Born in the northern Maine town of Houlton and raised in East Millinocket, Maine, Mark has been playing guitar since he was six years old, and for more than 45 years Mark Miller made his living by playing guitar. In the early days, he played with his brothers on the porch. In high school he had a band playing top 40. Later he played with a number of prominent bands as a "hired gun," did studio work for numerous CDs, then he came back to Maine where he has reigned over the music scene ever since.
A guitar-player's guitar player, Mark Miller knows how to fill a room with heart and soul, no matter what its size - from small hip clubs to festivals such as the North Atlantic Blues Festival.
His accomplishments include opening for national acts, including B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Taj Mahal, Pat Travers, Waylon Jennings, Jonathan Edwards, Peter Wolf, Shemekia Copeland and others. He's played onstage with Johnny Rawls, Jimmy Johnson, James Montgomery, Debbie Davies, Buddy Spicher, Jimmy Day, Dick Curless. Mark performed with Brad Delp at the Boston Music Awards, with Brad's band - whom he worked with on Brad's solo project for 3 years. Mark was also the winner of the 1989 Lenny Breau Memorial Trophy - handed to him by Lenny's mother. This was Mark's most proud moment.
Between 1995 and 2000, he was featured on the cover of Face Magazine twice, as well as in articles in the Maine Times, Lewiston SunJournal, Bangor Daily News, and many other publications throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The year 2000 he released his first CD, Naked Soul, consisting of original music and lyrics. Right after that he landed 2 record companies - one called Tantara Records, which released a couple of his songs in Europe (where Mark's CD ranked 47 in the Belgium radio market on their American Music Top 50). The other, Jetspeed, in Hollywood, CA - where Mark went to start recording a new CD.
Then, in 2004, he played on the same billing as Johnny Hiland at the L/A Guitar Arts Festival. Mark has performed for the Governor of Maine on numerous occasions, starting in 2002 when he was hired to play at the governor's first and later the second inaugural ball. Since then, he was invited to the governor's mansion for a special performance, and has performed monthly at the governor's family restaurant.
In June of 2006, Mark was nominated by Maine Governor John Baldacci to serve a three-year term on the Maine Arts Commission. Mark brings to the Maine Arts Commission a much-needed blue collar working musician perspective.
Mark is legendary, in that any true legend is really based on fact, and passed from person to person by word of mouth - over the years. Mark has made his name as the best of blues guitarists in the state of Maine through persistent travel, dedication to his craft, and his love of the Northeast.
Mark "Guitar" Miller - electric and acoustic guitar
CD - "Naked Soul" released in USA and Europe 2000
"Make My Guitar Talk Talk Talk To You"
"Pick It Up"
"Everyday I Got The Blues"
"Back To Memphis "
"Old Gray Ford"
"It Has To Rain To Make A Rainbow"
"You're A Rain Maker"
"Ain't Got The Blues The Blues Got Me"
CD - "Whatcha Gonna Do" Released USA 2008
"My Mojo Ain't Workin'"
"Nothin' But The Blues"
"Whatcha Gonna Do"
"Goin' Down By The River"
"Bluebird Flies 'Live'"
"Keep Your Little Red Dress On"
"Me And My Guitar"
Nothin' But The Blues
Love Knows - new master version
Whatcha Gonna Do
It Has To Rain To Make A Rainbow
Pick It Up
Ain't Got The Blues The Blues Got Me
Back To Memphis
Blue Bird Flies - Live
Everyday I Got The Blues
Goin' Down By The River
Make My Guitar Talk Talk Talk To You
Keep Your Little Red Dress On
Me And My Guitar
My Mojo Ain't Workin
I'll Put A Flower In Your Hair
My Home Town
Old Gray Ford
Blue Bird Flies - Live
Back In Maine
Hired Gun leads - studio work
Happy To Be Singing the Blues
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There's something happening in music in Maine. It's the Mark Miller Blues Band. No simple three-chor...There's something happening in music in Maine. It's the Mark Miller Blues Band. No simple three-chord progressions, or chunka chunka rhythms for Miller; he plays blues that makes you attention, sophisticated, jazzy and sweet.
