Steve Miller was caught by surprise by the news that he’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016.
“I’m stunned by the news and baffled at how it works and had given up thinking about it, so it was a very pleasant surprise,” Miller, who’s getting into the Rock Hall after his first time on the ballot, tells Billboard. “It was a surprise, but I’m glad they took their time with it and got it right.”
Miller, 72, has been eligible since 1993, and served as an informal consultant with the Rock Hall as it designed its museum in Cleveland during the early ’90s. “There wasn’t any urgency,” Miller says with a laugh. “I became eligible and nothing happened and it sort of went on for a while and the people started complaining about it and it became kind of weird. Honestly I hadn’t even thought about it. I just got used to the idea that I’ll probably be dead when it happens, if it happens, then out of the clear blue a few months ago people started saying, ‘You’ve been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,’ and I’m going, ‘What are you talking about…?’
“But I’m happy with it. I’m happy for my fans. They’re excited about it. And it’s a great class to go in with. I’ve known Chicago for 50 years; we used to play shows at the Avalon Ballroom (in Chicago). If I had to pick a group of my peers, I couldn’t pick a better group.”
Miller is being inducted as himself rather than under the Steve Miller Band moniker that he launched in 1966, after moving from Chicago to San Francisco. He plans to acknowledge the musicians who have played with him over the years; he even keeps a detailed, updated list on his web site. But he’s also comfortable with how the induction is being handled. “It’s pretty much been my band, my music, my vision of what’s going on, so I don’t feel bad about the band,” he explains. “But at the same time I couldn’t have done any of this without all of these guys and all these people I’ve worked with. But there’s been a lot of people over the last 50 years, so I think this probably makes more sense.”
Miller is spending much of his creative time these days working on the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center, helping the organization begin a blues program, and that work has inspired him to start writing new material in American roots idioms that will likely become his next album. Miller is also helping the Metropolitan Museum of Art update its musical instruments gallery. And once he’s an official Rock Hall member, Miller has an agenda for things he’d like to see the organization achieve, from honoring stage and lighting designers to expanding its educational programs.
“It’d be really great to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame mature,” Miller says. “It’s a good facility there in Cleveland. I like the museum a lot. It’s got lots of people who are involved in it, so they could get lots of help to advance music in school and music education and just keep working on it and research what they actually have achieved and look at what they’ve been doing and see how they can improve it and how they can make it better.”