James “Jim” Irving Miller, 66, of Bemidji died Saturday, July 6, 2013 at Sanford Fargo Medical Center.
A Memorial/Celebration Service will be held later this summer. Condolences may be left at ceasefuneralhome.com.
Jim was born to Roberta (Bertsie) Kerr Poore and Roman (Rums) Miller on May 24, 1947 in Brainerd MN. He attended Nisswa Elementary School and graduated from Brainerd High School in 1965.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Jim’s parents owned and operated the Deauville Landing and Resort on the north end of Gull Lake near Brainerd. The Resort was frequented by a variety of musicians and bands who inspired his own love of music and it was here that Jim first picked up a guitar and began the music career that lasted until he died.
Jim attended Brainerd Junior College in 1965 and was especially inspired by Professor Joe Plut. He continued to perform and write music in the Brainerd area and beyond including the Scholar Coffeehouse on the West Bank in Minneapolis. In 1968 he moved to Bemidji to attend Bemidji State College where he studied English and Philosophy. While at BSC he played solo gigs and in the Cold Mountain Blues band.
After attending Woodstock in 1969 he traveled west, hitchhiking with his great friend Lou Ferreri. From 1969-1973 he worked alongside Dennis (Hars) Haugan as surveyors for the Ira Hardin Land Survey company on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains close to Crested Butte, CO.
In 1973 he moved back to Bemidji and married Kristi Tell in October, 1974. Throughout their life in Bemidji Jim played in numerous bands, the most notable being Known Only Locally with his wife Kristi Tell Miller, sister-in-law Miriam Tell, and Gary Broste, as well as brief stints with Lou Ferreri on washtub bass and Bill Kaiser on banjo. Another group of note is the Blew Munday band which played regularly during the late 1980’s and 90’s at Mort’s Hard Times Saloon. Blew Munday included Gary Broste, Gary Vanyo and Don Vidal. Jim also continued his solo career throughout his entire life and wrote and recorded a number of projects and collaborated with Gary Burger at his studio in Turtle River.
Jim’s discography included the Known Only Locally albums “I Have To Wonder,” “Third and Long,” “Amos" and “Roadhouse to Coffeehouse”. Blew Munday recordings include “I Got Your Money,” “Smoking Monkey,” “Ride On,” “Halfway Man” and others.
In the late 1980’s Jim enjoyed participating musically in Bemidji‘s Mississippi River Revival and Mardi Gras celebrations. In the early 1990’s he co-wrote and performed the music for the Minnesota History Theater’s production of “Mesabi Red”, which toured the state. He also appeared in the Paul Bunyan Playhouse production of “ Pump Boys and Dinettes,” as well as composing and performing in the Bemidji historical production of “Bend in the River” by Catie Belleveau.
In Jim's last years, he worked with Norwood Hall and Janet Rith-Najarian on a documentary film series about explorers in the Mississippi River Headwaters. He took up the gourd banjo and composed historical ballads for the project, appears as an actor alongside son Amos in reenactment scenes, and served on the film crew throughout the whole production. Along with Norwood, Jim had also just finished recording a series of instrumental pieces for the film's soundtrack, featuring his work on banjo, guitar and harmonica mixed with percussion and natural soundscapes inspired by their work on the river.
He often performed at Brigid’s Pub in Bemidji after wife Kristi became owner. He performed at other venues around town, including the Farmer’s Market, sometimes with wife Kristi sometimes solo and sometimes with his musical protégés including Sonny Johnson and Gwenfrewi Burger. Performing with Sonny was especially meaningful, as it was Sonny’s mother, Rochelle Johnson, who had donated the kidney which prolonged his life through transplant surgery in 2010.
Jim is survived by his wife Kristi and their son Amos, sisters- and brothers-in- law, Miriam Tell and John Tjaden and Larry & LaVon Tell; nephews Will Tjaden & Eric Tell; nieces Gretchen Clark, Cyri Tjaden and Katy Tell Koch; and three grand nephews and family pet Cassie. He was preceded in death by his father, mother and brother Tommy.