Miller's been at it for a long time. Starting at the age of 6, way up north in Maine in the tiny village of Mattawamkeag, he was learning how to play guitar from his older brother Gareth, a talented guitarist himself and a demanding taskmaster. Playing in rock bands from junior high on, by the time he was in his early 20s, Miller became something of a legend north of Bangor.
Miller has had significant achievements in other genres too. Brad Delp, lead singer of the group Boston, hired him to work on a solo album a few years ago. "I made some real nice money and it was steady work for six months," Miller said. "It certainly made me feel like I had finally arrived musically, but ultimately it was disappointing, because for some unknown reason, Brad never released the album. Brad's a great guy, though, and through him I met some wonderful musicians."
He performed with Delp at the Boston Music Awards in 1988. He also won the Lenny Breau Memorial Trophy at the Downeast Music Awards in 1989.
Miller has opened for Taj Mahal at Raoul's and Johnny Winter at T-Bird's. He was invited to sit in with up-and-coming blueswoman Debbie Davies when she played in Portland.
Kind of a cross between Robben Ford and a bluesy Larry Carlton, Miller prefers to play clean and makes music which rocks, swings, and wails. His band sounds like no other, because Miller doesn't copy anyone. He makes up his own music. His music is complex like jazz, but has an edge like rock and roll. His background in country music gives him a unique way of phrasing his melodic licks in blues.
A gifted singer, his vocals contrast nicely with his guitar work. His guitar playing is out front with a searing quality; his singing voice relies on subtlety for its power, although he's developed some convincing blues shouting.
Gordon Geyerhahn of Freeport is a musician and member of the Southern Maine Blues Society.
Mark Miller's group signs deal with Chinnock's production company
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After 30 years of working as a professional musician, Mark Miller may be about to be discovered. ...After 30 years of working as a professional musician, Mark Miller may be about to be discovered.
Miller of Orrington and his producer, Bill Chinnock, are hoping the time has come for the Mark Miller Blues Band.
"The blues are in again, thanks to Eric Clapton's 'Unplugged,'" Chinnock said. "Labels are looking for blues artists, and adult-alternative radio stations are playing the blues. Artists in the 40s are enjoying renewed success."
Miller believes the time is right as well. "I'm at the right age," he said. "I know what I want to play. I think we stand a pretty good chance if someone will give us some time, and put some money into us."
Miller and Chinnock, who have been friends since the early '70s, formed a business arrangement after Chinnock received a call from another friend, who runs Dan Aykroyd's House of Blues label.
"When I hung up the phone, I thought of Mark," Chinnock recalled. "He's a very, very talented guitar player, who really deserves a record deal. The timing is right, and Mark is here."
"He told me that I spoke with the instrument, and that he could tell me apart from other guitar players," Miller said. "I was overwhelmed with the fact that he believed in me."
The next step was readying a package to pitch Miller to record labels, including some demos and a video.
So Miller, the lead guitarist and vocalist, drummer Rick Curless, bassist Bill Hansen and keyboardist Robin Worthley went into the studio to record songs Miller and Chinnock had written. Miller said Chinnock made the recording session easy.
"I knew that he's a guy who can capture what I do, which is improvisation," Miller said. "I don't like to do the same thing twice. We almost always kept the first take. We had to hurry, but that was good.
Miller learned how to work in the studio while backing up Brad Delp, lead singer of the group Boston, during the late '80s.
"It was a high-pressure situation," he recalled. "I'm able to go into the studio and do things very quickly. I try not to fuss about anything."
Even if a record deal doesn't come his way, Miller will still be on the road performing.
"It's the reason I live, the reason I exist," he said. "I don't have any other choice. I have to play."
He's Beyond Blues, and Rolls Over Rockabilly. This Guitar Icon "Plays for the Sound" and Fills the Room With Soul
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No time for interviews - Maine guitar icon is gigging by night and packing by day for Texas. As our ...No time for interviews - Maine guitar icon is gigging by night and packing by day for Texas. As our goodbye to this 30-year fixture on the New England blues circuit, we research a few of his quotable quotes from interviews over the years in Face Magazine and the BDN.
