John Miller Returns to the Stage

The Travelers at LuckettsJohn Miller is back in action after a four-month absence to battle tongue cancer.

Miller’s emotional return to the stage came Saturday night when The Travelers played at the Lucketts, Va., community center. If Miller hadn’t talked about his illness from stage, few in the crowd might have known about the long layoff. His voice was strong, his picking was as layered as ever and the band’s harmonies, a hallmark of their performances, were tight.

“I’m thinking a lot about tonight,” Miller told me just before the show. “This matters a lot. You got to prove to yourself that you can still do this.”

Well, yes, he can still do it. That much was clear as the band warmed up before two 45-minute sets. The Travelers had some rust to shake off after the long layoff, but Miller was strong from the start.

“I need to remember the chords. It’s like being in a new band,” bass player Mike Conner said as Miller sang “I Long to See His Face” backstage.

But it wasn’t just rust. Conner said later that he got a little emotional singing and picking with his best friend again. I know the feeling. I got misty-eyed myself as Miller launched into that Rick Lang song, especially as he sang the lines, “And in the hour of my deepest darkness, the Lord shines down His light and I can see.”

It was a full-circle moment. It’s the same song Miller sang the first time I heard him on stage, at IBMA in 2010. That performance came as he was getting back to performing after his first bout with tongue cancer.

In the intervening three years, we’ve become friends and co-writers. It’s great to have him back.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.