It was pretty evident early on that Robert Clark Seger would lead a music-filled life. “I picked up on instruments watching [my father] play — the clarinet was his favorite because he loved Benny Goodman,” Bob Seger said in 2004, “but he played the guitar and the piano, sang in a barbershop quartet. So music was around the house a lot… By 10 I was playing my dad’s bass ukulele, this large ukulele, and already singing Elvis Presley songs, Buddy Holly songs, and teaching myself chords from a book he gave me.”
Bob Seger’s father abandoned his wife and two sons shortly thereafter. The family struggled financially, with young Bob working three jobs. Even during these hard times, Seger managed to form a band, play gigs and even record a few songs. “I’ll never forget the first applause we ever got playing the junior prom,” Seger told journalist Timothy White in 1986, “it literally changed my life.”
Over the next several years, different bands came and went, and Seger was a relative unknown outside his home state of Michigan. Though he performed constantly, nationwide success eluded him. In 1968, Seger and his then-current band, The Last Heard, signed with Capitol Records. Capitol promptly changed the band’s name to The Bob Seger System. The System’s single “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” went to #17 on the U.S. charts, but – though it was a major hit in Detroit – the song failed to bring stardom.
The band’s follow-up to “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” was not well-received; The Bob Seger System soon dissolved and Seger left Capitol Records. Another string of bands followed over the next six years. The loneliness of a singer’s touring life led Seger to pen “Turn The Page”; he wrote it in 1972 while touring with rock duo Teegarden & Van Winkle. “Turn The Page” would not become a hit until years later, after Seger founded his iconic Silver Bullet Band.
Drummer Charlie Martin tells the story about how the band got its name: “It was just the ‘Bob Seger Band’ through most of ’74. Somebody made a comment about Bob Seger being like the Lone Ranger. And the Lone Ranger had the silver bullets. And somehow that became ‘Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.’” Other members were guitarist Drew Abbott, keyboard-player Robyn Robbins, bassist Chris Campbell, and saxophone player Alto Reed. Seger and co. returned to Capitol Records to release Beautiful Loser, which contained the breakout hit “Katmandu.”
Over the years, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band have churned out many hits: “Against The Wind”, “Night Moves”, “Main Street” and “We’ve Got Tonight” among others. Seger’s classic “Old Time Rock’n’Roll” is #278 on the list “Songs of the Century,” as compiled by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Bob Seger continues to tour with a scaled-down Silver Bullet Band.