Robert Clark Seger (born May 6, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist. 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. 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.
A roots rocker with a classic raspy, shouting voice, Seger wrote and recorded songs that deal with love, women, and blue-collar themes and is an example of a heartland rock artist. Seger has recorded many hits, including “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, “Night Moves”, “Turn the Page”, “Still the Same”, “We’ve Got Tonight”, “Against the Wind”, “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”, “Shame on the Moon”, “Like a Rock”, and “Shakedown”, which was written for Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). Seger also co-wrote the Eagles’ number-one hit “Heartache Tonight”, and his recording of “Old Time Rock and Roll” was named one of the Songs of the Century in 2001.
With a career spanning six decades, Seger has sold more than 75 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. Seger was named Billboard’s 2015 Legend of Live honoree at the 12th annual Billboard Touring Conference & Awards, held November 18–19 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. He announced his farewell tour in September 2018.
Seger was born at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Charlotte and Stewart Seger. At age five he moved with his family to Ann Arbor. He has an older brother, George.
Seger’s father, a medical technician for the Ford Motor Company, played several instruments and Seger was exposed to music from an early age.[dead link] Seger was also exposed to frequent arguments between his parents that disturbed the neighborhood at night. In 1956, when Seger was 10 years old, his father abandoned the family and moved to California. The remaining family soon lost their comfortable middle-class status and struggled financially.
Seger attended Tappan Junior High School (now Tappan Middle School) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and graduated in 1963 from Pioneer High School, known at the time as Ann Arbor High School. He ran track and field in high school. Seger also went to Lincoln Park High School for a time.
Regarding his early musical inspirations, Seger has stated, “Little Richard – he was the first one that really got to me. Little Richard and, of course, Elvis Presley.” “Come Go with Me” by The Del-Vikings, a hit in 1957, was the first record he bought.
Bob Seger arrived on the Detroit music scene in 1961 fronting a three-piece band called the Decibels. The band included Seger on guitar, piano, keyboards, and vocals, Pete Stanger on guitar, and H.B. Hunter on drums. All of the members attended Ann Arbor High. The Decibels recorded an acetate demo of a song called “The Lonely One”, at Del Shannon’s studio in 1961. As well as being Seger’s first original song, “The Lonely One” was Seger’s first song to be played on the radio, airing only once on an Ann Arbor radio station.
After the Decibels disbanded, Seger joined the Town Criers, a four-piece band with Seger on lead vocals, John Flis on bass, Pep Perrine on drums, and Larry Mason on lead guitar. The Town Criers, covering songs like “Louie Louie”, began gaining a steady following. Meanwhile, Seger was listening to James Brown and said that, for him and his friends, Live at the Apollo was their favorite record following its release in 1963. Seger was also widely influenced by the music of The Beatles, once they hit American shores in 1964. In general, he and local musician friends such as future Eagle Glenn Frey bought into the premises of 1960s pop and rock radio, with its hook-driven hits; he later recalled himself and Frey thinking at the time, “You’re nobody if you can’t get on the radio.”
As the Town Criers began landing more gigs, Bob Seger met a man named Doug Brown, backed by a band called The Omens. Seger joined Doug Brown & The Omens, who presumably had a bigger following than the Town Criers. While Doug Brown was the primary lead vocalist for the group, Seger would take the lead on some songs—covering R&B numbers. It was with this group that Seger first appeared on an officially released recording: the 1965 single “TGIF” backed with “First Girl”, credited to Doug Brown and The Omens. Seger later appeared on Doug Brown and The Omens’ parody of Barry Sadler’s song “Ballad of the Green Berets” which was re-titled “Ballad of the Yellow Beret” and mocked draft evaders. Soon after its release, Sadler and his record label threatened Brown and his band with a lawsuit and the recording was withdrawn from the market.
While Bob was a member of The Omens, he met his longtime manager Edward “Punch” Andrews, who at the time was partnered with Dave Leone running the Hideout franchise, which consisted of four club locations from Clawson to Rochester Hills, where local acts would play, and a small-scale record label. Seger began writing and producing for other acts that Punch was managing, such as the Mama Cats and the Mushrooms (with Frey). Seger and Doug Brown were then approached by Punch and Leone to write a song for the Underdogs, another local band who recently had a hit with a song called “Man in the Glass”. Seger contributed a song called “East Side Story”, which ultimately proved to be a failure for the Underdogs.
