Robert Clark "Bob" Seger (born , 1945) is an American rock musician and singer-songwriter.
As a locally successful Detroit-area artist, he performed and recorded as The Bob Seger System throughout the 1960s. By the early 1970s, he had dropped the "System" from his recordings, and continued to strive for national success as a solo artist. In 1976, he achieved national fame with two albums, the studio record Night Moves and the live record Live Bullet. His backing band from 1975 was known as "The Silver Bullet Band," an evolving group of Detroit-area musicians. He also worked extensively with the Alabama-based Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, which backed him on several of his best selling singles and albums.
A roots rocker with a classic raspy, shouting voice, Seger was first inspired by Little Richard and Elvis Presley. He wrote and recorded songs that dealt with blue-collar themes. Seger has recorded many rock and roll hits, including "Night Moves," "Turn the Page," "Like a Rock" and also co-wrote the Eagles number one hit "Heartache Tonight." His iconic signature song "Old Time Rock and Roll" was named one of the Songs of the Century in 2001. With a career spanning five decades, Seger continues to perform and record today.
Seger's songs have been covered by many artists including Thin Lizzy and Metallica.
Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Bob Seger was born at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan and lived in the area until age 6 when his family moved to nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan. When Seger was 10 years old, his father left the family and moved to California. Seger attended Tappan Junior High School (now Tappan Middle School) and Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer High School) in Ann Arbor and graduated in 1963. He ran track and field in high school. Seger went to Lincoln Park High School for a year.
Bob Seger has stated that "Little Richard was the first one that really got to me. Little Richard and, of course, Elvis Presley." Seger also listened to James Brown in the 1960s and has said that, for him and his friends, Live at the Apollo was their favorite record following its release in 1963. "Come Go With Me" by The Del Vikings was the first record he bought. Seger also named Van Morrison as being one of his influences and covered one of his lesser known songs "I've Been Working" on his albums Back in '72 and Live Bullet. Mentioning Frankie Miller, Graham Parker, John Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen, Seger remarked: "There's a whole little clique of male vocalists. We're just sort of all connected. I think every last one of us has a connection with Van Morrison."
Regional favorite: 1966-1976
The Decibels & The Town Criers
Bob Seger arrived on the Detroit music scene in 1961 fronting a three-piece band called the Decibels. The Decibels recorded an acetate demo of Seger's first original song, called "The Lonely One," at Del Shannon's studio. It 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.
Doug Brown & The Omens
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 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 dodgers. 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 two clubs 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 future Eagle Glenn Frey). It was then when Seger and Doug Brown were 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.
The Last Heard
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 this 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 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. The song would stay in Seger's live act for many years to come.
The Bob Seger System
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, who offered more money than Capitol. Seger felt that signing with Motown could have been dangerous because they were an r&b-oriented label and Seger played rock.
Capitol changed the name of the band to the Bob Seger System. Their first single with Capitol and as the Bob Seger System 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 but went unnoticed almost everywhere else.
The second single from The Bob Seger System was "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". Predictably it was a smash hit in Detroit, but it also became Seger's first nationally charted 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. The big success of Ramblin' Gamblin' Man was short-lived, though.
Seger was unable to follow up this early moderate success; The Bob Seger System's follow-up album Noah failed to chart at all, leading Seger to briefly quit the music industry and attend college. Seger then returned the following year with the System's final album, 1970's Mongrel. Mongrel, with the powerful single "Lucifer," was considered to be a strong album by many critics and Detroit fans, but failed to do well commercially.
In 1971, Seger released his first solo album, the all-acoustic Brand New Morning which he recorded to fulfill his Capitol Records contract.
Seger's next few albums, released on Punch Andrews' Palladium label and distributed by Reprise Records, were stylistically erratic and appeared in the low 100s on the Billboard albums chart, if at all. These albums included Smokin' O.P.'s (1972), which featured a minor hit (#76 US) with a cover of Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter," and Back in '72 (1973) which featured a long list of known session musicians and work from J. J. Cale. It also has the studio version of Seger's live classic "Turn the Page" (later covered Metallica and Waylon Jennings). Seger maintained his regional appeal in Detroit, and had built a modest following in Florida (necessitating many drives back and forth), but to the general music world was regarded as a one-hit wonder.
