The Steve Miller Band

2 Jul

Steve Miller 2003 #1Β  Steve Miller 2003 #2

I was sitting in my archive room lined with shelves containing boxes of slides, negatives, prints, and digital images from my entire 67 year life. On July 4th I’ll be 68 years old and currently spend more time reminiscing past events than I do participating in new ones. I’ve spent a lifetime collecting images taken of me and my family as well as ones that I took of them along with everything that took place around me. So if I don’t make use of them at this stage in my life, I never will. This blog is dedicated to Jesus Music and the 2 volume book that I wrote about it, which Praeger published in 2012, but at the same time, I write about secular issues and artists that I classify as spiritually important for one reason or another.

Steve Miller 2003 #3Β  Steve Miller 2003 #4

Today, I want to talk about Steve Miller, the baby boomer musician that is a seminal baby boomer rock star. He was one of those guys who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right interests and mentors to nourish him. By the time that the San Francisco sound, via Haight Ashbury through the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms along with the Monterey Pop Festival, made headlines across the country he had his foot in the door. Miller grew up in Wisconsin where he was exposed to Chicago blues and the guitar, before his doctor father moved the family to Texas. Les Paul, the guitar genius, happened to be a family friend who gave Steve lessons.

Steve Miller 2006 #1

Steve met Boz Skaggs in Texas and they ended up forming the Steve Miller Band that played in San Francisco with Miller, Skaggs, Jim Peterman, Lonnie Turner, and Tim Davis. They gigged for the hippie crowd and ended up backing up Chuck Berry at the Filmore, after Jefferson Airplane, the headlining group failed to cut the mustard, according to Miller. The Steve Miller Band got a recording contract and began to produce albums. The first was “Children of the Future,” which was a spacey psychedelic album that could accompany an acid trip. The next album was “Sailor,” which was a harder rocking album that included the radio hit, “Living In The USA,” along with some psychedelic numbers. If you want to hear a concert from this era in 1968 click on this link:
https://youtu.be/YqmOkKdW-rc (1968)

Steve Miller 2006 #2

Steve Miller 2006 #3

By 1969 I was out of the army, after being drafted in 1966, and was attending college on the GI Bill. Since college was the breeding ground for all aspects of the counter culture, I had my opportunity to decide which faction to join. The SDS (Students For A Democratic Society) were declared illegal and outlaws, so I never considered them, but instead fell in with all the other returning veterans, that were embracing the hippie movement. Ironically the hippies were also involved in illegal activity, but it wasn’t destructive, but simply mind expanding. Easter weekend 1969 I was off from school so I drove to Chicago, which was under 300 miles and took less than 5 hour to drive to, on the I-94 expressway. When I arrived, I stayed with my army buddy, Bob Duran, who was discharged a month before me.

Steve Miller 2006 #4

On Saturday night we smoked some weed that I brought with me and hit the blues clubs in the Chicago Old Town area. In the window of one of the clubs was an advertisement for a concert at the Aragon Ballroom on Easter Sunday afternoon with the “Iron Butterfly” headlining and the “Steve Miller Band” opening. We talked about it and decided to check it out the next day. I had already seen the Iron Butterfly at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, around Halloween 1968 and was somewhat impressed by their performance.

Steve Miller 2012 #1

On Easter Sunday, we headed to the Aragon Ballroom, with Bob’s friend driving. When we got there, it was an hour before the concert started, but there were tickets available and it was first come first serve concert seating. We got in line, behind about 30 or 40 people and while we waited I pulled out 2 capsules of mescaline that I told my friend Bob that I had. He already told me that he would take a hit and his friend would be our chaperone and designated driver. So we each took one and swallowed it, using a stick of chewing gum to provide the saliva. Normally, it would take about 90 minutes for the peak of the trip to happen, but I knew that we would be seated in about 45 minutes.

Steve Miller 2012 #2

After we were seated and got situated there was an announcement that there had been a bomb threat and everyone was to immediately evacuate the building. People immediately got up and began to quickly walk to the exit. Bob, his friend, and I sat there and since 2 of us were starting to get stoned, we weren’t that concerned and besides we’d seen live artillery fire in the army and weren’t that worried about some amateurs, who were probably bluffing. So when everyone left, we stayed and moved to the first row, center stage. After about 10 minutes everyone returned and sat in all the seats around us, but nobody ever said anything to us about where we were sitting.

