Miller had been playing guitar and gigging, on and off with his mate Scaggs, from the age of twelve, with The Marksmen in Texas, The Ardells while they attended the University of Wisconsin and the Goldberg Miller Blues Band in Chicago, cutting a single (The Mother Song) for Epic before upping stakes and moving to the West Coast.

Along the way, the Goldberg-Miller Blues Band appeared on TV (Hullabaloo with the Four Tops and the Supremes), and gigged at a Manhattan club before they morphed into the Steve Miller Blues Band in San Francisco. 

Signing to Capitol Records in 1967, the name was shortened to the Steve Miller Band and the first line-up, a quartet comprising Miller and Curly Cook on guitars, bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Tim Davis turned up backing Chuck Berry at the Fillmore on what ended up as a live album. The band also cut three tracks to the soundtrack for the film Revolution, which also included tracks by Mother Earth and the Quicksilver Messenger Service. 

But Miller, who’d learnt guitar from Les Paul, had ambitions that went beyond backing Chuck Berry and the odd contribution to movie soundtracks. There’s a little quote in Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees that’s worth citing here:

I knew I couldn’t miss. The Dead and the Airplane barely knew how to tune up at that time - the big highlight was playing In The Midnight Hour for 45 minutes. It took me no time at all to put together a band that could play 25 songs - in tune and tight.

That’s a rather interesting perspective, though I suspect Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen might have taken umbrage at the barely knew how to tune up.

The quartet expanded with the addition of Jim Peterman on keyboards, appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. When Curly Cooke departed to join AB Skhy, Miller recruited his mate Boz Scaggs, fresh from a stint as a folk singer in Scandinavia and set off to record their first album, Children Of The Future, at Abbey Road Studios in London.

As noted in the Quicksilver Messenger Service Rear View, Capitol, having missed the first wave of San Francisco bands were inclined to be generous to those they signed, and Miller’s contract specified that they’d get to record at Abbey Road with a name producer, Glyn Johns. Unfortunately, despite Miller’s ambitions, the album failed to attract attention when it appeared in May 1968, though when the follow-up, Sailor, appeared in October it climbed the Billboard charts as high as #24. Not bad, perhaps, but things could definitely have been better.


B© Ian Hughes 2012