The Silver Bullet Band
In 1974 Seger formed the Silver Bullet Band. Its original members were: guitarist Drew Abbott, drummer and backup-singer Charlie Allen Martin, keyboard-player Rick Mannassa, bass guitarist Chris Campbell, and saxophone player Alto Reed. With this new band sitting in occasionally, Seger released the album Seven, which contained the Detroit-area hard-rock hit "Get Out of Denver." This track was a modest success and charted at #80 nationally.
In 1975 Seger returned to Capitol Records and released the album Beautiful Loser, with help from the Silver Bullet Band (with new keyboardist Robyn Robbins replacing Mannassa) on his cover of the Tina Turner penned "Nutbush City Limits." The album's single Katmandu (in addition to being another substantial Detroit-area hit) was Seger's first real national break-out track since "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." Although it just missed the US top 40, peaking at #43, the song received strong airplay in a number of markets nationwide.
In April 1976 Seger and the Silver Bullet Band had an even bigger commercial breakthrough with the album Live Bullet, recorded over two nights in Detroit's Cobo Arena in September 1975. The album stayed on the Billboard charts for 168 weeks, peaking at #34 which was Seger's highest charting album at the time. It also contained Seger's hit rendition of "Nutbush City Limits" (#69 US) 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." Eventually reaching 5x Platinum status, it remains one of the Top 10 selling live albums of all time.
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', Seger sounds like a man with one last shot at the top." An instant best-seller in Detroit, Live Bullet quickly began to get attention in other parts of the country. 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 less than a thousand people in Chicago.
National success: 1976-1987
Seger finally achieved his indisputable 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", a #24 hit ballad that emphasized Seger's heartland rock credentials, as well as the AOR anthem "Rock and Roll Never Forgets". Night Moves was Seger's first Top 10 album in the Billboard 200, and through late 2006 had sold over 6 million copies in the U.S. Furthermore it activated sales of Seger's recent back catalog, so that Beautiful Loser would eventually sell 2 million and Live Bullet would sell 5 million copies in the U.S..
The following year, original Silver Bullet drummer Charlie Allen Martin was hit by a car from behind while walking on a service road, and was left unable to walk. David Teegarden, drummer for Seger on the Smokin' O.P.'s album, replaced him. Despite the loss, Seger followed up strongly with 1978's Stranger in Town. The first single, "Still the Same", emphasized Seger's talent for mid-tempo numbers that revealed a sense of purpose, and reached #4 on the pop singles chart. "Hollywood Nights" was an up-tempo #12 hit rocker, while "We've Got Tonight" was a slow ballad that not only was a #13 hit on its own, but would become an adult contemporary mainstay in years to come for both Seger and other artists. The final single, 1979's "Old Time Rock & Roll", was the least successful single from the album, reaching only #28, but achieved substantial AOR airplay. Moreover, it would later became one of Seger's most recognizable songs following its memorable Tom Cruise-dancing-in-his-underwear use in the 1983 film Risky Business. Album tracks from Stranger in Town were equally strong, with "Feel Like a Number" being especially memorable for its raging powerless fury. Around this time Seger also co-wrote the Eagles' #1 hit song "Heartache Tonight" from their 1979 album The Long Run; their collaboration resulted from Seger and Glenn Frey's early days together in Detroit.
In 1980 Seger released Against the Wind (with ex-Grand Funk Railroad member Craig Frost replacing Robyn Robbins on keyboards) and it became his first and only #1 album on the Billboard 200. The first single "Fire Lake" featured Eagles Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Frey on backing vocals and reached #6 on the singles chart, while the title song "Against the Wind" reached #5 as a single. "You'll Accomp'ny Me" became the third hit single from the record, reaching #14. Against the Wind would also win two Grammy Awards. Through late 2006 both Stranger in Town and Against the Wind had sold over 5 million copies in the U.S., and were followed by the 1981 live album Nine Tonight which encapsulated this three-album peak of Seger's commercial career. Seger's take on Eugene Williams' "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" became a Top 5 hit from Nine Tonight and would go on to sell 4 million copies.
Seger released The Distance in 1982. During the recording of this album, Silver Bullet guitarist Drew Abbott left the band due to his frustration with Seger's frequent use of session musicians in the studio, and was replaced by Dawayne Bailey. After the album's release, David Teegarden also left the band due to internal conflict, and was replaced by ex-Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer.
