When he was 6, Steve Miller moved with his family from Milwaukee, Wis., where he was born, to a strange new place called Dallas. The Miller family soon left a lasting imprint.
Miller's father worked as a pathologist but moonlighted as a recording engineer, one who had talented friends, who often came to the house to pick and sing. They included guitar impresario Les Paul, who became Steve's godfather, and blues legend T-Bone Walker.
Now a youthful 74, Miller released his first record in 1968. That makes 2018 the golden anniversary of his recording career, which includes such landmark mega-hits as "The Joker," "Fly Like an Eagle," "Abracadabra" and "Take the Money and Run."
Two years ago, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which serves as the perfect capstone to years of schooling at St. Mark's School of Texas and Woodrow Wilson High School, where he graduated in 1961.
"I'm holding up quite well, thank you," he said recently, preparing for the next stop on his 50th anniversary tour, at the Allen Event Center, where he was joined by 1970's rock star Peter Frampton.
Despite being a septuagenarian, Miller plays a concert schedule that would appear to be a road map of exhaustion. He loves it.
"I'm one of those lucky people," he says, "I don't feel my age yet."
He spent 30 years in Ketchum, Idaho, where he mastered ski skating, plus he works out with a trainer, which he views as a physical and emotional necessity for staying in shape.
Aside from playing a seemingly endless stream of gigs, he's working on an autobiography and a documentary and putting together a series of boxed sets of recordings, the first of which was recently released on vinyl. The next one, Welcome to the Vault, scheduled for release next year, consists of multiple unreleased songs, "alternate takes" and more than 50 "fine-art photographs."
Along the way, he has played with and gotten to know such legends as Chuck Berry and Paul McCartney, who became friends.
And yet, he has no trouble knowing who deserves the gratitude.
"None of it means anything," he said, "without our audience."
Miller played in bands throughout his Dallas youth and at the University of Wisconsin, "but I never, ever thought I would have a career in music," until ...
He moved to San Francisco during the protest era of the 1960's, allowing him to flee what he calls "the Mafia nightclub scene in Chicago," where musicians were, uh, not exactly well paid.
In San Francisco, he says, "Everything was brand new, and it was all underground. The Fillmore was a new place. San Francisco was like a goldmine. I could play one gig and support my band for a month."
It was also far removed from Dallas, where Miller and his family weathered culture shock in moving here in 1950, when "Dallas was totally segregated. I had no idea what the Civil War was. I didn't know what a Rebel was. I didn't know what a Yankee was. I was just a kid and kind of stunned by it all. My dad ran a pathology lab, and he had black technicians. He had all sorts of people working in the lab, and he loved music."
That part was great. "As soon as we got to Texas, it was like, 'Wow, the Big D Jamboree! Let's go! Wow, the Sportatorium!' "
And there, in the barn-like building on what used to be Industrial Boulevard (now Riverfront), the Miller family spent many a night watching a Who's Who of blues legends ooze their own special magic, when the cavernous building took a rare break from hosting sweaty wrestlers, wearing very little clothing, trying to pin each other.
As Miller recently told Offbeat magazine, "My parents were hipsters, they loved jazz and blues, they had black friends, which was just not acceptable back then. They accused my father of having race parties and arrested him."
Even so, he looks back on it and says, "I was really lucky, because I was surrounded by great music. I was listening to blues and gospel music and big band music and country music when I was a kid. Growing up in Texas was a great place for that."
Texas, he says, is "the musical center of the universe in a lot of ways. Texas is so many things all at one time. And that's truly what makes it great."