Steve Miller 2012 #3

By the time that the Steve Miller Band began their performance, we were peaking on the mescaline and their performance was augmented a thousand fold. There were only 3 members of the band at this time, who were Lonnie Turner on bass guitar and Tim Davis on drums. Their performance was tight and their musicianship was phenomenal. The power trio was popular at the time with bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience topping the charts. After we were completely blown away by their hour long performance comprised of songs that I had never heard before, other than “Living In The USA,” the Iron Butterfly took the stage.

Steve Miller 2012 #4

The Iron Butterfly was good, but I enjoyed the Steve Miller Band more and since we attended a matinee, there was going to be an evening performance also, which immediately followed. Almost everyone got up and left after the Butterfly played their 17 minute long hit, “In A Gadda Da Vida.” Their act had a gimmick, which was an early pyrotechnic grand finale at the conclusion of their signature song. the front of the stage burst into flames as they concluded their set and we sat in our seats, still numb from the mescaline.

Steve Miller 2012 #5

Nobody asked us to leave, so we sat in our front row center stage seats, as a new crowd began to fill the chairs that were set up in front of the stage on the dance floor. We were blown away a second time by the Steve Miller Band’s incredible performance. Steve talked about their upcoming new album called “Brave New World,” and played songs from it,. The ones that I remembered at the time were “Kow Kow,” “Seasons,” “Mercury Blues,” and “Space Cowboy.” When I got back to Detroit, I went to the record store and bought all 3 of Steve Miller’s albums.

Steve Miller 2012 #6

Over the next 3 years I saw the Steve Miller Band perform another half dozen times at various venues around the Detroit area including Meadowbrook, the Eastown theater and University of Michigan. Then in 1971 I moved to Los Angeles, California from Michigan and became a born again hippie Jesus freak and broke all ties with secular music, which I now viewed as a tool of Satan. I destroyed or sold all my secular albums. Ironically, the last secular concert ticket that I purchased before destroying my collection of 300 record albums, was for Steve Miller at the Palladium on Sunset in Los Angeles.

Steve Miller 2012 #7

The night of the concert, my wife Kathy and I went to the Palladium, but were convicted, so we sold the tickets to someone for half price. When the guy we sold the tickets to heard the reason, he tried to give me back the tickets and told me that I was being too extreme in my Christian belief. I stuck to my views and after we left, we attended a Friday night home church that I knew of, run by some Jesus freaks. For the next 15 years I only purchased and listened to Christian rock music and sometimes even questioned that.

Steve Miller 2012 #8Β  Steve Miller 2012 #9

Over the years, I would hear new Steve Miller songs, playing over PA systems, that I immediately recognized, even though I never heard them before. By the late 1980s, I was living in Salem, Oregon and my views on music had mellowed enough to allow me to attend an occasional secular concert. In 1988 Steve Miller came to the newly constructed L. B. Day Amphitheater in Salem, so I attended with a friend that I worked with. After that I took my oldest son, Michael to see Miller at Portland State University In 1990. By the mid 1990s, ironically I was a freelance rock and roll photographer photographing everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Rolling Stones for Ticketmaster and a variety of music magazines. I covered many Steve Miller concerts and reviewed them for a variety of publications, including Blues Revue and Blueswax during its publication life.

Steve Miller Crop #1

All in all, I’ve probably seen more live Steve Miller performances than any other artist, and have turned many other people on to him. He isn’t a gospel or Jesus music artist, but he has done as much to propagate joy and love as that genre has. If you want to see some performances of the band click on the links below. The photos were taken at 3 different concerts. The first was in 2003, at the Waterfront Blues Festival, in Portland, Oregon. The second was in 2006, at L. B. Day Amphitheater, that I took my oldest daughter Rachel too, who later fronted a blues band.

Steve Miller

The third was the last time that I saw the Steve Miller Band, in 2012 when I covered the Portland, Oregon Waterfront Blues Festival for Blues Revue and Blueswax. Coincidentally, my army buddy Bob Duranl who moved from Chicago to Post Falls, Idaho, was visiting and attended the Blues Festival with me. That year Steve was wearing a white shirt and the guy that we were standing next to was passing around joints of marijuana that were as large as cigars, as soon as the concert began. I became so intoxicated by the fumes that I flashed back to that first concert back in 1969, and I began to hallucinate, as tears rolled down my cheeks and I had to dry my eyes so I could focus my camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfsxwUBQfz8 (1989)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkVjAEHcsvs (1974)

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One Response to “The Steve Miller Band”

  1. Robert Duran July 26, 2015 at 11:43 PM #

    Great article! I feel the same way about Steve. Everyone really enjoys his live concerts because they are so familiar with his music since it has been played on the radio for so long. They all dance & sing along. It is hard not to get emotional. Your Army buddy, Bob.

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