By People Staff
September 08, 1997 12:00 PM

ON TOUR PROMOTING HIS RADIO hit “Nowhere, U.S.A.,” newcomer Dean Miller declines requests for the 1965 country classic “King of the Road.” “I don’t do any of my dad’s songs,” says the son of the late Roger Miller. “I’ve got to carve out my own niche. That’s what my dad would want me to do.”

Miller’s striking resemblance to his dad makes that task more difficult. “It’s scary, really,” jokes old family friend Willie Nelson. “He looks like Roger. He sounds like Roger.”

There are differences, too: Dean, 31, says his own songs are darker than his dad’s odes to ordinary Joes—the result, he says, of a tumultuous childhood. He bounced between cities until his parents were divorced in 1974, then, at 12, moved in with his father and his third wife, Mary, now 49. The only one of Roger’s seven children to become a musician so far, he says that his dad offered criticism—”My dad was like, ‘That bridge needs a little work’ and ‘That part right there is a little weak’ “—but wouldn’t open doors for him in the business.

Roger died of cancer in 1992 and didn’t see his son launch his career. Yet Dean, who’s single and lives in Nashville, feels his presence. “I’m sure my dad knows what’s going on,” he says.