By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming attracts people from all walks of life who choose to leave behind fascinating careers to settle in a place where wide open spaces meet spectacular mountain ranges.
Cody resident Dan Miller left the bright lights of Hollywood and the big stars of Nashville for a quieter life out west, a choice driven by his desire to raise his two girls in a more peaceful environment.
“I had played music in Wyoming and Montana in the 1970s,” Miller said, “and besides it being a cultural pull on my spirit, I thought it would be a great place to raise our daughters.”
Miller was a regular fixture on The Nashville Network in the 1980s and 1990s. As co-host of the hit talent show “You Can Be A Star,” Miller was the Ed McMahon to Jim Ed Brown’s Johnny Carson.
“Perfect Job in Television”
Later came the opportunity to co-host the show “American Magazine,” and eventually the chance to host his own two game shows – “10 Seconds” and “Top Card,” for which Miller won a Cable Ace Award in 1990.
“If there’s a perfect job in television, it’s hosting a game show,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “We would tape seven shows a day for two and a half weeks, and then I would have the next two months off. It was the perfect lifestyle, I had sponsors for my clothing (Botany 500 suits, Justin Boots), and it was very financially rewarding.”
But his journey to that pinnacle of success began years earlier. From a young age, Miller had dreams of stardom. Growing up in rural Indiana, he took off for the bright lights of Hollywood shortly after a college football career at Hanover in southern Indiana.
“When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know a single person in the City of Angels, which at that time had a population of about 11 million,” he said.
He soon signed with an agent as a music act and he and his band were booked in Montana for the first time in 1977.
“From the moment I arrived in the Big Sky Country, it was love at first sight,” Miller said.
Returning to California in the early 1980s, Miller studied acting and went to the Los Angeles School of Broadcasting. He took a job at a local radio station monitoring traffic jams from the rooftops of Los Angeles and sold shoes at Bullock’s Wiltshire to the likes of Doris Day and Victoria Principal.
“Doris Day actually became a good buddy who sent me cards of encouragement over the years,” Miller said. “That relationship made my whole show biz journey worthwhile to my dad, who was an absolute Doris Day fan.”
Miller was offered modeling jobs, bit parts in commercials, and did radio voiceovers. But he was still looking for that big break when he had an epiphany.
The Nashville Network
“I turned on the television and The Nashville Network was on,” he said, “and it literally hit me like a lightning bolt – that’s where I needed to be. I knew I had something to contribute to that network.”
Miller picked up and moved to Tennessee, taking a job at a radio station in Franklin (just south of Nashville) and signing with a talent and modeling agency in the Music City.
“It was the perfect storm,” Miller said. “I was in the right city at the right time, and not only did I get a lot of auditions, I got more than my share of work in national commercials, industrial films and voice overs.”
His big break finally came when he heard about auditions being held at The Nashville Network for a game show host.
“I literally auditioned against a ‘Who’s Who’ of established country music stars for that job,” Miller said. “The good news is, I got the job. The bad news was, they canceled the show two weeks later, before we even got started.”
But that wasn’t the end.
Hosting TV Shows
“This is one of those show biz stories, when I tell people to never give up,” Miller said. “I left the studios of The Nashville Network, literally broken-hearted, thinking I had missed my chance.
“When I walked into my apartment in Franklin, the phone rang, and it was the head of programming for TNN asking if I would be interested in taking over the co-hosting position with Jim Ed Brown on ‘You Can Be A Star,’” he continued. “Within 24 hours, I went from being unemployed to co-hosting an established national television show. Never give up!”
Miller spent the next five years hosting various television shows, all while living in the Nashville area. During this time, he was offered an opportunity that took his career in a new direction.
“During a hiatus in filming my game show, I received a call from The Nashville Network asking if I would be interested in co-hosting a rodeo series with 8-time world champion bull rider Donnie Gay,” Miller said. “And that’s the kind of luck that is involved in the world of show business. That one phone call has led to a 35-year relationship with the world of rodeo.”
Shortly after the birth of his daughter Sarah, Miller realized that his hosting schedule might just allow him the freedom to live in the part of the country that had captured his imagination while playing music back in the 1970s.
“I had just built a new home on a hilltop south of Nashville and decided to take a trip to Montana to visit my buddy Jack Hanna (from the Columbus Zoo and late night television fame),” Miller said. “He had just built a cabin outside of Red Lodge and invited me out for some fishing and a pack trip. I went and had a great time, and when I got back to Nashville I explained to my wife, ‘Well, I love this new house, but we’re moving west.’”
Moving to Cody
Miller and his young family moved first to Park City, Utah, while he maintained his television hosting schedule, then to Columbus and Red Lodge, Montana, before settling down in Cody in 2001.
“Cody was the perfect choice for us,” Miller said. “Excellent schools for our daughters, snow skiing and hiking close by, and the opportunity to live in the best state in the country for horseback riding.”
Miller continued to host “Mesquite Rodeo” on television with Donnie Gay, and added a hosting job with the Outdoor Channel’s hunting show, “Best of the West,” which was based in Cody.
But soon he turned his attention away from television and toward his first love – music.
Cowboy Music Revue
In 2005, Miller debuted his “Cowboy Music Revue,” which is getting ready to launch its 18th season in downtown Cody, entertaining audiences from around the world. Six days a week in the summers, Miller plays guitar and sings songs from years gone by with his younger daughter, Hannah, on the fiddle and mandolin, along with bass player and vocalist Wendy Corr.
Together, the three have played more than 2,000 shows in Cody, as well as traveled from coast to coast bringing Wyoming to the rest of the country.
“What an absolute blessing this music show has been, and continues to be,” Miller said. “What a privilege to share our great state with the rest of the world.”
Miller said his career paved the way to his life in Wyoming and has been a blessing to his entire family.
“Both of my girls are beautiful, smart and successful, and their mother, Brenda, deserves all the credit for that,” Miller said. “They both graduated from Cody High School and the University of Wyoming, and are proud to call Wyoming home.”
Miller said that while his television career paid the price when he made the choice to move to Wyoming, the tradeoff has been well worth it.
“The views, the weather, but most importantly, it was the people that brought me here,” he said. “I love to ski, I love to ride horses and be in the outdoors, but the genuine kindness and honesty of the people is what attracted me, and honestly, still keeps me here. Wyoming is home.”