WHY THE BLUES? "The guitar brings me a lot of love and a lot of friends all the time, but there's a deep sort of loss that I had as a child, a motherless child. (Miller lost his mother at the age of 9.) I guess that's why I play the blues."
ON THE EARLY DAYS "I did some crazy things, like jump up on a table and do a guitar solo, which is kind of dangerous, really...I'd play slide with a beer bottle, or play a little too loud, just to demand the attention...then people started noticing me."
BAR ROOM SPIRITUALITY "When you're out playing the blues music in the bars, it's like when you're in church and listening to a preacher and he says 'let's pray,' This slow stuff, the 12-bar blues, it's like praying."
MAKING IT AS A BLUES PLAYER "Blues just doesn't produce many stars. How many blues performers are household names? B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who else? Alll the rest of them have been made into jazz or country stars. The Blues has never really come into its own. But I'm not dead yet.
"I've never played to make it, thought. I've never played for the money. I play the sound."
Naked Soul, Mark Guitar Miller
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Long before I got to check out Mark "Guitar" Miller's latest CD, I'd read the revies and overheard v...Long before I got to check out Mark "Guitar" Miller's latest CD, I'd read the revies and overheard various comments as to how this project wasn't really a true reflection of his work. Now, having heard Naked Soul for myself, I finally get to add my own totally biased two cents worth. From the outset, however, Naked Soul is instantly comfortable for listeners with its familiar down-home bluesy feel. Opening with the upbeat "Make My Guitar Talk Talk Talk To You," Miller effortlessly coaxes the first of many guitar dialogues from his trusty Paul Reed Smith sidekick. Made popular by the great B.B. King, "Every Day I Got The Blues" finds Miller breathing new life into the woeful losin'-your-lady lyrics of Memphis Slim's ageless blues classic with juicy guitar licks, a robust backing horn section and some of the tastiest piano chops (Robin Worthley) this side of the Tennessee state line. Miller tilts his head back and shows off his strong, smooth vocal abilities on the southern roadhouse macho blues of "Back to Memphis." "Old Gray Ford" and "It Has To Rain To Make A Rainbow" take on a Randy Newman / Kenny Rogers soulful contemporary pop ballad quality. As a tribute to a friend (and fellow Maineiac), Miller rips off a nasty rendition of Bill Chinnock's rocker "Trouble." Chinnock respectfully acknowledges the nod, jammin' along on harmonica. This is still Miller doing what he does best - playing his guitar and playing it with all the feelings and emotions that I've come to know, admire and appreciate about his work. You see, when Miller's guitar speaks (and believe me when I day that it does) I, for one, simply can't help but listen - I'm irresistibly drawn. More than a mere reflection, Naked Soul clearly exposes Miller for who he really is - one of Maine's finest blues guitarists. Nice work, Marke! 13 wicked good blues tunes.
FAVES: "Pick It Up", "It Has To Rain To Make a Rainbow", "Naked Soul"
Mark Miller's the best bluesman you never heard of
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One of Maine's best-kept blues secrets is the maple-top Paul Reed Smith guitar slung over the should...One of Maine's best-kept blues secrets is the maple-top Paul Reed Smith guitar slung over the shoulder of a Lewiston resident named Mark Miller. Now, at long last, a recent series of local gigs and a round of interviews at Portland radio staions have begun raising his profile.
Miller grew up in the backwoods of northern Maine, listening to country music and blues by Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Greg Allman and others. Over the years, he has perfected his chops to the point where he might well be Maine's best blues guitar player. Yet he sacrificed self-promotion while he was working and practicing all those years - a decision he's beginning to regret.
"I never used to care about (promotion)," he says. "I was always just into playing the instrument, being good on the instrument. If you got so you were good, the other stuff would fall into place."
