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More than your average musical family

Patrick Vassel | Wednesday, March 24, 2004

It’s been awhile since a band of family members has broken through to the big time and major notoriety. Long gone are the days of Sly & the Family Stone, The Osmonds, and The Jacksons. That doesn’t stop talented families from jamming in basements and crossing the country on tours that are often difficult to distinguish from family vacations. Perhaps the hottest and most talented family in the country right now is coming to Legends this weekend, the Millers of the Clayton Miller Blues Band.”It was sort of an accident,” Tammy Miller, the wife, mother and publicity agent for the band, says of how the family started playing music. “We loved going camping and it really just started out with jamming around the campfire.” Tammy’s husband, Larry, plays bass for the band, while their sons comprise the rest of the group. Clayton is the oldest at 21 and plays lead guitar and sings lead vocals; Cole is 18 and takes backup vocals while playing the drums; L.D. rounds out the group on the harmonica- at 11 years old.”Clayton was the one that really wanted the band, thus the name,” Tammy explains, “Larry and Cole just helped him out and backed him up in the garage, it went from there.” Bringing years of experience and the influence of blues and rock ‘n roll classics, Larry has helped guide the boys as a father and as a band member. While playing together almost eight years and performing for just under six, the group started out with old favorites from Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King. Since that time, Clayton and Cole have spent significant amounts of time developing new material. With several songs under their belt and performing as often as possible, the band is hoping to have a CD in wide release by the summer.Though the youngest member of the group, L.D is the best known Miller. Gaining some significant national exposure last year on NBC, L.D. performed and competed on the show “The Search for the Most Talented Kid.” Not only did he gain some exposure, he gained some fans and made it well into the contest before being bumped off. “He can pretty much play anything, he scares us sometimes,” Tammy says only half-jokingly. “His specialty is harmonica, but almost any instrument he picks up he finds a way to get good at. We’ve been working with his vocals, too, and they’re really getting there.”To those just listening and not looking, the intense wailing of L.D.’s harmonica could easily come from an elderly blues master, and many people are shocked when they see him step up to the microphone. At the band’s various gigs across the country, the youngster never fails to impress the crowds, but he is far from being the only reason the band stands out.Starting out playing Silverchair and Nirvana riffs before jamming with his brother and his dad, Clayton quickly caught on to the blues influences of his father and it didn’t take long for the chemistry of the family to bring the group together musically. Clayton’s voice complements the emotional blues melodies of L.D.’s harmonica perfectly and easily soars above the crunchy, but clear guitar sounds.Currently working with a production company in Atlantic City, the band has been taking breaks solely for tour dates, as they are this Saturday on campus. “You can kind of imagine what it would be like to be touring all over the country with your family,” Tammy says of their gigs. “But we get along pretty well, to be honest, we try and give each other space. It’s not quite the same as our camping trips because we’re rarely able to get back home, but we have a good time together and it’s great to be able to do this as a family.”Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to the Clayton Miller Band was on the set of the Steve Harvey Show earlier this year. Taping the closing show for this season, L.D. was just finishing up a powerful harmonica and vocal performance. The band was excited enough to see the crowd give him a standing ovation, but that wasn’t even the most outstanding moment. Seconds later, Stevie Wonder walked on stage not only to meet the band, but to jam away with L.D. Though obviously shocked to see one of the most influential voices in blues and rock history next to him, the young harmonica player quickly gathered himself to play on national television with one of his heroes. Wonder invited the family back to his trailer after the taping to play some more and to invite L.D. to play again during his Christmas Special later this year. The Steve Harvey Show will be aired on April 29th on the WB network.There have been a lot of great memories for the Miller family already, but they’re hoping for even more up ahead. The Notre Dame campus will get to experience what many critics are calling the best kept secret in blues and rock music this Saturday night at Legends. Though headlined by Clayton, the whole family is sure to blow away blues fans, curious students and just about anyone else that may be fortunate enough to see them perform.