The Popdose Guide to the Steve Miller Band, Part 1


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Thats it. Ive had it. Or in the immortal words of Frank Costanza, I got a lot of problems with you people.

Steve Miller at San Francisco's Fillmore in 2008

For months upon months, Ive watched as Popdose readers have slammed the guy who got me into pop music as a pre-teen and has held a special place in my heart ever since.

That guy is none other than Steve Miller.

Laugh if you want to. But your image of Steve Miller is probably only from The Joker, Abracadabra and (shudder) Bongo Bongo.

My perception of him is quite different. Because in my eyes, its the pre-fame Steve Miller thats pretty special.

Did you know that the late Les Paul was his godfather and taught him his first guitar chords? That the great T-Bone Walker introduced him to the blues? That his youthful days in Chicago included jamming with the likes of Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Paul Butterfield? That his early band once backed Chuck Berry on a live record? That on his first few albums, his bandmates were longtime friends Boz Scaggs and Ben Sidran? That his third album included a jam with none other than Paul McCartney while he was still a Beatle? That legendary keyboardist Nicky Hopkins played on two albums and co-composed a song with Miller? That among the many fans of this underrated guitarist are master axemen such as Eric Johnson, Robbin Ford, George Thorogood, Jimmie Vaughan and Joe Satriani?

No? Im not surprised. Which is why I asked our estimable host Jeff (a Steve Miller hater himself) if I could put together an ultimate Popdose Guide to the Steve Miller Band. Many months later (way too many), Ive finally delivered what I promised.

I hope to give you a new appreciation for Stevie Guitar Miller as an incredibly gifted songsmith. A lifelong eclectic. And a pretty dynamite guitarist.

If nothing else, I hope to clue you in to all those cryptic lyrics from The Joker. A huge hint: Many of them come from early SMB songs.

The guide will be broken into two parts: The pre-fame Steve Miller of 1968-1973, when most of his airplay was confined to the FM ghetto. The second go round, well feature the post-fame SMB when songs like The Joker, Take The Money and Run and Jet Airliner made him one of the biggest multi-platinum acts of the 70s.

Although I was introduced to the latter version, as I delved deeper into his back catalogue, I found myself preferring the former.

A little background first. Miller was born in Wisconsin, the son of a music-loving doctor named George Sonny Miller and Bertha, an amateur jazz singer. Not only was his family well-to-do, but Dr. Miller was the only guy in town with a reel-to-reel recorder. Thus, when touring musicians came to see a doctor before their shows, Dr. Miller invariably struck up a friendship with them and invited them back to his place after they performed. Thats how Dr. Miller got to know Les Paul and eventually served as best man at Pauls wedding to his partner, Mary Ford.

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