Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Steve Miller’s wild Washington Post interview: 5 highlights His label gave him a pregnant horse at a Beverly Hills soiree
Milwaukee-born Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Miller is renowned for his immortal hits: “The Joker,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Rock’n Me,” “Abracadabra” and others.
He’s also well-known for being outspoken. The day the Rock Hall announced Miller as one of the inductees in its Class of 2016, Miller in a Journal Sentinel interview called the hall “an exclusive private men’s club” — and he was critical of the Rock Hall, and the music industry at large, at the induction itself.
So when Miller, 75, recently talked with the Washington Post’s Geoff Edgers to promote his new 52-track box set “Welcome to the Vault” (out on Oct. 11), naturally, he didn’t hold back.
Here are five takeaways from the entertaining and illuminating interview.
He was a hustling musician, at 12
Miller was born in Milwaukee in 1943 — Les Paul was his godfather — but the family moved to Dallas seven years later. By the time he was 12, he had a band, the Marksmen, and was playing frat houses and sororities, churches and synagogues.
“And they’d say, ‘Hey, this is Bobby Jones at SAE house and I understand you’ve got this rock band. How much is it?’ “Miller told the Post’s Edgers. “I’d say, ‘It’s $125.’ The guy would go, ‘That’s an awful lot of money.’ I’d say, ‘Thanks for calling man. If you change your mind, let me know.’ I’d hang up the phone. The phone would ring and they’d book us. … I had the band booked in three weeks for the whole school year.”
At college in Wisconsin, he knew he was talented — and wasn’t shy about it
Miller went back to Wisconsin in 1961 to study comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There, he met Ken Adamany, a keyboardist who eventually became Cheap Trick’s manager.
In the Post article, Adamany recalls Miller catching his college band KnighTranes playing at a fraternity party, and introducing himself afterward. “I’m better than everyone in your band, including you,” Adamany told the Post. “That’s his actual quote. And he was right.”
He saw Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Monterey Pop set — and hated it
Miller dropped out of UW and was in San Francisco by the mid-60s, and was at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he saw Jimi Hendrix famously set his Stratocaster ablaze.
“I thought that was pathetic,” he told the Post. “When I saw Jimi Hendrix stop playing the music he was playing and get down on his knees and pull out a can of lighter fluid and squirt it on the thing and light it, I went, ‘Boy, this really (expletive) sucks.’ “
The year he released the “Fly Like an Eagle” album — an even bigger hit than his 1973 blockbuster album “The Joker” — Miller moved from California to set up a farm in Oregon. As a thankyou gift, Miller’s label Capitol Records celebrated him at a Beverly Hills restaurant, where they gave him a horse.
“The horse was so stoned it could hardly stand up. And it was a pregnant horse,” Miller told the Post. “About eight days later when the horse arrived at my ranch, it just looked at people and just totally freaked out and bolted, and it took us two days to catch it.”
He can hold a grudge, especially against music executives
It’s been 25 years since Miller released a boxed set. Why so long for the follow-up? Miller had several issues with the last boxed set, from the release date to a production error on early pressings, and said Gary Gersh, an AEG executive who ran Capitol at the time, ignored his calls.
“I was afraid I was going to see him and beat him to a pulp — because I would’ve,” Miller said. He went on to call Gersh “a little gangster” and “a complete, incompetent, lying piece of (expletive).”
“And that’s candy-coating it,” Miller said.
The Post reached out to Gersh for his response.
“Twenty-five years ago, I had one interaction with him and he’s now saying he would beat me to a pulp because of a production error I didn’t cause,” Gersh said. “Are you kidding me? That’s insanity.”