Writers: Steve Miller/Ertegun/Curtis
Producer: Steve Miller
Recorded: 1973, Capitol Records, Hollywood
Released: October 1973
|Players:||Steve Miller – vocals, guitars, harmonica
Dickie Thompson – organ and clavinet
Gerald Johnson – bass
John King – drums
|Album:||The Joker (Capital, 1973)|
Steve Miller taught Boz Scaggs to play guitar during their high school days in Dallas, Texas. They played together in a band called the Marksmen. They also played together during college in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Fabulous Night Trains, with jazz pianist Ben Sidran.
Miller moved to Chicago in the early ’60s and played with legendary bluesmen Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Paul Butterfield. He formed the Steve Miller Blues Band after moving to San Francisco in 1966, and Scaggs joined in 1967.
Miller’s sixth single, “The Joker,” was his first to make the Billboard Top 40. It went all the way to Number One and stayed in the Top 40 for 16 weeks. The Joker album was carried to Number Two on the chart by the success of the title track.
Miller wrote the song in 1972, when a broken neck and hepatitis forced him to take time off from his heavy touring schedule. In his boxed set liner notes, Miller writes, “This was made up one night out underneath the stars at a party. I was stretched out on the hood of an old car playing guitar, looking for shooting stars and it wrote itself. The slide guitar part is a Fender Stratocaster plugged into (a) fuzztone box, run through a Hammond organ Leslie speaker set on chorus.”
A single from his 1983 concert album featured a live version of “The Joker” on the B-side but didn’t chart.
Though it didn’t chart in England in 1973, “The Joker” hit Number One there in 1990, after it was used in a Levi’s jeans TV commercial.