It didn't quite work out that way, though Miller's career seemed as though it would fall into place for a time. Through a friend, Miller's musicianship caught the ear of former Boston lead singer Brad Delp, who now lives in New Hampshire. The two hit it off and wound up playing together for two years.
He finally decided to do an album and put me on salary for, I guess it was eight months," Miller remembers. "He took us to New York to record and around Boston." Miller and Delp co-wrote several songs that were to appear on Delp's forthcoming solo album. One Miller original was even recorded, meaning he was in line for a lot of potential exposure as both a songwriter and performer.
But Delp's label felt the resulting record ("Destiny") didn't sound enough like a Boston record. "We had like five horns," remembers Miller. "It was sort of like a Blood, Sweat and Tears, Steely Dan sort of thing" - hardly calculated to produce hit singles. So the record company and Delp decided to shelve that project; Delp later cut and released two albums with former Boston bassist Barry Goudreau, but Miller was left without a major label record to his credit.
On a demo tape he's been circulating lately, the band plays blues standars and a little-known nugget: "Everyday I Got the Blues," "Crossroads," "Motherless Children" and W.C. Clark's tune, "I'll Make My Guitar Talk to You."
In concert, Miller plays a truly eclectic mix of stuff: Straight-ahead soul music like Al Green's "Take Me to the River," countrified numbers like Willie Nelson's "Night Life," jazz-inflected instrumentals of his own composition - plus, of course, the usual blues standards by Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson and others.
Miller's stated goal is to become well-known around Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, while continually improving his blues chops - and maybe catching some bigger ears in the process.
"(Former Aerosmith producer) Harry King said that when I play a lead, I create a masterpiece," he says, almost apologetically. "I don't say that stuff about myself, but he said that."
Miller talks like a man who wishes he'd gotten his due by now. But, at the same time, he seems almost content to toil expertly at his craft in relative obscurity - just as many of his blues heroes did.
Where the Musician Ends and the Instrument Begins
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You don't even have to see Mark Miller play his guitar to realize how much guitar playing is a part ...You don't even have to see Mark Miller play his guitar to realize how much guitar playing is a part of his life. There's a spark in Miller's eyes and a passion to his voice when he talks about playing that shows an unmistakable love for his instrument. For Miller, the guitar is more than a crafted piece of wood and metal. It's an avenue of expression that takes on a life of its own.
"The guitar leads me around," explains Miller. "I don't really have too much to do with it. That's kind of like being in prison a little bit. It's hard. Sometimes I get thinking, 'I should have something else to do, too,' but boy, I just can't help but pick it up, and sometimes I just hold it. When I watch TV, I'll just hold it close to me, because it's my buddy. It's my friend. It gets me through life. I don't know what I would have done without it."
You might even go so far as to say that the guitar has defined Miller's life.
"The guitar is me," says Miller. "I look at it like it's my identity. It's all I have for an identity. When people think of me, I think they think of a guitar. They don't think of me as anything else, because that's all I've ever been. I'll never do anything else."
Miller's passion for playing did, indeed, begin at an early age. He was only 6 years old when he learned to play the guitar, and only 11 when he started his first band, the Stingrays. It's not surprising that Miller developed a love for music at such a young age when you consider his family background.
"My father sang and played guitar," Miller explains. "He did all spiritual music. My mother sang in the church. My sister, Deanne, played and sang. I had two older brothers, Gareth and Gale, who were kind of like the Everly Brothers back in the '50s. So when I was 6 years old, my brothers kind of helped me out. As soon as I could see I saw a guitar, and I started twiddling around with it, becaus I wanted to be like they were."
Miller's interest in playing the guitar may have begun simply as a desire to follow in his brothers' footsteps, but it became much more than that when Mark was 9. That's when his mother died, leaving him with a deep sadness that has led him to play the style of music that he plays today: the blues.
"It's that Elvis Presley thing," insists Miller. "Elvis was always sad. He always had a sad quality about him. He had a twin brother that died, and then his mother died. When my mom died, I was 9 years old. She had cancer. I played before that. I had a few talent shows and stuff like that as a kid. But after she died, it seemed to leave me with a sadness I will probably always have."
