The Humble Harve Story

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(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.)

(As of 6/4/2019, this post has been updated. Please click here for the update.)

(Late addition: Miller’s Los Angeles Times obituary is here.)

(Note: If you have come here via Google looking for info about Humble Harve, welcome and thank you for visiting. When you’re done, read this one, which expands upon and corrects some of what you will read here.)

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.

(Will say again: if you have Googled your way here in search of information about Humble Harve, please read this post also to fill in some additional information.)

19 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 […]

  6. A Few Years Ago he was with a radio station in Santa Clarita

  7. As s fan of Humble Harve I’m hoping he’s still doing well.

  8. Hello all…
    It was my fortune a number of years ago when Harvey was DJ Ing here in Philadelphia. I was the photographer for the studio and enjoy your visits at the studio with Harvey and his friendship. Haven’t heard from him for quite a while so I do wanna leave my email just in case you are in touch with him or he may read this. Humble Harv forever here in Philly…

  9. Back in the late 50’s and 60’s I use to record the radio with my reel to reel tape recorder and play it at night after most stations signed off. I was going through some old boxes in the basement and found my old recorder. I turned it on and here was a recording of Harve Miller on WIBG, Philadelphia in 1961. I uploaded the 45 minute treasure which features old commercials, news and the number one record “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans”. Please share it if you miss and love old time AM radio. I put it on every once in a while just to escape to a time when life was simple and the music was fun. Check it out!

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    1. Donald Rehrer Jr

      Way Down Yonder In New Orleans was #1 on WIBG in January 1960, not 1961, unless he was playing it as a golden, then it could be 1961. The date of the aircheck is between Jan. 11-23, as it dropped out of #1 on the 1-25-60 survey.

  10. I was a college student at UCLA when Humble Harve was a “Boss Jock” in LA. I remember he had a very distinct accent. I thought he was a foreigner. I particularly remember his pronunciation of Eric Burdon and The Animals – Areek Boyden and Thee Aa-nee-Malls. I also remember that it was pointed out that Humble Harve and Phil Spector were friends, and they both disposed of women in the same way. Phil’s still in jail.

  11. The accounts here of Harv shooting his wife (as well as her beau) are essentially correct. She did taunt him, he did pre-record his show one night at KHJ and went to his home where he found them in bed. The maid discovered the bodies the next morning.

    Harv then wandered the streets of LA in a daze and did stop by Spector’s house. He was not on the run for two weeks however; upon the advice of his attorney, he gave himself up within 24 hours. Though convicted, it was ruled a crime of passion. After serving his sentence, he was deemed to be of little threat to the general public. Coupled with exemplary behavior when in the pen, he was set free after his sentence was reduced.

    Years later, I worked with him at the Westwood One Radio Network. My preconceived notion of him being a convicted cold blooded killer was changed 180 degrees. Here was a man truly remorseful for what he had done. While in prison, he found God and has lived his life spreading the Good News ever since. As of this writing, Harv is alive and retired in Southern California.

  12. He eventually wandered up to Seattle’s KVI in the mid-80’s. I was a part-time jock and he was nothing but polite, but did expect me to get him coffee, even though I was an on-air person. I thought he was a gentle person overall, great on the air, but probably not right for the Seattle market.

  13. He was our DJ at our wedding reception held in Marina del Rey back in 1996. Total professional and a very nice individual.

  14. Harve is now under hospice care and is near the end. Such a voice! And despite the incident that has sadly come to define him, a gentle man by many accounts.

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