"Dogs'll look up to you," Roger Miller told the sold-out crowd at the Birchmere Saturday night, "and cats'll look down on you, but pigs will treat you like an equal." That was his introduction to "(How 'Bout a) Hand for the Hog," which he wrote for the Broadway hit musical "Big River." It was typical of the corny jokes he told before every song. This was corniness with a difference, however, for Miller told the jokes with such an irrepressible relish, such an inspired twist, that they won the most jaded listener to his refreshingly original view of the universe.
The same was even truer of his songs, which have survived the passage of time to stand as some of the best Nashville songwriting of the 1960s. The 55-year-old Miller has lost a good deal of his vocal range and tone, but he remains a thoroughly engaging entertainer. Performing alone, Miller sat atop a bar stool with an Ovation guitar in his lap and sang the hits he wrote for others ("I'm a Fool for You" for George Jones; "Billy Bayou" for Jim Reeves); the crossover hits he wrote for himself ("King of the Road," "Dang Me" and "Chug-a-Lug"); and the songs he wrote for the Disney film "Robin Hood."