It's not that Miller walks around with a long face many years after the tragedy. His mother's passing was more of a shaping thing. The life that it has led him to has basically been a good one.
"I'm very happy. I'm very appreciative. I've never had any health problems. I have a healthy daughter (Kelsey May). I have beautiful friends. The guitar brings me a lot of love and a lot of friends all the time, but there's a deep sort of loss that I had as a child, a motherless child. If you read about it, there's a big list of them: John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers. Gregg Allman didn't have a father. There's always something to these guys that really can speak with an instrument. There's always some kind of story behind it, some kind of loss it seems, I've had that, and I think it just allowed me to speak with the instrument, because I'm not really a very educated guitarist. I guess I'm just able to touch it a certain way and make it sound like the voice that's inside of me, which is sometimes frustrated. Sometimes it's very happy. Sometimes it's a little angry at the world, when I hear about some horrible thing happening on the news. Sometimes the feeling is very heavenly. Whatever I'm feeling at the time is the way that it's going to happen. I think that's the difference between an artist and just someone that plays. An artist lives by the way that they feel, right then and there.
"It all goes into the guitar," continues Miller. "All of these feelings of love and of frustration, sadness, or whatever it may be, because everything is two things. There's a happiness about something because it has to end. Everything is temporary. My daughter has asked me, 'Daddy, are you going to die?' I have to say, 'Yeah, Daddy will die, but it's going to be a long time. Daddy's not going to die for a long time." I have to make her feel like I'm going to be here for a long, long time. It's a heavy thing, and that's the kind of stuff that I feel when I'm playing."
When you see and hear Miller play,
you understand what he means by putting his feelings into his playing. He doesn't just play the guitar. He makes it sing, and he makes it cry. With every note that he bends and sustains, there is an overwhelming sense of emotion being released that compels you to move to the music. Miller explains what it's like for him to bare his soul to an audience like that.
Miller loves to play the blues, whether it's a song that he's written or a song that he's covering by one of the blues greats. In fact, Miller seems to take great pride and joy in taking songs by some of his favorite artists and putting that edge on them that makes them his own.
"Sometimes I write my own things, but I like taking the old tunes and doing them my own way, and putting my own signature on them. I like to do songs like 'Motherless Child.' I'm not going to write a song that good. There's no way that I'm going to write something like that, that's going to be that good. So I'd rather (adapt). Clapton's done it. A number of people have done 'Motherless Child.' Steve Miller did it. They both did it differently, and I do it the way I want to do it. I'm paying respect to some of the black guys that started this whole thing."
Despite Miller's humble protests that he's not a great songwriter, he does write and perform his own heartfelt songs. They embody his feelings and tell of his life, whether the relate to his mother's death ("It Has to Rain to Make a Rainbow"), his daughter ("Blues Fallin' Like Rain") or another important event or person in his life.
"Everything I write reflects on my life," says Miller. "We do a song that I wrote, 'True Love.' It starts out, 'I've been to San Francisco, I've been to San Jose, I've been down to Texas, been around Mexico way, I had a long-legged woman, I got my morning dew, But I ain't seen nothing like the likes of you.' I've lived in those places, so I wrote that. I write about my life, because I can't pretend that I'm somebody else. I'm not from Chicago. I'm from northern Maine. I think I have a little bit of influence. My family was country, and I'm proud of it. It's country blues."
"I'm very proud to be from Maine. If I never go farther than I have, I'll always be proud that I was able to make a name for myself in my home state, because this is the nicest place that I've ever lived. It's not the place with the most opportunity, but it's the nicest place, where I feel safe. When I was in Nashville, everybody would say, 'Don't go there. Don't do this. Don't go there at night. Watch yourself. Be careful,' all the time. You don't have to think about that around here. I was born in a little town with 3,000 people in it. Nobody locked their doors. I like to go into cities and play. I do fit into the cities. But when I'm done playing, I like to get back to the trees and go back home."
