Songwriter, Artist, Producer Blue Miller Passes

Nashville musician Blue Miller, whose career spanned country, soul and rock genres, died at age 66 on Saturday, Aug. 11.

He was best known to country fans as a mainstay of The Gibson/Miller Band. But he was also notable for his collaborations with rock star Bob Seger, with neo-soul million seller India.Arie and with country hit maker Blake Shelton.

Born William Mueller, he was the son of Detroit musicians and began playing guitar before he reached his teens. As a young man, he formed a rock band named Julia, which brought him to the attention of Seger in the Motor City.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member employed guitar ace Miller as a backing musician at both shows and in the recording studio in the 1970s.

After a stint with the band 1776, Miller launched his solo recording career with two independent LPs in his hometown. When he relocated to Florida, he resumed recording, this time as a Southern-rock artist for Capricorn Records.

In the wake of a brief session career in Atlanta, he hit the road as the only white member in the touring band of soul star Isaac Hayes. He then relocated to Chicago, where he wrote ad jingles for Nutrasweet, Bud Light, Taco Bell and other products.

He also penned music for film and TV soundtracks. Miller’s “Who’ll Miss the Bus” was recorded for a transit-system documentary and won an Emmy Award.

Blue Miller moved to Nashville in 1990. He initially worked as a session musician for such artists as Mel McDaniel, Peabo Bryson and Albert King. His songs were recorded by Englebert Humperdinck, Gladys Knight, David Ruffin and others.

With the assistance of producer Doug Johnson, he formed The Gibson/Miller Band with singer-songwriter Dave Gibson in 1991. The team’s debut on the charts was “Big Heart” the following year. Miller and Gibson co-wrote it with Freddy Weller.

The duo’s biggest hits were the co-written “High Rollin’” and “Texas Tattoo” in 1993. Both charted in the 20s. This activity earned The Gibson/Miller Band a 1993 Best New Group Award from the ACM.

Miller and Gibson also co-wrote 1994’s top-40 charting “Stone Cold Country.” Their cover of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” appeared on the soundtrack of the 1994 movie The Cowboy Way.

The Gibson/Miller Band recorded two albums for Epic Records, Where There’s Smoke (1993) and Red, White and Blue Collar (1994). The title tune of the second became their final country chart entry.

Following the group’s breakup, Miller returned to songwriting and session work. His soulful, gritty voice made him attractive as a demo and jingle singer. His guitar skills were also widely admired. He appeared on records by Doug Stone, Ty Herndon, Vern Gosdin, Michael Bolton, Clay Walker, Tanya Tucker, Aaron Neville, Mickey Newbury, Richard Marx and more.

In addition, he sang backup on the star-making records by Shelton, produced by Bobby Braddock.

His Kick in the Asphalt Band recorded race-themed songs and toured on the Winston Cup NASCAR circuit in 1997. He also co-wrote Neal McCoy’s 1998 hit “If You Can’t Be Good (Be Good At It),” as well as songs for Blackfoot, Blue October, Melissa Manchester and others. He released a solo CD titled Blue in 2000.

When Nashville-based Universal talent scout Reen Nalli discovered India.Arie, she introduced Blue Miller to her new signee. Arie and Miller worked together in Nashville to produce some of the music that made her a star.

Blue Miller co-wrote four songs, co-produced four tracks and performed on five tunes that appeared on her 2001 breakthrough album Acoustic Soul. The album went Double Platinum and was nominated for seven Grammy awards, including Album of the Year.

He toured with her in 2001-02 and continued to work with her on subsequent albums. Miller’s talents are also heard on recent albums by Ginny Owens, Bobby Pinson, Burrito Deluxe, Jools Holland, Ricky Lynn Gregg and Steve Green.

In recent years, he had been producing records for David G. Smith, Confederate Railroad and Brandon Desayer. Smith reported yesterday that Blue Miller died from complications from a cerebral hemorrhage that occurred in January.

Visitation for Blue Miller will held at the Harpeth Hills Funeral Home in Franklin on Friday 4-8 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. A celebration of life service will follow Saturday’s visitation.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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