Steve Miller on Rock Hall Induction: 'It's Taken a Long, Long, Long Time'

"Now that I'm, in nobody will have anything to complain about," says the Space Cowboy

"It's been a great, long life of playing music," says Steve Miller, reflecting on his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty

There have been 25 members of the Steve Miller Band during the past five decades, but next April, the Space Cowboy will stand at the podium all by himself at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "I think that's probably the right choice," he says. "Right before I moved out to San Francisco, I played in Buddy Guy's band. One night, he said to me, 'Listen, man, when you get out there, call it the Steve Miller Band. You're going to go through lots and lots of musicians, and you don't want everyone to get all upset when you fire your bass player.' It turned out to be really good advice."

Thanks. It's been a big day.

Who told you?
My manager Scott [Boorey] called me up and said, "I want to be the first to congratulate you."

What was your reaction?
I was very pleased and happy about it.

Is this something you expected?
It wasn't. I hadn't really thought much about it. When it came up earlier this year, I was really surprised and amazed to watch all the voting and all the stuff that's going on. Who else is being inducted? Do you know?

Sure. It's Cheap Trick ...
Oh, great!

Deep Purple, Chicago and N.W.A.
All right. Gosh, I wish the Spinners would make it! They're one of my favorite all-time live groups. I used to see them all the time.

The guys in Chicago told me you used to open for them back in the 1960s.
Oh, yeah. We played lots of gigs together back at the Family Dog or the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore. I've always enjoyed Cheap Trick. I'm glad they're in. That's great too.

Are you a fan of Deep Purple?
Yeah. I've always liked their work, and everybody. N.W.A, Deep Purple, the Spinners. I like most bands.

You said you were surprised to even be on the ballot. Why?
It's just taken such a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time. After a while you just kind of go, "This is taking an awful long time!" I'm glad they took their time. I'm sure they made the right decision.

Did it start to offend you that you just weren't getting on that ballot?
I never felt offended. I kind of enjoyed having people complain that I wasn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than I think I'll like being in it. I'm sure now that I'm in it, I'll be forgotten about and nobody will have anything to complain about. 

I started playing rock & roll in 1956, so I've been here from the beginning. I've seen it go through everything, from the time in Chicago to out to San Francisco to all these different phases. It's been a great, long life of playing music, and I'm really honored to be inducted. I'm quite pleased.

Do you see yourself as a solo artist or the leader of a band?
I see myself as a little bit of both. Most of the material that we do, I've written and I've played it with lots of different people. I've had the same truck driver for 30 years. I think Kenny [Lee Lewis] has been in the band 35 years. Gordy [Knudtson] has been in the band 28 years. Joe [Wooten] has been in 22 years. Everyone has been in the band for a long, long time. And so I see myself as a bandleader. We're basically doing material that I wrote and I write and it's pretty much an expression of what I want to do and how I like to operate.

Do you think any of the guys will mind it's just you?
Yeah, I imagine anyone that was ever in the Steve Miller Band will feel that they were definitely part of what made the band, and of course I couldn't have done it without any of them. It wasn't my decision, and I didn't have any input into any of it. If they had asked me what do, I think I would have said, "Here's a list of everyone that was ever in my band. They all ought to be here."

"I sort of have always operated by the Marine mentality that praise is Kryptonite."

I imagine they looked at that long list and just threw their hands up and said, "Let's just bring in Steve. This is too complicated." Drawing a line would have just been impossible.
I don't think it's impossible. If you're in a hurry, I guess that's the way they do it.

There's usually a big all-star jam at the end of the night. Is there any song in your catalog that could work with Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Chicago and N.W.A?
Oh, sure, there's lots of them. It's whatever anybody wants to play, we can play. Let's do "Fly Like an Eagle." Everybody can take a solo.

Just picking three songs for your set will be tough.
I haven't really thought about that aspect of it yet. I imagine I'll be talking to somebody who will be going, "You've got four and a half minutes. Hurry up." We'll figure it out. It'll be fun. We'll have a great time.

Your moment at the podium will probably be pretty emotional. It's a culmination of so much work you've done over your life.
I guess it will be. I sort of have always operated by the Marine mentality that praise is Kryptonite. I haven't really spent a lot of time thinking about my acceptance speech. But it's exciting and really nice for my audience and people that are really concerned about it. It's good for them, too. I'm very happy for them.

And now every article written about you will say, "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Steve Miller."
And not "Future Hall of Famer." I always loved that. It's such a weak statement.