"If I get to live as long as I want to," says MIller, "I think about being a grandfather to my daughter's children. I hope I can. At that point, I think of myself sitting down playing with a hollow-body guitar, playing a little softer, but still playing the blues, just playing it a little differently. At least I will be able to do that. I won't have to go out and rock the place to death."
Double Play - Mark
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There comes a point in any lengthy career where what you do becomes what you are. If you talk to Mar...There comes a point in any lengthy career where what you do becomes what you are. If you talk to Mark Miller, who's played the blues clubs around the Maine area for more than 30 years, you'll find out that he doesn't just play the guitar, he IS the guitar. That's how he got to be known as Mark "Guitar" Miller.
You'll also find out that Miller doesn't just play the blues, he embodies the feelings behind the blues. "I want people to feel a musician that knows how to touch a string with emotion," he says, "I don't know what all those emotions really are. I couldn't explain a lot of it with words. You feel so many things in this life, it's confusing. People are in and out of hospitals all the time, they're on drugs for depression. It's a crowded world. I just want them to feel my emotions that I'm feeling when I hit the strings. A lot of it's happy, joyful, thankful. Some of it's sadness, pain and all the things that I feel as a human being on this Earth, seeing what I see."
In his 50s, Miller is just now starting to taste national success. That's not to say he hasn't garnered respect for his soulful playing, though. The locals have praised him: Portland Performing Arts has stated that "Mark has set a standard for Maine performers," and Steve Lea from Over Easy remarked that Miller's CD
"Naked Soul clearly expresses Miller for who he really is: one of Maine's finest blues guitarists." Outside of the local purview, the accolades have been no less winning: Blues Review said that "Miller's crunching, biting tone and high-end attack could make your hair stand on end," and stars the quality of Boston's Brad Delp are admirers. Johnny Rawls once commented, "Mark Miller's on fire."
Miller started playing at an early age, and it wasn't long before his career path took shape. "I always wanted to play the blues," he says, then relates how he turned that ambition into a reality. "It would have been around 1971. I was living in Bangor. Back around that time, you had to do top 40 music to make a living as a musician, so that's what I was doing. I'd come home from those jobs and I'd sit and play along with Albert King on the stereo. I always loved that music. Those guys are so real. They expose themselves, they're not embarrassed about their problems in life, 'cause everybody's got 'em. Senators, doctors, lawyers, they've all got problems, you know? Sometimes they can afford to keep it closed-circuit."
"Anyway, I'd come home from work and play with Albert King way back then. I just let the years go by, I stayed up here and made a living, and right around '86 the blues started really happening up here. I thought, 'Now I can make a living at it. Now I can do it.' So I started my first blues band then, and just kept working at it. Any place I played, I always really pushed it, 'cause I was trying to make a name for myself. I wanted people to notice me. Sometimes I had to do some crazy things, like jump up on a table and do a guitar solo, which is kind of dangerous, really. I did a few of thos things, played slide with a beer bottle, you know. All that stuff is so easy to do, it's amazing that people think it's, you know, 'Wow, he's playing guitar with a beer bottle!' Even if it's out of tune. I did a lot of that stuff to get noticed, played a little louder than I probably should have just to demand the attention. I was a couple of years, and then people started noticing me."
That notoriety turned into one of the longest local club circuit careers in Portland's history. Along the way, he's made it a point to perform his material his way, even when it cost him some immediate fame. "It's funny how you don't get airplay until you make it," he muses. "You should be giving someone airplay to see if they're going to appeal to the masses. It's like being original. You have to be original to make it, but nobody wants you to be original while you're trying to make it. Isn't that a weird place to be in? I used to get upset at that but now I've got the age to work for me, right?"
"I like to play the way I play," he elucidates. "I've got my own way of playing. People seem to like it, too. It's not weird, it's not like beat jazz or anything else. I just like to play what I feel. I think today, that's not a prerequisite to being an artist. You don't have to feel a frigging note to make money, to be famous. To me, my favorite artist is Ray Charles. He's like listening to a great preacher or somebody, you know? I've always remembered the preachers that were in my life as a kid. My mother was a church fanatic, and there were a lot of preachers around. I remember them having an impact. They had something that moved things around them. That's what I think music should do."
