After a courageous battle against cancer, Coffeyville’s own Donnie Miller, age 64, passed away on Monday, May 15, 2023, at Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.
Born Kerry Duane Johnson in Kansas City, MO on August 14, 1958, Donnie was adopted by Wilbur and Velma Miller at 4 days old and renamed Donald Dean Miller. They raised him in and around Coffeyville, KS. At the age of 4 he began singing on stage at his parents’ church. His parents bought his first drum kit at age 7 and his first guitar at 13. He was playing in bands for money at age 14. Donnie switched to playing guitar full time at the age of 18.
Donnie was a part of several bands including the Cosmic Cowboys and Bandit among others playing locally. His band Leotus and the Unknowns toured the Midwest. The band Donnie and the Rock was formed in 1981 and opened for the Kinks on their 1985 summer tour and was instrumental in landing him a SONY record contract in 1987. His first album, One of the Boys was released in 1990 which included contributions from Cyndi Lauper and Tommy Shaw. In 1992 a devastating injury to his left hand left him unable to play for almost a year. He started playing simple blues music as therapy. He began playing live concerts again as Donnie Miller and Rude Awakening.
He moved to Nashville in 2000 and his first night there found a blues jam. For the next 22 years he hosted the World-Famous Thursday Night Blues Jam, where he met and mentored many young musicians. He founded the National Blues Network which currently has almost 5000 members. Donnie was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2020.
Donnie created 4 blues albums independently after moving to Nashville. His final album Dig is filled with raw emotion. It was written and recorded while enduring chemo sickness and pain. The release of this album is pending.
Donnie enjoyed fishing in his spare time and always had his pole and tackle with him in his travels. He knew all the best farm ponds in and around Coffeyville. He also enjoyed assembling guitars. He turned this passion into a business called Cheapocasters. He collected guitar parts and built 200 Cheapocasters that he customized by distressing the wood and/or paint. He used paint, wood dye and even old license plates to make unique instruments that he sold for reasonable prices. He always took care that these guitars left his hands sounding and playing better than the ones sold in music stores for 3 times the amount he charged.
On May 17, 2020, he married Deanne (Turney) Maxwell in Dowelltown, Tennessee. Although they found one another later in life they fell in love and had an unbreakable bond. They had many adventures and loved traveling together. They moved back to Coffeyville late in 2021. Soon after that the Coffeyville Coffee Company released its first small batch roast called Brewed Awakening featuring Donnie’s picture and biography on the bag.
Surviving to cherish Donnie’s memory is his loving wife, Deanne Miller of the home; daughters, Brittnay Bryant and husband, Rich Pefley of Del Mar, California, Alexis “Alex” Moellering and spouse, Wendy of St. Louis, Missouri; grandkids, Maddie Bryant and Jack Bryant of St. George, Utah; his bonus family, Deanne’s four kids, five grandkids and 6 great-grandkids; his bandmates; several special lifelong friends; extended family, friends and fans that will all miss him dearly. Donnie was preceded in death by his parents, Wilbur and Velma (Holdubaum) Miller and by his brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Beverly Miller. Those who knew Donnie will remember him as a creative, dedicated, talented, and inspiring individual, whose love for music and the people around him touched countless lives.
Following Donnie's wishes, cremation will take place under the direction of David W. Barnes Funeral Home in Coffeyville.
A Celebration of Life for Coffeyville’s own Donnie Miller will be held on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at The Yoke Bar & Grill from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. The family invites everyone to attend. We’ll tell stories, have some light snacks, and listen to some live music played by some of Donnie's friends and former bandmates.
Leave your memories and upload photos of Donnie to his memorial page at www.dwbfh.com as we come together to celebrate the life of this truly remarkable man.