More About Harve

(Pictured: B. B. King plays at the Chino Institute for Men, a California prison, in 1972. Given that incarcerated Los Angeles DJ Humble Harve Miller was running the prison radio station at the time, it’s likely that he was involved with the show somehow.)

Earlier this week, friend of the blog Bean 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: that after Harve’s wife taunted him about her infidelities while he was on the air at night, he recorded a show, went home, found her in bed with a guy, and shot them both. (However: newspaper stories I found about the incident don’t say it was a double murder, or even a double shooting. They mention only Mrs. Miller.) Harve didn’t hide out in Phil Spector’s mansion, nor was he on the run for two weeks. He turned himself in after about 24 hours. Prison changed him a great deal, his acquaintance says; he apparently got religion and came out a far different man than when he went in. The parole board considered what he’d done a crime of passion that did not make him a danger to the general public, and given that prison seemed to have rehabilitated him, he was set free.

Regarding the National Album Countdown: Harve pitched Casey Kasem’s company, Watermark, about syndicating a countdown of each week’s top albums. When Watermark declined, Harve decided to do it himself. He researched, wrote, and produced it and even sold it to individual stations before making a distribution deal with Westwood One. When the show finally ended in the 80s, it was due in part to the proliferation of countdown shows on the air by then. In more recent times, Harve did satellite radio and a syndicated doo-wop show that aired on a few stations, although it was mostly a hobby. As I mentioned on Monday, Harve is past 80 now, a time when even old radio guys sometimes want to hang up their headphones.

Our friend kblumenau noted that Harve could have changed his name, moved to Buffalo or some other city, and continued his radio career there, rather than going back to Los Angeles under the same name that had been tagged with so much notoriety just a few years before. I am not sure it would have been easier for Harve to do that, though. As I wrote on Monday, he had plenty of friends in California, people who knew him well and who believed in his rehabilitation, as his old acquaintance says above. The radio world is a very small one (although I suppose there’s no profession that doesn’t say the same thing about itself), and that clearly helped him restart his career and life. To a program director in Buffalo, Birmingham, or Boston, the fact that he murdered his wife would have loomed far larger than it did to people who knew him well before and after.

I’d be interested to know whether KKDJ, the station to which Humble Harve returned in 1974, got any pushback from its audience for hiring him. If it did, the pushback didn’t have an effect, nor did it matter to Casey Kasem, or KIIS, or Westwood One. Today, given the power of social media, pushback would be easier to organize and more likely to snowball; back in the day it would have required many, many phone calls and letters.

I am probably failing to remember one that’s big and obvious, but I can’t recall another case in which a radio guy left a job under a cloud of highly publicized scandal only to return. I have an inkling that there was a prominent guy in the Quad Cities who got into some kind of trouble in the 80s, spouse abuse or something, only to get back on the air there at some point in the 90s, but I can’t say for sure.

Maybe the old radio guys amongst the readership know stories they can tell.

Many thanks to Humble Harve’s old acquaintance for the additional information, and to Bean for the connection.

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3 responses

  1. This was a fascinating read. Thanks for sharing.

    As for radio guys who left due to scandal and then returned, Don Imus comes to mind, but that’s all I got.

  2. Thanks, Jim. There was so much talk about this incident among radio folks at the time that I figured there must be something to the story. Thanks for tracking it down. (See what I did there….”tracking”……)

  3. JB: Harve’s acquaintance got the story all kinds of wrong. Here’s what happened, all of it verifiable by public records and the L.A. Times coverage of the trial:

    First, Harve didn’t record his shift and it was NOT a double shooting. He was live from 6-9 PM the night of Thursday, May 6. He went home after. Mary, who’d been messing around with a LOT of guys and taunting Harve (that part is true), came home before dawn and she and Harve argued. Some time before, Harve had bought Mary a .38 handgun for protection. She pulled it on him. He tried to take it away, she was hit. He panicked and ran. Neighbors heard the shot and Harve’s car speeding away around 6 AM, but didn’t bother calling the cops. The housekeeper found Mary’s body when she showed up a little after 8 AM.

    The guy you talked to is right that Harve didn’t go to Phil Spector’s (Phil was a friend and testified on Harve’s behalf at sentencing). He drove to LAX, where his car was found two days later, and flew to Mexico. He was in contact with people he trusted, who helped him get a lawyer and convinced him to come home, but it wasn’t 24 hours….it was 13 days. Harve surrendered to the L.A. County District Attorney’s office on May 20th.

    Harve pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on August 2nd, then fired his lawyer, hired a new one and tried to withdraw his plea on August 16th. The judge said no, and on August 19th sentenced Harve to five years to life. California’s prison system was so liberal with good behavior credits in those days that there were people being convicted of first-degree murder who were paroled in seven years, so 14 months for second-degree wasn’t all that out of whack for the times.

    If 14 months is accurate, he’d have been paroled in November of ’72, so either it took him a while to get the KKDJ gig (his audition tape for KKDJ, a fake KHJ show, exists and gets traded by tape freaks) or it was more than 14 months. Harve got the KKDJ gig in April of 1974. And I don’t remember any negative fallout. It’s entirely possible KKDJ’s audience of teens didn’t even know about the killing. And Harve went on to work at KUTE, KRLA, KRTH and KZLA over the next 20 years.

    The State of California said he’d paid his debt to society. It and his friends believed him when he said it was an accident. And the guys who hired him probably wondered if, under the same circumstances, they wouldn’t have just straight-up shot her. But Harve said he loved her.

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