Trying to get his deeply emotional music into the clubs of Portland, however, has proven to be a different challenge. "There's no place to play," he states. "There aren't any places that cater to it. The clubs are in a situation where they've gotta make money to survive.
"There's not many venues," he continues, "and it's not the clubs' fault, because they can't afford it. If I owned a club, which we talk about sometimes, and I knew a guy or girl that had something special, I'd probably pump some really solid advertisement out and I'd charge a cover. I'd make the people know right off the bat that this person is worth something, because look at the price tag at the door. We'll lose money first, but we'll keep the thing going on.
Miller makes it clear that it's impossible to separate him from the music he plays. "There's a big difference between a part-time musician and a full-time musician," he says. "If I started working for the post office, my identity would be, I'm a postman. I'm a guitarist, but I'm a postman too, all of a sudden. No, I've got one thing I do. I'm a guitarist, a full-time guitarist, and that's important to me."
"Whatever you're thinking or doing while you're playing is how it's going to sound," You can tell. You listen to a recording sometimes, and you can kind of tell if a guy's having fun while doing it. Then you hear the guys like Roy Buchannan, a big idol of mine. You can hear his dark world and how painful it was for him. Here's a guy that they say committed suicide. He was a really dark character, and you could feel that in him. He was almost spooky, on the edge kind of playing. You knew he was heavy, and you knew hew wouldn't live long. I've always been scared of that because Brad Delp once told me, "All the guys you admire are dead." The guys that I like don't want to be here that long. There's no place for them here."
Beneath that curmudgeonly, career musician exterior, there's a core of pure gratitude at the heart of Mark Miller. He can hardly go five minutes without acknowledging or thanking someone who has been instrumental in his success. "I want to thank everyone for supporting me for so long," he says, summing up. "I've done this for a living here in Maine for so long. It's quite a thing to survive here, you know, and I'm really grateful for the people who kept me going. Even the clubs where sometimes it doesn't really go over that big, but they kept me going 'cause the respect me. I'm grateful for that. We want to thank the Maine Blues Society. They're very supportive, and we're very glad to have a blues society in this state. The newsletters go all over the United States, there's more than 300 other blues societies. Our newsletter goes to theirs, so they've gotten to know who I am and who other blues artists in the state are. We're proud of that. We'd like to thank all the radio stations that have had me on."
Before it starts to sound like an Academy Awards speech, Miller stops himself short. "Whether anything becomes of the many opportunities we've had recently, its tough to say," he says philosophically. "We may never go any further, but we're here, and we have something to offer our home state."
It's Mark "Guitar" Miller time, once again
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The Celebrate Gardiner Arts Festival will be in full swing Saturday June 18 and Maine artists will p...The Celebrate Gardiner Arts Festival will be in full swing Saturday June 18 and Maine artists will present their work at a free public show downtown. The festival is the kickoff to the Whatever Family Festival. It will feature 40 Maine artists and crafters, food, music, street entertainment, kids activities and fireworks. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Mark "Guitar" Miller will be one of the musicians on hand at the festivities, playing the blues from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the minipark next to Johnson Hall.
Miller first picked up the guitar when he was 5 years old - give or take a year - and played in his first band, the Stingrays, when he was 11. His major influences, he said, range from the well-known Ray Charles to the lesser-known Lenny Breau. In fact, Miller was the recipient one year of the Lenny Breau Memorial Award, which is given to musicians with great talent.
"Breau was the greatest guitarist to live on the face of the earth," Miller said about the musician who had ties to Lewiston.
Miller can often be heard playing at local venues in Hallowell and Gardiner and performs during the pub crawl after Saturday's show of the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland has finished. This year, the festival will be held July 9 and 10. The night before the festival begins, Miller will be performing a Waterworks in downtown Rockland. On July 9, he will play at the Navigator during the pub crawl.
The guitarist has been written about in Face magazine twice, as well as several other Maine publications a number of times.
