In the latest sneak peek of a track from King of the Road, the tremendously entertaining and star-packed tribute to songwriting legend Roger Miller, honky-tonk queen Loretta Lynn delivers a vintage performance of Miller’s “Half a Mind” that’s as much an homage to Miller’s lyrical genius as it is a tribute to the artist who first made it a hit 60 years ago.
Lynn’s delivery of “Half a Mind” – a hit for Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours in 1958 – complements the crying steel guitar of the song with a vocal that’s wrought with the despondent conflict conveyed in the hook line: “I’ve got half a mind to leave you but only half the heart to go.” (Click on the song title below to play the track.)
While there’s absolutely no disputing Miller’s songwriting prowess, the song’s origins have come into question via several ties to the Tubb family, including Miller’s friendship with Ernest’s nephew, Douglas Glenn Tubb, and Tubb’s son, Justin. According to the 1996 Ernest Tubb biography by country music scholar Ronnie Pugh, Douglas Glenn asserts that he and Miller met up at Mom’s (the downtown Nashville bar now known as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge), where Miller told him about the song’s hook and the two rode around in the backseat of a car for two or three hours writing the song together. In the same book, songwriter Bill Anderson and Tubb guitarist Billy Byrd both claim Ernest Tubb received an incomplete version of the song from Miller and that Tubb wrote the song’s third verse. Whatever the real story, the tune has one of Miller’s most distinctive trademarks, blending clever, humorous twists of phrase with heart-piercing melancholy.
Subsequently cut by Jean Shepard, Goldie Hill and Roy Drusky, “Half a Mind” was first recorded by Lynn in 1965 on her Songs From My Heart LP. A year later, soul singer Joe Tex also cut it.
King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller, also featuring Ringo Starr, Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley and many others, will be released August 31st.