Steve Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 5, 1943. His mother was an accomplished singer, and his father, Dr. George "Sonny" Miller, was a physician by profession and an amateur recording engineer in his spare time. Many members of Steve's family were musicians, and he received his first guitar at age 4. Steve put it to good use performing songs for his family and playmates.
Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar and multi-track recording, and his wife, Mary Ford, were regular visitors at the Miller house. In fact, Steve's father was best man at their wedding. Les and Mary taught Steve his first chords when he was five years old. Steve still uses some of the techniques they taught him at that time.
The Miller family moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1950. Steve's dad continued recording various styles of music. Great musicians of the time continued to appear at the Miller house, including legendary blues man T-Bone Walker.
The Marksmen, Steve's first band, was formed when he was only 12 years old. This rock and roll band had a solid booking the entire semester playing mostly for fraternities. Steve Miller taught his older brother to play bass so he wouldn't have to rely on his mother for transportation.
The Marksmen continued to play for 5 more years. In high school, Steve asked his friend, Boz Scaggs, to perform vocals with the band. The greatest moment for them was when they backed blues hero, Jimmy Reed, at a local night club. However, at age 16 Steve left for college, which forced the band to break up. Steve attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and formed a new band called The Ardells. Steve taught Boz Scaggs some chords, and he joined The Ardells the next year.
Steve Miller continued working with The Ardells through the school year and staying in Madison during the summers to perform with a group called The Knightranes. The next year, Ben Sidran was added on keyboards for The Ardells. Steve spent a semester at the
University of Denmark during his senior year. He returned to the U.S. and spent the summer enjoying the Chicago blues scene, including working with a young musician named Paul Butterfield. Lacking 6 hours for a degree in literature, Steve decided to move to Chicago to play the blues. Steve was soon on stage with the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Buddy Guy, who all encouraged him to continue playing.
Steve Miller met Barry Goldberg and with bassist Roy Ruby and drummer Maurice McKinley formed The
Goldberg-Miller Blues Band, playing Chicago clubs. The band was signed to Epic records during a convention in town. The recordings from this group are few and include a single called The Mother Song; however, there is one track on the box set performed by this band. They also appeared on "Hullabaloo" with the Four Tops and the Supremes. They took on a running gig at a club in Manhattan, only to return to a dead Chicago blues scene.
Disheartened, Steve Miller went back to Texas in hopes of taking some music courses at the University of Texas at Austin. He was not admitted to music school, so he bought a used Volkswagen Microbus and headed to San Francisco. Upon arrival, he spent his last $5 to see the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore Auditorium. He jammed with Butterfield and announced his intention to stay in San Francisco.
Steve contacted Tim Davis, whom he knew from another band in Madison. Steve invited Davis and guitarist James "Curley" Cooke to come experience the San Francisco music scene. Adding Lonnie Turner on bass, the Steve Miller Blues Band was born. Miller was broke, sometimes sleeping in his van. The band landed a gig at the Avalon Ballroom, allowing Steve the money for an apartment.
The band debuted at the Avalon in January 1967, and they were an immediate success. They became a headliner at the Ballroom, playing at least once a month. They played the Fillmore in April, and they were booked for the Monterey Pop Festival in June. The week after Monterey, the Miller Blues Band backed
Chuck Berry at the Fillmore Auditorium.
After Monterey, the band signed with Capitol Records.
Steve Miller negotiated a contract giving him complete artistic control. It was also one of the most lucrative contracts in music
history, setting a new standard for future artists. Steve contacted old friend Boz Scaggs and invited him to join. Jim Peterman replaced "Curley" Cooke, and "Blues" was dropped from the band's name. The Steve Miller Band flew to England to record their first album with Glyn Johns as engineer. "Children of the Future" was released in May 1968 and was a staple of progressive FM stations throughout the country. Many would agree that this is one of the greatest debut albums ever.
The band did not see their first top 40 album until "Sailor," released in October of the same year. This album featured Miller's first hit, "Living in the U.S.A." and also introduced us to the "Gangster of Love."
Peterman, tired of life on the road, and Boz Scaggs, interested in pursuing his own
career, left the group. Ben Sidran, who had worked with Steve Miller in The Ardells, was invited to join. "Brave New World" was released June 1969. Johns and Miller mastered the album in England at which time Steve was allowed to sit in on a Beatles recording session. Miller and
Paul McCartney recorded "My Dark Hour" with Paul appearing under the alias Paul Ramon. This song features Steve Miller on lead and rhythm guitar, and McCartney on drums and bass. This top 40 album also introduced us to the "Space Cowboy."