So far, he has put out one CD called "Naked Soul" - which folks will want to listen to often because it's so good - and a second CD is in the works.
He has traveled to Memphis, Tenn. to compete in the annual blues competition and made a trip to Massachusetts to do some work with the lead singer of the band Boston.
Miller, 55, is still going strong. He recently wrote a song called "Back in Maine," and had the chance to perform it, along with guest singer Lori Putnam, for Gov. John Baldacci at the Blaine House.
"I was very happy to do it," he said. "I was invited to play at his inauguration and was very proud to do it. He is a good man - I'm happy to have him as governor."
And proud he should be. In the past, the Blaine House has had famous singer-guitarists like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson play there as well.
Miller has also performed in Portland at the Tourist Bureau and at Gardiner's own Johnson Hall, both of which were carried on Adelphia channels.
Miller grew up in Maine and loves the state. His dream is to go to Europe and play there for a bit and then return to Maine.
He said that his music was in the Top 50 charts on an American radio show in Belgium in 2000.
The sound Miller makes with his guitar is incredible. His fingers are mesmerizing as they move at a blistering pace from chord to chord. The performance is definitely worth seeing and hearing.
Mark Miller happy to play music in Maine
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Mark "Guitar" Miller is thankful that he has made a living from music. Miller has been playing gu...Mark "Guitar" Miller is thankful that he has made a living from music.
Miller has been playing guitar since he was 6 years old. He started playing in bands at age 11, and began playing professionally in 1971. After 35 years of gigs that took him from one end of the country and back, he has pretty much settled in Maine.
Despite what he perceives to be recent pitfalls in the local music scene, such as the strict smoking laws, Miller is thankful to be a musician in Maine.
The first few years of his career, his gigs were booked in Bangor, northern Maine, Portland and Massachusetts in addition to a recording project in Florida. In 1975, he moved to California for a year where he was able to see Freddie King and other great musicians. "In the '70s, I was playing 5 nights a week," Miller said. This number of nights he performed shrank, he explained, when disco became big and the economy took a turn for the worse around that time.
In 1987, he won the Lenny Breau Award which he is extremely proud of. Some other claims to fame include performing at the Boston Music Awards with Brad Delp who is the lead singer of the band Boston, and playing at the Taj Mahal concert with musicians like Johnny Winter and Pat Travis. Miller's compact disk "Naked Soul" was sold in Europ, bringing in e-mails from Spain, Belgium, Germany, and a few other countries. The CD was No. 47 on the American Music Top 50 radiou show on the Belgium airwaves, he said.
"I still feel very fortunate to make a living out of music and am very thankful for all the fans and their support as well as the places that I play at," the musician said.
Now, Miller plays mostly acoustic sets in restaurants and pubs to make a living. Most of the time it is a solo act, but every once and awhile, he joins a band. He has played the song that he wrote with his friend Wayne Hendsbee "Back in Maine", on an Adelphia television show hosted by Mary Mayo-Wescott as well as for Gov. John Baldacci at the Blaine House. He said he is "very proud" to be able to play these shows.
Recently, he has been playing in Hallowell. He said the fresh sound of younger bands on the scene is "music to my ears." Miller enjoys listening to the young musicians perform and likes to offer them a bit of advice here and there. "After playing for more than 30 years, I believe I have a responsibility to support younger players - showing thema couple of things, complementing them, and attending their shows," he said "Music is a thing that everyone can always improve on."
Not one to be discouraged, Miller plans to take his guitar and play at outdoor festivals this summer where people can sit and listen and smoke cigarettes if they choose.
On the immediate agenda is a show set for Friday, April 28, where he will warm up for Jonathan Edwards at 7 p.m. at Millinocket High School. Miller and Betty Wilkins will perform the "Back in Maine" song. After that, David "Archie" Archibald will join Miller on stage. The concert is a benefit for Millinocket.
Mark doesn't have a set list that is typical. Depending on the venue, he draws from his own repertoire of original works (listed here as Discography), and will move from there to blues standards such as works of BB King, Robben Ford, Eric Clapton, or older works of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Taj Mahal.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.