Miller was born on March 1, 1904, on a farm in Clarinda, Iowa, to Lewis Elmer Miller and Mattie Lou (née Cavender). He went to grade school in North Platte in western Nebraska. In 1915, Miller’s family moved to Grant City, Missouri.
Around this time, Miller had finally made enough money from milking cows to buy his first trombone and played in the town orchestra. In 1918, the Miller family moved again, this time to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where Miller went to high school.
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