A couple of posts I wrote a few years back about Humble Harve Miller, the Los Angeles disc jockey most famous (sadly enough) for murdering his wife in 1971 are among the most popular posts in the history of this website. Harve passed away this week at the age of 85. For the outlines of his career, I encourage you to read the obituary at that link. What follows is a reboot of the material I wrote way back when, consolidating and correcting as needed.
(Late addition: Miller’s Los Angeles Times obituary is here.)
Humble Harve Miller was one of the Boss Radio jocks at KHJ in Los Angeles 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, who had been taunting him about her infidelities. I have heard a couple of stories about how it went down. One says she pulled a gun on him, he tried to take it from her, and she was hit. According to this story, Harve panicked and ran to Mexico. After nearly two weeks, and following negotiations with authorities through an attorney, he surrendered voluntarily. (There is a story that he holed up in Phil Spector’s mansion. I don’t believe this is true, although Spector was a friend, and he testified to Harve’s character at sentencing.)
Harve pleaded guilty (although he later fired his lawyer and attempted to change the plea), got five-to-life for second-degree murder, and went to prison in August 1971. 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,” which I believe is a reference to how long he actually served. If that’s the case, he would have been out in October 1972, almost certainly benefiting from credits for good behavior. According to an acquaintance of Harve’s with whom I exchanged some e-mail, prison changed him a great deal. 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.
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 new owners in 1975, he was installed on an evening shift, the same daypart he worked on KHJ in the 60s. He produced and hosted The National Album Countdown for a few years beginning in 1976. He worked for practically every station in Los Angeles over the years, and also in Philadelphia and Seattle, in addition to doing some satellite radio in the early years of the new millennium.
And this week Humble Harve Miller’s story ended.
If we’re lucky, you and I are not going to find our whole lives characterized by the single worst moments we ever had. Humble Harve Miller was not so fortunate. It seems clear, however, that he was far more than just the DJ who murdered his wife. Harve had lots of friends in the radio industry. They did not abandon him when he went to jail, or afterward.