Miller’s concert chat seems to have been the reason for the confusion. He would often toss out a line about where he wrote the song, or where he first saw the sign that became the first line, “Trailers for sale or rent.” He mentioned seeing it in Chicago; Kitchener, Ontario, and Indiana. He bought a little statue of a hobo someplace that is said to have inspired him. One of those places where he claimed to have purchased the little hobo was the Boise airport.
Miller often said from the stage that the song was written in Boise, Idaho. I like that version because I heard it first from a man who claimed to have been there when it was written.
Bob Weisenberger was the manager of KGEM radio in Boise, where I worked for about six years. At was the leading country music station in the valley for many years. Weisenberger told of sitting in a hotel room listening to Roger Miller jam with Boxcar Willie following Miller’s performance at the Snake River Stampede in Nampa. Boxcar Willie became a concert draw himself over the following couple of decades, especially in Europe, and he even had a minor hit with a cover of “King of the Road.” He became a Grand Ole Opry member and was one of the first country artists to open a theater in Branson, Missouri. At the time this took place, probably 1964, Boxcar Willie was a disc jockey at KGEM, using the name Marty Martin.
Many reports about the genesis of “King of the Road” say it was written at the Idanha. It’s such an iconic Boise hotel that those reports just seem right. Maybe not. Miller himself reminded the crowd gathered for a press conference in 1972 to promote another appearance at the Snake River Stampede that he had written the song while staying at the Hotel Boise, which is now the Hoff Building. Weisenberger also recalled that it was at the Hotel Boise.
Wherever he wrote it—and it was probably written over a period of at least weeks, perhaps coming together finally in Boise—Miller would never need to work “two hours of pushin’ broom” for his accommodations after its release. The song won 1965 Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Rock 'N Roll Single, Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Best Country & Western Recording, Best Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song.
And to think it all started in Boise. Probably.