1967 in San Francisco, California
For fans of classic rock, the contributions of the Steve Miller Band during the '70s peak of that radio-defined genre stand among the most memorable and consistent music of that era. However, the group - along with its namesake guitarist and frontman - contains many facets that more than earned a place in the pantheon of rock legends. The '80s phase of Miller's career perhaps stands as his most pop-oriented, although the guitarist continued to explore his myriad inspirations through five varied studio albums during the decade. Here's a look at the long career of the Steve Miller Band.
Core '70s & '80s Band Members:
- Steve Miller (born Steven Haworth Miller on October 5, 1943 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) - Lead vocals, lead guitar, synthesizer, keyboards, songwriter
- Gary Mallaber (born October 11, 1946 in Buffalo, New York) - Drums, percussion, backing vocals, songwriter
- Byron Allred – synthesizer, piano, keyboards
- Gerald Johnson - Bass guitar
- Lonnie Turner - Bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals, songwriter
- Kenny Lee Lewis - Guitar, bass guitar
Miller was a guitar prodigy almost from the start, benefiting from a close family association with legendary guitarist Les Paul that led him early and fully into learning the instrument. Spending most of his formative years in Dallas, Texas, Miller played in bands as a teen and, after an earnest but ultimately abandoned stint studying literature in college, he turned full-time to a music career. Initially working on the Chicago blues scene, Miller found a spark from the psychedelic rock of the late '60s, moving to San Francisco and forming his long-time band there.
Blues & Psychedelic Exploration to Pop Stardom:
The band's first few albums established Miller as a respected guitarist and an advancing songwriter in the developing rock era. Early songs like "Brave New World," "Seasons" and "Space Cowboy" were standouts that also began to establish Miller's affinity for personae. This set the stage for the artist's trio of classic pop/rock albums that made him a superstar - 1973's The Joker, 1976's Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams in 1977. The title tracks from the first two records along with "Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me" and "Jungle Love" became instant classic rock staples - eventually wearing out their radio welcome to a significant extent.
'80s Return & Further Successes:
After the release of the band's massive-selling Greatest Hits compilation in 1978, Miller & Co. took a bit of a hiatus from producing new material. This hurt the band's momentum, which partially caused the experimental five-song LP, Circle of Love (1981), to fail commercially. Even so, 1982's Abracadabra was a smash, mainly on the strength of its modern-sounding but still guitar-fueled title track. This near-flawless single topped the U.S. pop charts during the summer of 1982, and Miller had recaptured his magic.
Final Efforts of Familiar Lineup:
The band's most successful incarnation would produce just two more albums before Miller would relax his recording schedule and seek different collaborators, but 1984's Italian X-Rays and, especially, the 1986 LP Living in the 20th Century, proved yet again that Miller possessed tremendous appeal for a wide cross section of rock music fans. The artist's last major hit, "I Want to Make the World Turn Around," functioned as a respectable swan song. In the years since, Miller went almost two decades without releasing an album of any kind, but his reputation and legacy as a rootsy classic rock stalwart have remained justifiably strong.