John was born in Salisbury in January 1951 and was blinded in a shotgun accident as a 10 year old. This traumatic event drastically changed his life and he went on to attend King George VI primary school in Bulawayo for 3 years before continuing his secondary education at the School for the Blind in Worcester, South Africa. He matriculated in 1969.
John’s interest in music took hold shortly after he lost his sight. His first experience of a live gig came in 1961 when his grandmother, who was far
more “cool” and adventurous than his disapproving mother!, accepted an
invitation from Mickie Most to attend a couple of sessions in Salisbury.
Like so many aspiring musicians of the era, John fell under the spell of the
Shadows and later, thanks to the kindness of the Cyclones’ lead vocalist Dyllis
Stevenson, he met Cliff Richard and the Shadows, as well as Carole Gray, the
Bulawayo actress who starred opposite Cliff in the Young Ones.
A couple of the Dyllis and Cyclone tracks are to be found on youtube.
Hard times ahead – Dyllis Stevenson & The Cyclones
That’s what I thought – Dyllis Stevenson & The Cyclones
Ghost Riders in the Sky by The Cyclones
John’s path of introductions to the rich and famous (probably more famous
than rich, truth be known!) continued when he met Jeremy Taylor of “Ag
Pleez Daddy” fame. Jeremy had occasion to visit the Miller home and sat for
a while with John who was learning his way about the guitar. John was
inspired by Jeremy’s enthusiastic support and encouragement, spurring him
on to persevere with his guitar playing ambitions.
After working as a personnel consultant in Salisbury for a couple of years,
John returned to South Africa. Relocating to Pietermaritzburg in Natal via
Johannesburg he joined a band formed by old school mates in 1974. John
made his debut with As You Like It on rhythm guitar. The leader of the band
was a Northern Rhodesian, Ian Farrington.
About a year later John formed his own semi-professional outfit and called it
Choice. This quartet played nurmeous gigs throughout Natal for the next 4
years, a highlight of which was playing at a Rhodie bash at the Durban City
Hall and backing Graham Boyle, formerly lead singer of the Gentle People.
Choice also made appearances at Bretts and Club Tomorrow in
John then left the music scene and, in 1980, was offered a job as a journalist
on the Johannesburg based Rand Daily Mail. Whilst working as a court
reporter he managed to ease himself back into the music scene. With the
assistance of the editor of Express Beat, Suzanne Brenner, he began freelance
entertainment writing for the Express, as well as the Mail on occasion. The
Express Beat was part of the Sunday Express newspaper.
In his role of music journalist, John was able to attend many concerts and
shows with his press pass and he fully exploited these opportunities. During
this period he interviewed virtually all South Africa’s leading artists,
entertainers, record producers and executives, including Clout, Ballyhoo,
Juluka, Patric van Blerk, Hilton Rosenthal and the late Emil Zoghby. He was a
frequent visitor to local recording studios although, for most of the time, he
was supposed to be writing up the details of some gory court case or another.
One of his biggest scoops was breaking the news that Queen would be
playing at Sun City, as well as being the first to report the break up
of Juluka. The latter article appeared on the front page of the last ever edition of the
Rand Daily Mail newspaper published on 30 April, 1985.
Shortly before the closure of the newspaper, John also financed and
produced a concept rugby album with English lyrics on one side and Afrikaans
on the other. For those interested, there are 3 tracks from the album on youtube.
There Once Was A Sailor & Sing Us Another One
Nou Nou Nou – Rugby Sing-A-Long
Schoeman Was his Name – Rugby Sing-A-Long
In the early 80’s he teamed up with Suzanne Brenner and they wrote and
published the first South African Country & Western booklet called
“Surprisingly Enough” (SA Country Music). John attributes most of his
success as an entertainment writer to Suzanne Brenner.
In 1984 John was offered the position as Southern African correspondent
with Billboard Magazine. Again, Suzanne’s hand had played a role in this offer
being made. He took up the post and filled it for 7 years until a shift in
editorial policy unsettled him and decided to leave the position. It was at this stage that John decided to leave South Africa and he settled in England in 1997. During the interceding years he worked as a consumer journalist on the Star newspaper.
John continues to have deep links with the continent of his birth and has
visited South Africa, the last occasion being shortly before the death of his
close friend and renowned musician, Kevin Mason, formerly of Gentle
People, Gate, and Lincoln with these 3 groups comprising many
Rhodesians both Northern and Southern.
Since moving to the UK John has become a prolific writer of books,
all of which appear on Amazon under John C T Miller. His latest books
focus on travel and conservation both of which he is passionate about.
Check out his latest book (Vulture Restaurants Canned Lions and
He says unfortunately there is a similarity between the many
endangered species in South Africa and old Rhodesians, both of which
are slowly dying out with only pictures and sounds left to remind
those left behind how magnificent they were.
John has recently considered getting a band together again so, if there are
any ex-Rhodies in Wales near Cardiff who are interested in country and
western, let your webmaster know about it so that you may be connected to