Steve Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 5, 1943 and moved to Dallas, Texas with his family when he was 5. His father was a doctor that worked part time as a recording engineer and Les Paul was Steve’s Godfather. He started to play the guitar at the age of 4 and his teachers ranged from Les Paul to T-Bone Walker and many others that his father recorded. He formed his first band called the Marksmen when he was only 12. After he taught Boz Skaggs how to play the guitar he joined the band and the early history of the Steve Miller Band includes Skaggs. After returning to Wisconsin to attend college he took a year off to live in Europe and ended up playing in Chicago for 2 years. By the time Miller moved to San Francisco to join the hippie music explosion taking place there, he had been playing professionally for 10 years. He blew all the resident bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane out of the water. The Steve Miller Band ended up being Chuck Berry’s backing band on his Live at the “Filmore West album after the Airplane was fired. In 1967 the Steve Miller Band was signed to Capitol Records to “a landmark contract that virtually set the standard for future bands.
The Steve Miller Band has sold over 60 million albums from their catalogue of over 30 albums and 30 singles including studio, live, and compilation albums. Blues Rock Review lists its top 10 Steve Miller songs.
10. “Living in the U.S.A.”
“Living in the U.S.A.” was a radio hit from Sailor, the Steve Miller Band’s second studio album in 1968. It was the last album to have guitarist/singer/songwriter Boz Skaggs and keyboardist Jim Peterman on it. According to Miller, it was intended to be a political song reflecting the times and incorporating everything from the civil rights movement to the war in Vietnam. The song was originally designated for the 1968 presidential election which culminated with the disastrous Democrat convention in Chicago. Mayor Richard Daley ordered the police to violently attack and arrest protestors gathering outside convention headquarters.
9. “Mercury Blues”
“Mercury Blues” is a rural blues song written and recorded by K. C. Douglas in 1948 that could be found on the Steve Miller Band’s 9th studio album, Fly Like an Eagle. The song is one of this writer’s favorites because of the fact that in the late 1960s when I would go see the Steve Miller Blues Band, “Mercury Blues” was a staple that Miller would jam on for 20 minutes with a psychedelic feedback laden guitar solo.
8. “The Joker”
“The Joker” is both the title of the Steve Miller Band’s 8th album as well as the #1 hit song and was released in 1973. Miller explained that after he released The Joker he went on a 60 city tour and by the time he returned home the single of the title song was #1 on the radio nationwide. He explained that the way the song came into existence was by combining 3 songs out of a backlog of 21 that had interchangeable lyrics, which became “Take the Money and Run,” “Rock ‘n Me” and “The Joker.”
7. “Fly Like an Eagle”
“Fly Like an Eagle” is from the Steve Miller Band’s 9th album of the same name which was released in 1976 and became quadruple platinum. Miller reached back to the early electronic music of his band’s first album Children of the Future for the spacey sound. The riff that the song grew from was originally born when Miller was jamming with Paul McCartney on “My Dark Hour” 7 years earlier in 1969. In 1998, the U. S. Postal Service adopted “Fly Like an Eagle” as their theme song to update their image.
6. “Going to the Country”
“Going to the Country” is from the Steve Miller Band’s Number 5 album released in 1970. It was the last album to include original Steve Miller Band drummer extraordinaire Tim Davis who pursued a solo career and succumbed to the ravages of diabetes in 1988. The song itself reflected the beginnings of the discontent of young urban dwellers as they began moving to the wide open spaces. At the same time the song itself allowed Miller to demonstrate his superior guitar prowess.
5. “Space Cowboy”
“Space Cowboy” is from 1969’s Brave New World and obviously inspired by the then current space race with the Soviet Union which culminated a couple of months after the album was released with the moon landing. The song was co-written by Miller and longtime songwriting partner and keyboardist Ben Sidran. According to Miller, he was at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood and came to a dead end on the lyrics for the song when he collaborated with Sidran for “15 minutes” and completed it.
4. “My Dark Hour”
Miller’s third album Brave New World was recorded in England at Olympic studios where the Beatles were also recording. After 3 of the 4 members of the Beatles left the studio following an argument, Paul McCartney stayed behind and jammed with Steve Miller. The result was “My Dark Hour” with McCartney using an alias as Paul Ramon on bass guitar and drums.
Abracadabra was the Steve Miller Band’s 12th studio album and was released in 1982 when the title song became a worldwide chart topping #1 radio hit. Miller explained that the song was written in stages because he had the music but didn’t like the lyrics he wrote at the time. Then 3 years later after seeing Diana Ross and the Supremes perform prior to skiing he was inspired to pen the lyrics for “Abracadabra” in 15 minutes.
2. “I Wanna Make the World Turn Around”
“I Wanna Make the World Turn Around” was a #1 rock radio hit from the Steve Miller Band’s 14th studio album Living in the 20th Century which was released in 1986. The song had it all with killer guitar riffs and a saxophone solo by Kenny G where the 2 artists exchanged some amazing guitar sax interplay on a level with Springsteen and Clemons. Kenny G had not hit the big time yet and Miller saw him as an opening act and was impressed enough to invite him to a recording session to do a part on the song.
1. “Rock ‘n Me”
Steve Miller wrote “Rock ‘n Me” and recorded it on his Fly Like an Eagle album in 1976. It was inspired by the transition that the Steve Miller Band was making after graduating from mid-sized halls like the Fillmore in San Francisco to football stadiums with a capacity of fifty to a hundred-thousand. It was the 2nd single released from the album and became the bands 2nd #1 hit.