5 Rock Legends That Steve Miller Met Before Becoming a Star Himself

When Les Paul teaches you how to play guitar, chances are you’ll make it in rock and roll

June 1, 2016

Consider this: when he was just four years old, Steve Miller met Les Paul at a Milwaukee nightclub and got a private lesson in how to play the guitar. That was the first story Steve shared with Howard on Tuesday morning, but he wasn’t done naming a few other rock and roll legends who personally influenced him and set him on the path of achieving his own musical greatness.

Here are five people that helped make Steve Miller the hall of famer that we know and love today:

Les Paul

Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1955 Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1955 Photo: Getty Images

After landing his own television gig, Les and his soon-to-be wife Mary Ford traveled to Wisconsin to perform at a nightclub and practice their act. The two met Steve’s father who offered to record them on his magnecorder — an early-model tape recorder.

“I started going with my dad to the nightclub to see Les Paul,” Steve told Howard. “Les was the funniest guy. He was a great comedian. He was a sweetheart.”

He’s also the reason Steve became interested in the guitar, teaching him his first three chords. Les and Mary remained close friends with the Millers and even got married at the family’s house.

T-Bone Walker

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He was only nine years old but Miller has a clear memory of the first time he ever met famed blues guitarist T-Bone Walker, a personal friend of his father’s.

“He showed up to the house in a flesh-colored Cadillac convertible with real leopard skin seats,” Steve told Howard. “I just thought he was the coolest guy in the world.”

Being cool had nothing to do with why Miller took a shining to Walker, though. He claims that the real takeaway from seeing him play music with his father was watching “grown men having a great time.”

“Really, it was just being there and watching him play,” Miller said. “The one real lesson that he gave me was how to play the guitar behind my head and do the splits.”

The Beatles

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While working on an album for Capitol in the late ’60s, Steve and his band ran into some issues with a recording studio. Rather than look for another place to record locally, Miller decided to up and move production to Olympic Studios in London and work with Glyn Johns, the English engineer best known for working with the Beatles. Johns then invited Steve to sit in on a Beatles session.

“It was amazing – it was 1969, they were the Beatles,” Steve said. “They were so cool and they did everything so quickly.” Steve soon realized the price of their fame however, after experiencing the swarms of press that followed them.

“Everywhere they went, they were under this lens,” Steve remembered.

Chuck Berry

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After forming the Steve Miller Blues Band, Steve and his bandmates took a gig backing Chuck Berry just as the rock star was preparing to come out of retirement to do a live show at the Fillmore Auditorium.

“I said I’ll do it but only if he rehearses,” Miller told Howard, explaining that was his one condition for working with Berry. Berry agreed and showed up for two days of rehearsals. On the night of the show, however, Miller says Berry arrived “smacked out” on heroin.

“We did the shows and that was that and they put the record out and … I thought that it really sucked,” Steve told Howard. That album was “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium” which was Berry’s first live album. The Steve Miller Blues Band continued to back up Berry but Miller revealed he wasn’t always easy to work with. Miller remembered one night when Berry got rude with one of the members of the band.

“I pulled him aside and said, ‘Fuck you, man! Go get your own fucking band,'” Miller told Howard. Chuck and Steve never had another problem after that.

“I think Chuck Berry had a really hard life,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of real serious reasons for him to be extremely upset.”

The Butterfield Blues Band

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Steve also recalled being a young man and seeing the Butterfield Blues Band play. He told Howard that watching them perform that night convinced him that he could become a rock and roll star.

“That’s when I went, ‘Holy shit – I could make records! I could actually do this,'” Miller said.

Soon after, Miller met keyboardist Barry Goldberg and formed the Goldberg-Miller Blues Band. The group performed on the Chicago scene and even went on to perform with Paul Butterfield, the man who inspired him to follow his rock and roll dreams.

Watch Steve Miller talk about finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame below: