Ambrose, with whom Lisbona worked as a pianist under the name of Miller. In this capacity, he accompanied some of the finest singers of the second World War era, Vera Lynn and Anne Shelton.