Image Credit: Ralph Notaro/Getty ImagesTomorrow Steve Miller will release Bingo!, his first studio album in 17 years. Why has the once prolific rocker been silent for so long? Let’s just say he wasn’t exactly overjoyed with the way his record label handled the release of his 1993 collection, See Hear. “I said, ‘I’ve f—ing had it with these clowns,'” recalls the man who brought us “>”The Joker” and “>”Take the Money and Run.” “‘Go ahead and drive it right into the ground, man! You guys are finished anyway. I’m not going to give you any of my time.'”

Speak your mind, Steve! “Oh, I always do,” he chuckles. “Don’t worry, there won’t be any pussyfooting around!”

Miller’s return to recording was prompted by a remark made to him by his longtime friend, the engineer and producer Andy Johns. “I was working on a DVD and Andy was going to mix it,” says Miller. “He said, ‘You know, before I die, I want to do a blues album with you, Steve.’ So I took the band over to the studio at the Skywalker Ranch. We have 28 songs in the can and we’re splitting it into two CDs.”

On Bingo!, Miller covers a raft of blues-flavored hits, including BB King’s “>”Rock Me Baby” and Earl King’s“> “Come On.” He also tackles a clutch of tracks from Jimmie Vaughan’s 1994 album, Strange Pleasure. “I just love Jimmie,” says Miller. “He’s my favorite blues guitar player of everybody playing today. He’s my man. I prefer him to his brother [the late Stevie Ray Vaughan]. I can show you pictures of me and Jimmie Vaughan playing onstage with bands full of really great musicians. And he’s hitting one note, and everybody on the whole f—ing stage is looking straight at him like, ‘What did he say?’ He’s heavy, man.”

Vaughan is far from the only bluesman whose prowess Miller has witnessed up close. In the early ’60s, he moved from his native Texas to Chicago where he became a mainstay of the blues clubs. For a spell he even played in the band of legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy who, according to Miller, insisted his musicians imbibe something a tad stronger than soda before hitting the stage. “The rule was you had to have a shot of bourbon before each set,” says Miller. “I’m like 21, and I sounds good to me: ‘Okay!’ We worked from nine until four in the morning, and we worked six nights a week. After about three weeks I just said, ‘Buddy, I can’t do this any more. You’re going to kill me!'”

Bingo! is being released through Miller’s own Space Cowboy label in partnership with Roadrunner/Loud & Proud Records. The guitarist says he did investigate the possibility of putting the CD out on a major but that the experience merely served as a reminder of why he divorced himself from the record industry in the first place. “We were in New York talking to some people at a major record company,” he recalls. “And these young guys said, ‘Man, this is great! Did Steve write all these?’ I felt like saying, ‘Yes I did. And I’d like to play you my new ballad… ‘Unchained Melody!'”

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