Critically praised for representing a tougher sound than some of his recent material, The Distance spawned hits with Rodney Crowell's "Shame on the Moon", which reached #2 in the U.S. and also hit #15 as a country music song, "Even Now" (#12 U.S.), and "Roll Me Away" (#27 U.S.). But perhaps because Seger and his band were ill-equipped to exploit the new MTV era, Seger's album sales dropped noticeably, with The Distance only selling approximately 1 million copies. This record was perhaps the final mainstream rock album to be released on 8 track tape; Capitol had no plans to do so, but Seger, guessing that a good many of his fans still had 8 track players in their vehicles, prevailed upon the label to release the album in that fading format as well.
The following year, in 1983, country music superstar Kenny Rogers would team up with pop singer Sheena Easton to cover "We've Got Tonight." This version was a worldwide hit, becoming twice as successful as Bob Seger's original. Rogers even used it as the title cut to one of his own albums.
In 1984 Seger wrote and recorded the power rock ballad "Understanding" for the "Teachers" movie soundtrack. The song scraped the Top 20 in 1985.
In 1986 he wrote and recorded "Living Inside My Heart" for the soundtrack to About Last Night... starring Robe Lowe and Demi Moore.
Seger was no longer as prolific and four years elapsed before his next studio album,1986's Like a Rock emerged. The fast-paced "American Storm" (#13 U.S.) garnered both pop and rock airplay, and "Like a Rock" (#12 U.S.) became yet another successful Seger ballad. 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). Seger's 1986-1987 American Storm Tour was his self-stated last major tour, playing 105 shows over 9 months and selling almost 1.5 million tickets. Like a Rock sold over a million copies and went platinum. The following year Seger's "Shakedown", a somewhat uncharacteristic song off the 1987 film Beverly Hills Cop II's soundtrack, became his first and only #1 hit on the pop singles chart. The song had originally been intended for Glenn Frey, but when he lost his voice just prior to the recording session, he called in Seger to take his place. Seger changed the verses of the song but kept the chorus the same.
Later years: 1988-present
Bob Seger's next record was 1991's The Fire Inside, at a time when glam metal, grunge and alternative rock were all taking the forefront. His new music found little visibility on radio or elsewhere. The same was true of 1995's It's a Mystery, although the album was certified gold (500,000 copies sold). In between, however, his Greatest Hits compilation was a major success, achieving sales of over 8 million units through late 2006. Seger did go back on the road again for a 1996 tour, which was successful and sold the fourth-largest number of tickets of any North American tour that year.
In June 1997 Seger drove his automobile off the Trans-Canada Highway in Nipigon, Ontario and was charged by Ontario provincial police with impaired driving after crashing his car.
Seger took a sabbatical from the music business for about ten years to spend time with his wife and two young children. In 2001 and 2002, Seger won the prestigious Port Huron-to-Mackinac race aboard his 52 foot sailboat Lightning. He subsequently sold the boat. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on , 2004. Fellow Detroiter Kid Rock gave the induction speech and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm proclaimed that date Bob Seger Day in his honor. In 2005, Seger was featured singing with 3 Doors Down on the song "Landing in London" from their Seventeen Days album.
Seger's first new album in 11 years, titled Face the Promise, was released in 2006. In its first 45 days, the album sold more than 400,000 copies. The album has sold over 1 million copies to date and stayed on the Billboard chart for months. His supporting tour was also eagerly anticipated, with many shows selling out within minutes. Showing that Seger's legendary appeal in Michigan had not diminished, all 15,000 tickets available for his first show at Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena sold out in under five minutes; three additional shows were subsequently added, each of which also sold out.
Seger performed "America the Beautiful" at the first game of the 2006 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. Events in late March 2007 suggested that Seger may move on from Capitol Records because those who had worked with him to this point are now gone from the label. The same press release also confirmed Seger's intention to release a live CD/DVD package chronicling his Face the Promise tour at some point in the fall.
Seger lives mainly at his home in Orchard Lake Village, Michigan a suburb of Detroit. He frequents many local events including West Bloomfield High School football games to watch his son who is in the nationally-ranked marching band. Seger also owns a vacation house near Good Hart, Michigan.