Steve Miller has accepted his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction on behalf of the Steve Miller Band, a group that has seen 25 members during the last five decades. Known best for “The Joker,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Fly Like an Eagle,” the group became a Seventies juggernaut, churning out a string of massive hits.
Miller’s journey to the Rock Hall has been a long time coming, but as he told Rolling Stone, he wasn’t offended by his omission all these years. “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,” he said. “I’m sure now that I’m in it, I’ll be forgotten about and nobody will have anything to complain about.”
On Friday night, Miller was inducted by the Black Keys, a duo who has also taken a basic blues-rock base and transformed it into a rock-radio powerhouse. Here’s what the Keys had to say about Miller and his group.
Dan Auerbach: Good evening, we’re the Black Keys, and researching for this speech, we learned a lot about Steve Miller that we didn’t know before. Miller was born in Milwaukee.
Patrick Carney: A lot of Millers coming from Milwaukee, but only one of them wrote “Fly Like an Eagle,” because cans of beer can’t write songs.
Auerbach: Steve Miller is a virtuoso guitar player. He’s a visionary and a true musician who is always focused on music. We’re here today celebrating Mr. Steve Miller because he is one of the most iconic and lasting songwriters of a generation. If you listen to the radio, you listen to Steve Miller.
Like so many great musicians, he was driven and extremely resourceful at a young age. After his family moved to Dallas, he started his first band at age 12. In typical Steve Miller fashion, he knocked it out of the park. He taught his older brother to play the bass so somebody could drive the band to gigs. He sent letters to every fraternity, sorority, every school, country club, church, synagogue – synagogue rock, very underrated – and in a matter of weeks, this 12-year-old had the band booked out for months.
After returning to Wisconsin for college, he decided he actually wanted to learn something, so he dropped out and followed his gut instinct. He wanted to play electric blues. That meant he needed to go to Chicago. His mother, she supported his decision. His father thought he was insane. Maybe he was; maybe he wasn’t. Either way, he left for Chicago. There were few places more inspiring for a blues freak than Chicago in the Fifties and Sixties. It’s where the countrified boogie of Mississippi and Memphis met the mean streets of a proper, big-time metropolis. The clubs were packed and the music played all night long. There was also no place more brutally cutthroat for a guitarist than Chicago in the early Sixties. Before deciding to finally head out west, Steve shared the stage in Chicago with some of the greatest musicians of all time: Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, just to name a few.With lessons learned in the gritty city of Chicago, Steve was ready to venture onward to an even more cutthroat and diabolical musical world: San Francisco in the mid-Sixties. The story goes …
Carney: On arrival in San Francisco, Steve went to see the Jefferson Airplane, a quote-unquote “blues band” at the Fillmore on the first day in town. He was living out of a Volkswagen bus at the time, and he got on stage and announced he was starting a band right away. And so began one of the greatest songwriting stretches in rock & roll history. He immediately immersed himself in the vibrant San Francisco scene, but noticed right away he had a natural advantage having cut his teeth in Chicago. No strutting, posing or long breaks between songs to tune – it was and always has been solely about the music for Steve.
Steve reconnected with his childhood friend Boz Scaggs and started the Steve Miller Band. Steve became a mainstay of the San Francisco music scene. According to the Fillmore’s records, Steve and the band played 109 times in the span of just a few years. The first five albums were a perfect snapshot of the evolving psychedelic San Francisco music scene.
Auerbach: It would be extremely hard to find a three-year stretch of hits from any artist in any genre that can hold a candle to Steve Miller Band’s run from ’74 to ’77. A three-year stretch so prolific that it demanded its own Greatest Hits the very next year, one that has sold a staggering 13 million copies, more than classic albums like Abbey Road. That’s just three out of the 50-plus-year career. “The Joker,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Rock’n Me,” “Take the Money and Run” – these are pop classics that have stood the test of time. In the few minutes it has taken Pat and I to reacquaint you with Steve’s Wikipedia page, there is a good chance that every one of these songs has been played on a radio station somewhere around the globe. With over 30 million albums sold, Steve Miller should have his own damn parking spot at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if he wants it. We’re just here to give the man what he wants.
Carney: The Space Cowboy, the Gangster of Love, some people call him Maurice. It’s finally time to have a fourth persona of a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Congrats Steve. We’re honored to be a part of your big night. Welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.