Bob Seger has been making music for almost 60 years
As a locally successful Detroit-area artist, he performed and recorded as Bob Seger and the Last Heard and Bob Seger System throughout the 1960s, breaking through with his first national hit and album in 1968 "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". By the early 1970s, he had dropped the 'System' from his recordings and continued to strive for broader success with various other bands. In 1973, he put together the Silver Bullet Band, with a group of Detroit-area musicians, with whom he became most successful on the national level with the album Live Bullet (1976), recorded live with the Silver Bullet Band in 1975 at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan.
In 1976, he achieved a national breakout with the studio album Night Moves. On his studio albums, he also worked extensively with the Alabama-based Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, which appeared on several of Seger's best-selling singles and albums.
Seger has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.
Bob was born in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1945. Seger got his start in music from his father who brought home Elvis Presley’s recording of “Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel” and taught Bob how to play the songs on the bass ukulele. Seger’s dad had been a big-band leader but had left music to work in the automotive factories. When he was six, Seger's family moved to Ann Arbor. Shortly thereafter, his father abandoned the family and moved to California to once again pursue a career in music. This resulted in great financial hardship for Bob, his mother, and older brother.
While his older brother worked to help support the family, Bob would often stay up and listen to the powerful AM stations on his transistor radio late at night in the family’s one room apartment. Seger became a big fan of soul music stars such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and James Brown. They would heavily influence Bob’s vocal style and musical tastes when he started performing.
Bob Seger’s first big break came when he joined Doug Brown and The Omens as the organ player. Brown was a rock and roll veteran who had worked on demos with Del Shannon, had released a record, and was an established act in and around the Motor City. Detroit rock and roll impresarios Dave Leone and Ed “Punch” Andrews signed the band to record for their Hideout label. In 1965, Doug Brown and The Omens released “TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday)” and it became a local hit.
In the meantime, Brown told Dave Leone that his organ player was also a songwriter who had some great material that should be recorded. Bob auditioned “East Side Story” in Leone’s office on acoustic guitar. He had originally written the song for another local band called The Underdogs. After Leone heard Seger’s solo performance of "East Side Story", he took him to United Sound in Detroit to record it. The song was produced by Doug Brown who also played guitar on the recording.
East Side Story”, released on the Hideout label by Bob Seger, was a sensation in Detroit. When the demand for the single became too great for Hideout to handle, the song was picked up by the Cameo label. Seger then formed his own backing band, and subsequent 1966 pressings of the single were released under the name of Bob Seger & The Last Heard.
Bob and his band built a strong following in the Midwest with additional regional hits like “Persecution Smith” and, most notably, “Heavy Music”. “Heavy Music” looked like a break-out record for Bob Seger & The Last Heard, and it had begun climbing the national charts before dropping out of sight when the Cameo/Parkway record label went out of business in 1967.
In 1968, Bob signed with Capitol Records and the band was renamed The Bob Seger System. Seger’s first single on Capitol was one of the first anti-war protest songs of the Vietnam era, “2 + 2 = ?”. Although popular in Detroit, the powerful song may have been too controversial for many radio stations during that turbulent year.
In April 1976, Seger and the Silver Bullet Band released the album Live Bullet, recorded over two nights in Detroit's Cobo Arena in September 1975. It contained Seger's rendition of "Nutbush City Limits" as well as Seger's own classic take on life on the road, "Turn the Page", from Back in '72. It also included his late 1960s successful releases – "Heavy Music" and "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". Critic Dave Marsh later wrote that "Live Bullet is one of the best live albums ever made ... In spots, particularly during the medley of "Travelin' Man"/"Beautiful Loser" on side one, Seger sounds like a man with one last shot at the top." An instant best-seller in Detroit, Live Bullet began to get attention in other parts of the country, selling better than Seger's previous albums, getting progressive rock radio and album-oriented rock airplay, and enabling Seger to headline more shows. Yet still, Seger had a popularity imbalance. In June 1976, he was a featured performer at the Pontiac Silverdome outside Detroit in front of nearly 80,000 fans. The next night, Seger played before fewer than a thousand people in Chicago.
Seger finally achieved his commercial breakthrough with his October 1976 album Night Moves. The title song, "Night Moves" was a highly evocative, nostalgic, time-spanning tale that was not only critically praised but became a #4 hit single on the Billboard pop singles chart as well as a heavy album-oriented rock airplay mainstay. The album also contained "Mainstreet" (written about Ann Arbor's Ann Street), a #24 hit ballad that emphasized Seger's rock credentials as well as guitarist Pete Carr's haunting lead guitar. The album also featured the anthem "Rock and Roll Never Forgets". Night Moves was Seger's first top-ten album in the Billboard album chart, and as of 2006 was certified at 6 million copies in the United States alone – making it the biggest-selling studio album of his entire career. Furthermore, it activated sales of Seger's recent back catalog, so that Beautiful Loser (1975) would eventually sell 2 million and Live Bullet (1976) would go on to sell some 6 million copies in the United States. Live Bullet stayed on the Billboard charts for 168 weeks and remains one of the ten best-selling live albums of all time.
In 1980, Seger released Against the Wind and it became his first and only #1 album on the Billboard album chart. The first single "Fire Lake" featured Eagles Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Glenn Frey on backing vocals and Muscle Shoals guitarist, Pete Carr, on 12-string acoustic. Fire Lake reached #6 on the Hot 100, while the title song "Against the Wind" reached #5 as a single and even crossed over to the Top 10 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
Several years elapsed before his next studio album, Like a Rock, emerged in the spring of 1986. The fast-paced "American Storm" was another Top-20 single aided by a popular music video featuring actress Lesley Ann Warren, and "Like a Rock" followed, reaching #12 on Billboard's Hot 100. Later, it would become familiar to many Americans through its association with a long-running Chevrolet ad campaign (something Seger explicitly chose to do to support struggling American automobile workers in Detroit). Like a Rock reached #3 and eventually sold over 3 million copies, although it has never been certified above platinum.
On March 13, 1987, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to the music industry, located at 1750 Vine.
On September 18th of 2018 Bob Seger's team announced the 73-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer plans to hang it up after one final round of touring which runs from November 2018 - May of 2019.
Bob Seger through the Years
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- Ramblin' Gamblin' Man (1969)
- Noah (The Bob Seger System album) (1969)
- Mongrel (The Bob Seger System album) (1970)
- Brand New Morning (Bob Seger album) (1971)
- Smokin' O.P.'s (1972)
- Back in '72 (1973)
- Seven (Bob Seger album) (1974)
- Beautiful Loser (1975)
- Night Moves (album) (1976)
- Stranger in Town (album) (1978)
- Against the Wind (album) (1980)
- The Distance (Bob Seger album) (1982)
- Like a Rock]] (1986)
- The Fire Inside (1991)
- It's a Mystery (1995)
- Face the Promise (2006)
- Ride Out (album) (2014)
- I Knew You When (album) (2017)
- Live Bullet (1976)
- Nine Tonight (1981)
- Greatest Hits (Bob Seger album) (1994)
- Greatest Hits 2 (Bob Seger album) (2003)
- Early Seger Vol. 1 (2009)
- Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets (2011)