Seger decided to record “East Side Story” himself, and officially left the Omens (though he did retain Doug Brown as a producer). As Bob Seger and the Last Heard, Seger released his version of the song with Hideout Records in January 1966, and it became his first big Detroit hit. The single (backed with “East Side Sound”, an instrumental version of “East Side Story”) sold 50,000 copies, mostly in the Detroit area, and led to a contract with Cameo-Parkway Records. Though the name “The Last Heard” originally referred to the collection of Omens and Town Criers who recorded “East Side Story” with Seger, it soon became the name of Seger’s permanent band, which consisted of former Town Crier Pep Perrine on drums, Carl Lagassa on guitar, and Dan Honaker on bass. Following “East Side Story”, the group released four more singles: the James Brown-inspired holiday single “Sock It to Me Santa”, the Dylan-esque “Persecution Smith”, “Vagrant Winter”, and perhaps the most notable, “Heavy Music”, released in 1967. “Heavy Music”, which sold even more copies than “East Side Story”, had potential to break out nationally when Cameo-Parkway suddenly went out of business. It was actually a top 100 hit in Canada, where it topped out on the national RPM charts at #82; in the US, it just missed the Hot 100, peaking on the “bubbling under” chart at #103. The song would stay in Seger’s live act for many years to come.
After Cameo-Parkway folded, Seger and Punch began searching for a new label. In the spring of 1968, Bob Seger & the Last Heard signed with major label Capitol Records, turning down Motown Records, who offered more money than Capitol. Seger felt that Capitol was more appropriate for his genre than Motown.
Capitol changed the name of the band to The Bob Seger System. In the transition between labels, guitarist Carl Lagassa left the band and keyboard player Bob Schultz joined. The System’s first single with Capitol was the anti-war message song “2 + 2 = ?”, which reflected a marked change in Seger’s political attitudes from “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret”. The single was again a hit in Detroit and hit number 1 on radio stations in Buffalo, New York and Orlando, Florida, but went unnoticed almost everywhere else, and failed to chart nationally in the US. The single did, however, make the Canadian national charts, peaking at #79.
The second single from The Bob Seger System was “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”. It was a major hit in Michigan, and it also became Seger’s first national hit, peaking at #17. The song’s success led to the release of an album of the same title in 1969. The Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man album reached #62 on the Billboard pop albums chart. Glenn Frey (later in the Eagles) had his first studio gig singing back-up and playing guitar on “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”.
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man is the first studio album by American rock band the Bob Seger System, released in 1969 (see 1969 in music). The original title was Tales of Lucy Blue, hence the cover photo. In the liner notes, Bob Seger says (sarcastically) he later realized Lucy Blue was Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, and so changed the title of the album. He then thanks “Doctor Fine” for this realization. (Doctor Fine being the person who made Seger change the album’s name.) The original cover design for the album featured the nude figure from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, but this too was changed for the final release.
The title track was also performed on Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s live album Live Bullet (by wikipedia)
The Bob Seger System throw everything into Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, dabbling in folk, blues-rock, psychedelia, and piledriving rock & roll synonymous with Detroit. Typical of such a wide-ranging debut, not everything works. The System stumbles when they take psychedelic San Franciscan bands on their own turf. Trippy soundscapes like “Gone” drift into the ether, and the longer jams, “White Wall” and “Black Eyed Girl,” meander. But the songs that do work are absolute monsters, highlighted by the title track, a thunderous bit of self-mythology driven by a relentless rhythm, wailing organ riff, and gospel chorus. It’s a stunningly great record, and while nothing here quite equals it, the songs that come close (with the exception of “Train Man,” the first inkling of Seger’s knack for reflective, intimate ballads) are sterling examples of spare, bluesy, angry Michigan rock & roll. “Tales of Lucy Blue” has a spooky, menacing edge, “Ivory” is a great Motown-styled raver, and “Down Home” rides a manic riff and a simple blues harp to be one of the best rockers on the record.
Then there’s “2 +2 = ?,” a ferocious antiwar song in the vein of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” but here Seger can’t imagine why the nice guy in high school is now buried in the mud. It’s a frightening, visceral song that stands among the best anti-Vietnam protests. Finally, the album closes with “The Last Song (Love Needs to Be Loved),” an unabashed peace, love, ‘n’ understanding anthem styled in the manner of West Coast hippie pop, particularly Love. It’s atypical of anything on the album or anything Seger would ever do again, but in many ways, it’s the perfect way to close an exciting, flawed debut that winds up being a symbol of its times by its very diversity. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Dan Honaker (bass, vocals)
Pep Perrine (drums, vocals)
Bob Seger (guitar, vocals, keyboards)
Michael Erlewine (harmonica on 05.)
Glenn Frey (guitar, background vocals and acoustic guitar on 01.)
Penny Lawyer (background vocals)
Bob Schultz (organ on 01.)
01. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man (Seger) 2.21
02. Tales Of Lucy Blue (Seger) 2.29
03. Ivory (Seger) 2.24
04. Gone (Honaker) 3.29
05. Down Home (Seger) 3.02
06. Train Man (Seger) 4.07
07. 2 + 2 = ? (Seger) 2.49
08. White Wall (Seger) 5.21
09. Black Eyed Girl (Seger) 6.34
10. Doctor Fine (Seger) 1.05
11. The Last Song (Love Needs To Be Loved) (Seger) 3.05
Still alive & well: Bob Seger in 2019