Steve Miller Band

Steve Miller Band

“Some people call me the Space Cowboy,
Some call me the Gangster of Love…
Some people call me Maurice…
‘Cause I speak of the pompitous of love”

Steve Miller Band – “The Joker”

With a string of hits like “Rock’n Me,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Money and Run” and “The Joker,” the Steve Miller Band came to epitomize the rock sound of the 70s. A blues guitarist at heart, Miller took these stylings into the pop realm and changed the sound of music forever. Millions of records sold later, many would consider him one of the greatest of his era.

Miller started his musical development at a young age, learning to play the guitar from no less than the legendary Les Paul, his godfather. At 12, he formed his first band, The Marksmen, along with Boz Scaggs, a classmate that Miller taught how to play the guitar. Later in college, Miller would form The Ardells, which would also include Scaggs on rhythm guitar. It was there that Miller’s distinguished sound began to emerge and the roots of the Steve Miller Band would be sewn.

After college, Miller and Scaggs left for San Francisco and its thriving music scene. After an impressive performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, the Steve Miller Band picked up a recording contract and soon recorded and released two albums, Children of the Future and Sailor.

Sailor was their biggest selling album to date, giving them their first chart appearance, and introducing Steve’s new persona – the ‘Gangster of Love.’ Despite critical acclaim for the band, Scaggs left after the second album to pursue a successful solo career. Meanwhile, The Steve Miller Band kept touring and recording until 1972, when Miller was forced to stop due to breaking his neck in a car accident.

Prior to the accident, the band released three albums, Brave New World, Your Saving Grace and Number Five. The Brave New World album is notable in that it featured Paul McCartney on bass guitar, drums and backing vocals (though he was credited under the pseudonym Paul Ramon). The record also introduced another of Steve’s personae, the Space Cowboy.

Back in the studio in 1972, Miller recorded Recall the Beginning, a Journey from Eden. The album marked a turning point for Miller, one where he introduced a third persona on the single “Enter Maurice.” His trio of alter-egos would all meet up in the near future.

Shortly after, in 1973, the Steve Miller Band recorded and released The Joker. On his breakthrough hit of the same name, a bluesy tune with a catchy sing-along chorus about an aspiring ‘Romeo’, Miller alluded to all three of his alter-egos, while attracting the attention of critics and music fans alike. The single soared to #1 on the charts and the album made it to #2.

Two years later, in 1976, Miller released the biggest and best-selling album of his career, Fly Like and Eagle. The funky and surreal organ-laden title track went to #2 on the charts, while two of the more traditional blues-rock tunes, “Take the Money and Run” and “Rock’n Me,” both charted as well. The Steve Miller Band was becoming a household name, thanks to extensive airplay.

The following year, Miller released Book of Dreams. The lead single, “Jet Airliner,” about the difficulties of leaving friends and family at home while out on tour, gave the album its first hit, while another single “Jungle Love” went into the Top 30. Later in the year, “Swingtown” went into the Top 20, giving millions of bar patrons something to dance to.

For four years, with the exception of a greatest hits compilation, Greatest Hits 1974 – 1978, the Steve Miller Band remained relatively quiet. After the extended break, Miller returned in 1981 with Circle of Love. “Heart like a Wheel” gave him another Top-40 hit off the album, and the following year they released Abracadabra. The 12th album of his career followed the emerging New Wave sounds of the day, and the danceable title track went to #1 on the charts, giving him his third #1 single.

Throughout the 80s, Miller remained active and continued recording. Living in the 20th Century found critical appeal and linked Miller back to his roots, with one full side devoted to blues classics. On Born 2B Blue, a record filled with jazz and blues covers, Miller paid homage to the style that helped to encourage his tremendous career.

In the new millennium, Miller has released two albums thus far, Bingo! in 2010, and Let Your Hair Down the following year. And that’s probably not the last we will hear from the rocker. He still tours extensively, making new fans along the way and bringing smiles to the faces of old timers who hold great fondness for their favorite space cowboy/gangster of love. Some even call him Maurice.

If you grew up grooving to rock sounds of The Steve Miller Band, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts and recollections in our comments section below.

One Response to “Steve Miller Band”

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  1. Gina says:

    I’m familiar with the song “The Joker” due to its still constant airplay, but I did not know the story behind the lines, that is to say, the gangster of love/space cowboy/Maurice. Neat to know. Thanks for informing me.

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