Author Topic: Growing Up With Steve Miller  (Read 692 times)

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Offline sneakypete

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Growing Up With Steve Miller
« on: November 26, 2019, 03:20:23 am »
https://getpocket.com/explore/item/growing-up-with-steve-miller?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Eleven years ago, the man who topped the charts with ‘The Joker’ and ‘Rock’n Me’ took a thirteen-year-old guitarist and would-be songwriter under his wing. More than a decade later, he’s still teaching me lessons on how to be an adult.

One night in the spring of 2007, when I was thirteen, my little brother and I cupped our hands to our upstairs hallway window, looked through the cigar smoke in our backyard, and tried to find Steve Miller. There was a grown-up party swirling around outside, but we couldn’t figure out which adult was the celebrity guest. We’d learned every Steve Miller Band classic rock hit from 93.3 The Bone, but we had no idea what the guy looked like. The albums we owned either had a painting of Pegasus or a man in a Joker mask on the cover, and every male standing in our backyard looked like he worked in real estate development.

Steve Miller had attended the Dallas all-boys school St. Mark’s fifty years before we did, and he was back to play its hundredth birthday concert. Our house was near campus, and St. Mark’s borrowed our yard for his welcome dinner. We were bummed we couldn’t spot the famous guy mingling with everyone else, but after a few hours of gawking, my brother and I were allowed to come down and say good-night. We walked outside, and our parents tilted their heads toward the blazered man who could sign our CD copy of Greatest Hits 1974–78.

He was the one who looked the most at home with a cigar. Even though he was sixty-something years old, his hair was longer, featherier, more swooped and tangled than the dad cuts at the party. We walked up, and he blew out smoke and grinned. “When I was your age,” he told us, “I was already a working musician! I wrote out professional contracts, and I paid my brother to drive us to gigs at frat parties.” Not to be one-upped, I told him my band had recorded four songs and was a fixture on the bar mitzvah circuit. His grin widened, and he asked if I had two guitars I could bring outside.

I did, and my brother brought his bass. Mr. Steve—he said he wasn’t comfortable with “Mr. Miller”—left the donors’ table to play music on the porch with two middle schoolers. My brother sat down and thumped out a rhythm. Mr. Steve laid down some chords, and I tried to show off. I played some blues licks, the only kind of guitar licks I sort of knew how to play. I ran up the pentatonic scale like my uncle had taught me, hammered a Freddie King riff, and watched Mr. Steve’s eyes light up a bit.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was crudely speaking the same vocabulary that he’d used to build his career. Before he rejoined the adults, he showed me a chord progression the great Texas blues musician T-Bone Walker had taught him when Mr. Steve was my age, and then my parents made me go to bed.

But before I left, he extended an invitation: He was headlining the school centennial concert, which was being held on our football field the next day, and he asked if I wanted to watch the sound check. Yes, I said, I did.

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