"Your Saving Grace," released in November 1969, also made it in the top 40. This album, as well as the previous one, included some session work by keyboardist Nicky Hopkins whose talent is displayed marvelously on the track "Baby's House."
Steve Miller was increasingly recording with others outside of the band, and tensions were high among many of the members. The next album marked the loss of Lonnie Turner, replaced by Bobby Winkleman. Ben Sidran also left to pursue his own career. Steve took what tapes that had been recorded to Nashville, where in between dates on the road with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead, he completed the album with harmonica player Charlie McCoy, fiddler Buddy Spicher, guitarist Wayne Moss and drummer Tim Davis. "Number 5," released July 1970, was the greatest success to date.
The touring schedule was hectic, there was bickering between band members, and Capitol was constantly demanding new albums. Tim Davis and Bobby Winkleman both left the group, replaced by Jack King on drums and Ross Valory on bass. Rock Love was released September 1971.
The next album, "Recall the Beginning...A Journey From Eden," featured session work by a variety of people. Released in March 1972, this album deserves a second look with great tracks like "Nothing Lasts," "Journey From Eden," and "Love's Riddle." Steve also introduced us to Maurice and the pompitous of love on "Enter Maurice." Neither this album nor "Rock Love" has ever been released on CD. Miller broke his neck in a car wreck in 1972 while on his way to the airport for a European tour. Steve went home to his parents in Dallas for eight months to nurse himself back to health. This was an important turning point in his career, and a time at which he did some deep reflection.
Steve Miller returned to California, and with Gerald Johnson on bass, Dicky Thompson on keyboards, and Jack King on drums, emerged from the studio after 19 days with a brand new sound. "The Joker" was released October 1973, and was the first album Steve had produced himself. He finally had a number 1 song. Touring increased with opening acts such as Boz Scaggs and James Cotton.
Between touring, managing his career, writing songs, and recording 8 albums in 65 months, Steve was exhausted. He decided to take some time off, and spent the next year and a half writing and recording the bulk of his next two albums. "Fly Like an Eagle" was released May 1976, featuring Lonnie Turner on bass and Gary Mallaber on drums. One year and one day later "Book
of Dreams" was released with the addition of Byron Allred on keyboards and session work by Greg Douglass, David Denny, and Norton Buffalo. The two albums contained a string of multiple hit songs. The band was now playing arenas rather than theaters. Both albums were certified quadruple platinum. Lonnie Turner was replaced by Gerald Johnson, and the band released "Circle of Love" in 1981.
With the addition of Kenny Lee Lewis on rhythm guitar, Steve Miller reached platinum status once again with the release of "Abracadabra" in June 1982. A live album and video were released the following year. "Italian X Rays," the band's first digital recording, was released November 1984.
Steve released "Living in the 20th Century" in 1986. This album yielded the hit "I Want To Make The World Turn Around" featuring a Kenny G sax solo. However, the best part of this album was side 2. Drawing from his Texas roots, Steve performed great renditions of blues standards by Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon and others. These songs were released on the video "Blues in the 20th Century."
Steve returned to his roots, in 1988 with the release of "Born 2B Blue," with a completely new band. This album received much acclaim from music critics including Leonard Feather of the L.A. Times. This album earned respect displaying the versatility of Steve Miller.
In 1988, Les Paul invited Steve to appear on a Cinemax special with other great guitarists, including B.B. King,
David Gilmour, and Eddie Van Halen. This was the first live performance by Steve Miller since 1983. After the show, he attended a Pink Floyd concert at the request of
David Gilmour. Steve decided it was time to hit the road again.
Steve Miller did hit the road in 1988, and continued for 12 consecutive tours of Amphitheaters across the USA until deciding to take a sabbatical after the 2000 "Into The Future" tour.
During the 1990's Miller released, "Wide River" 1992 and "Steve Miller Band: Box Set" 1994, which included previously unreleased tracks and one new song. He recorded with the
John Mayall, Seal and Shaggy and his music has been sampled by hundreds of new recording artists.
Hit songs include --
- Fly Like an Eagle
- Rock'n Me
- Take the Money and Run
- Gangster of Love
- I Want To Make The World Turn Around
- Jungle Love
- Living in the U.S.A.
- Space Cowboy
- Nobody But You Baby
- The Joker
- Ya Ya
The Steve Miller Band may be available for your next special event!
Genre: Rock 1
..60s, ..70s, ..80s, ..90s, ..00s, ..10s
Steve Miller --
Born: ..in Wisconsin
Oct 5, 1943
Based: ..in Washington state