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Bob Seger is a singer/songwriter hailing from Lincoln Park, Michigan, U.S and born on the 6th Of May 1945. After years of regional success, he formed his backing group the Silver Bullet Band in 1974, and within two years became one of America’s most beloved heartland rockers.
In the 60’s and 70’s, the world was a far, far bigger place than it is now. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the music scene of the day and the way that word *didn’t* travel about artists the way it does today. “Hype” is a very modern phenomenon and we’ve only had the means to generate it for about a decade and a half now. So back in the days following the popularisation of rock and roll you’d have artists like Bob Seger, who in 1974 could play to a stadium full of 78’000 devotees in his native Michigan, and then less to a thousand people in nearby Chicago the day after. However, something that does unite now and then is that a talent like that doesn’t stay regional for long.
Bob Seger was born in Dearborn, Michigan and from the age of six was bought up in Ann Arbor. From an early age his father, an instrumentalist, made sure that the young Bob was surrounded by music. However he was also surrounded by the arguments that his mother and father would have well into the night, and used music as an escape from it. He bought his first record, “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings, in 1957 and by 1961 he’d formed his first band, The Decibels. With The Decibels, Seger might just be the only pop musician in history to have their first ever song also be their first ever song played on the radio.
It wasn’t to last however, and The Decibels disbanded soon afterwards. Seger then joined another local band The Town Criers as their singer, whose success would lead to the first sign of the local following that would define his early years. Seger then left The Criers to join Doug Brown And The Omens, an outfit that he’d sing lead on over a few rhythm and blues covers every time they’d play a concert. While singing for The Omens, Seger met a man who would define his later career, his long-time manager Edward “Punch” Andrews. At first, Seger would write songs for the other acts that Andrews was managing, and later became Seger’s manager and produced a number of his albums.
Seger’s decision to begin a solo career came from a song of his called “East Side Story”, which was originally written for another Michigan based band called the Underdogs, who’d had a minor regional hit and was looking for another one. Unfortunately, “East Side Story” wasn’t going to be that hit and it tanked on its release. Seger, undeterred, had faith in the song and decided to release it in 1966 under the name Bob Seger and The Last Heard. Released under his own name, it became exactly the kind of hit that it wasn’t with the Underdogs, selling 50’000 copies around the Detroit area and snagging Seger a record contract with Cameo-Parkway Records.
Seger released a further four singles on Cameo-Parkway, and it looked as if he was going to make a national breakthrough but unfortunately, the label folded while his single “Heavy Music” stalled at number 103 on the Billboard “Bubbling Under” chart. However in 1968 Seger’s name was enough to secure a major label deal with Capitol Records, and his debut single there was another hit in Detroit but this time, his appeal extended to radio stations in Buffalo, New York and Florida as well. His second single on Capitol, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, was able to break out however, charting at number 17 on the Hot 100.
After this, Seger’s story nearly comes to a crashing halt. Capitol forced up and coming Singer/songwriter Tom Neme into The System and made him start writing and singing lead on the songs that made up their follow up album “Noah”. Needless to say the record tanked, failing to chart anywhere, in a huff, Seger briefly quit the music industry to attend college. By 1970 he was back, but the follow up album “Mongrel” was also a commercial failure and the group disbanded. The following year, Seger’s attempt at a solo, acoustic album “Brand New Morning” also flopped and he was dropped from Capitol Records. All in all, it was a pretty devastating couple of years, but Seger was made of stronger stuff than that.
Seger got back on his feet playing with the duo Teegarden &Van Winkle, spending 1971 and ‘72 recording and touring with them, but as ’72 came to an end, he began putting a new backing band together. After several failed experiments, in 1974, he debuted with the Silver Bullet Band who spent the next two years touring and recording, but it wasn’t until ’76 that they hit pay dirt with the album “Live Bullets”. Recorded over two nights at Detroit’s vast Cobo Arena, it showcased the group’s plutonium-powered live show and gained the group a true national following.
Seger had seen chances like this slip through his fingers before and he wasn’t going to let this one do the same. His follow up album “Night Moves” was a massive hit, its title track going to number 4 on the Billboard Charts and gaining positive critical notices wherever it went. The album itself hurtled straight into the top ten of the album charts and Seger was finally a star. Ever since then, he’s been one of the most beloved songwriters in the states, consistently selling tons of albums and headlining sold out tours wherever he goes. He’s a sign that there’s nothing quite like good, honest hard work and a never say die attitude to get you where you want to go, and he’s also an inspiration to millions. Highly recommended.