The Humble Harve Story

(Pictured: Los Angeles DJ Humble Harve Miller, at right with the beard, photographed in 1968, backstage with a member of Iron Butterfly and an unidentified woman. I don’t know if that’s his wife.)

If you google the phrase “national album countdown,” the second hit out of 625,000 is a link to this low-rent blog of mine, which should give you some idea of how little information there is on the Interwebs about the National Album Countdown. Each week, veteran Los Angeles DJ Humble Harve Miller counted down the top 30 albums as compiled by Record World, the little sister of Billboard and Cash Box. A 1977 ad in Billboard celebrating the show’s first anniversary says it’s on 85 stations around the country, although a 1980 Billboard article about syndicator Westwood One says only that it airs on the Armed Forces Network. Scattered mentions of the show from around the web indicate that it lasted until 1985. During 1976, I was a dedicated listener to the show, and I frequently kept track of the top 30 as Harve counted them down.

Humble Harve Miller was one of the Boss Radio jocks at KHJ starting in 1967, but his tenure there ended in 1971, when he was 36 years old. On May 7 of that year, he shot and killed his wife. The story goes that she had been unfaithful to him, and she taunted him by saying that if he didn’t like it, he should get a gun and shoot her. Which he did. After two weeks in hiding (at Phil Spector’s mansion, according to one account), he was caught. Miller pleaded guilty, got five-to-life for second-degree murder, and went to prison in August. In December, Billboard reported that Miller was going to program a new radio station set up at the Chino Institute for Men, where he was incarcerated. Radio stations and record labels would donate equipment and records. (Miller was supposedly furloughed from prison to make a trip to San Diego, driving his own car, to pick up donated records from radio station KGB.) The Columbia School of Broadcasting of Los Angeles planned to offer classes for inmates, although Billboard snarked that “Harve doesn’t need any lessons, of course.” In January 1972, a one-line item in Billboard reported, “Chino Men’s Prison has been hearing some good rock since disk jockey Humble Harve began serving his term.”

It’s unclear to me just how long Miller was in prison. One blogger mentions that he “received a 14-month sentence.” If that’s how long he served, he would have been out in October 1972. A May 1974 edition of Billboard noted Miller’s return to the Los Angeles airwaves on KKDJ. In July 1974, he sat in for Casey Kasem on American Top 40. When KKDJ was purchased by the owners of KIIS in 1975, he was installed on an evening shift, the same daypart he worked on KHJ in the 60s. His voice was featured in the 1975 movie Aloha Bobby and Rose, as the title characters listen to their car radio. And in 1976, he became the host of the National Album Countdown.

What happened to Harve in recent years I have not been able to determine. He was doing satellite radio in the early 00s, and he’d be past 80 years old now. Reading between the lines of the news reports and retracing the arc of his career, it’s pretty clear that he had lots of friends in the radio industry. They did not abandon him when he went to jail, or afterward. All these years later, in a less-forgiving media era, I wonder if a similarly prominent person convicted of such a crime would ever get his local gig back, let along gigs of national prominence.

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9 responses

  1. It certainly doesn’t seem like the legal system unduly troubled Harve for shooting somebody else dead, does it?

    I find it slightly interesting that he used the same name when he returned to the airwaves.
    In a business where people are free to change their professional names, he could have moved to Buffalo and become “Awesome Andy in the Afternoon” and no one would have known who he was.
    But, you have to be willing to move from LA to Buffalo (e.g., give up your chance at national exposure) to do that.
    And, I guess, if no one in the community was particularly bothered by who he was or what he had done, he didn’t need to change his identity … he could just step back into the booth and resume the jive where he’d left off.

    A curious story, and indeed one that almost certainly would not play out the same way today.

  2. It’s probably apocryphal, but a story widely circulated on the broadcast grapevine in ’71 was that Harve suspected his wife was doin’ the deed with her side dude at their home, while he was on the air, and that when he was finally convinced that was what was going on, he enlisted the help of his unindicted coconspirators (i.e., his friends at KHJ) to voice-track his show on that fateful May day, which would lead his wife to believe he was at work – while he hung out and waited for her paramour to make his appearance at their home, where he surprised them in his marriage bed and shot her dead.

    It may not be true, but it’s a great story.

    1. I heard that story just this week from a former acquaintance of Harve’s. I’ll be posting a followup on Friday.

      1. Now I’m imagining real-life Harve fleeing the crime scene in a frenzy and turning his car radio on … only to hear voice-tracked on-the-air Harve, serene, upbeat and in control, talking up the latest Bread single.

        Some radio person with a literary bent has probably already written a mystery in which the DJ protagonist says, “Whodunnit? Not me! I was on the air, being heard by millions.”

  3. […] Baxter from KROQ in Los Angeles put me in touch with an old acquaintance of Humble Harve Miller, the guy I wrote about here on Monday. According to this person, the story commenter Tim mentioned on Monday is essentially accurate: […]

  4. […] 1960s I was enthralled by Top 40 jocks like The Real Don Steele and then “underground” DJs like Humble Harve Miller, B. Mitchell Reed and Jimmy Rabbit (from the David Allan Coe classic, “Long Haired Redneck”). […]

  5. […] couple of posts about former Los Angeles radio jock Humble Harve Miller (here and here) continue to get lots of hits from people searching for information about the scandalous […]

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