Steve Miller cut his musical teeth playing sessions with the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Paul Butterfield. By the time he landed in San Francisco in late '66 he was already an accomplished player. As record company executives swarmed to the West Coast to sign up bands, Steve Miller held out for the best deal, eventually signing with the unfashionable Capitol records for an alleged $100,000 advance after a searing performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, and backing an impressed Chuck Berry at the Fillmore.
The debut album Children of Future, recorded in London, was split between side one's brilliant, ambient trippiness and side two's blues rock. It made only 134 on Billboard, but it remains a state of the art expression of its times. Children of the Future was also the first track ever played on Tom Donahue's legendary San Francisco radio station KSAN in May '67, heralding in a new era of rock radio.
Steve followed this up with Sailor, an album which made the top 30 in America. Again, with tracks like "Song for our Ancestors‚" it explored heavy psychedelia but balanced it out with great top down, pop rock anthems like Living in the USA (often misinterpreted as a flag-waving gung-ho song, when much like Springsteen's Born in the USA, it was anything but) It also was the first appearance of Steve's Gangster of Love persona.
The band toured behind these two records but it wasn't long before internal tensions tore the band apart. Old friend Boz Scaggs left for a successful solo career.
Down to a trio, the band recorded Brave New World. Another pop rock classic, it featured Paul McCartney on My Dark Hour. It was another top 30 album in the States and they band spent 1969 on the road before recording the less satisfying Your Saving Grace.
As the 60s became the 70s, Number 5 was released. The psychedelics were gone and in its place were country-tinged tracks like Going to the Country. In concert, Going to Mexico became a classic guitar workout. The whole album was upbeat and quite poppy. It made 23 on the charts.
Things started to drift, and Miller began to feel uncomfortable playing the guitar hero. 1971's Rock Love was plain dull, and Miller was embarrassed by it. 1972's Journey from Eden was more reflective and melancholic. Both failed to chart.
1973 was, by contrast, a great year for him. The Joker was a number 1 hit single and a number 2 album in America, plugging into the vibe of the time; who amongst us was not a "midnight toker" in '73?! Although it brought Miller some much needed royalties, he was utterly exhausted having recorded 8 albums in just 65 months. The financial freedom The Joker gave him allowed him to take over 2 years off.
When he returned it was with the FM radio favourite, Fly like an Eagle. At last Miller had discovered the knack of making hit albums and singles. Rockin' Me was number 1, the title track made 2, Take the Money & Run was a number 11. He even had hits in UK and played a superb set at the Knebworth festival.
Miller was canny enough to record Book of Dreams at the same time as "...Eagle". It was another huge hit and more top 20 singles followed. In 1978 he sold a staggering 9 million records and played more than 300 shows in USA and Europe.
As punk rock broke on both sides of the Atlantic, Miller took another couple of years off to reassess his direction. Now a very rich man he bought a 500 acre farm in Oregon. Always fond of technology, he remerged with Circle of Love, an album which featured all sorts of studio wizardry on the side-long Macho City. It went gold but in 1982 Abracadabra was released. The typically catchy and clever title track was a number one all over the world and made Miller an even more rich man.
The rest of the 80s was spent on commercially unsuccessful projects. Born 2B Blue was a lovely record but it failed to chart. 1993's Wide River crawled into the top 100 but the days of huge commercial records were behind Miller and he's not released a new album since.
Greatest Hits collections continue to sell very well, and live he still attracts huge crowds. His slightly spacey, good time rock 'n' roll and sunny melodies have been the soundtrack to baby boomers lives for 35 years, so it's no wonder he's still so well loved.