Mr. Stress / Mr. Stress Blues Band
Cleveland, 1966 - 2015
Bill Miller aka Mr. Stress brought his blues harp and voice to three generations of Cleveland fans, peforming for nearly 50 years until his health failed him. He rarely played outside of a small number of NE Ohio clubs that fit his style, played with some of Cleveland's most legendary musicians, and never tried, or got close, to being any kind of 'rock star'. He was truly one of a kind.
He started in the mid 1960s as a young adult who had discovered blues music through older musicians and younger revivalists. The most obvious influence was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Meeting some like minded musicians through Cleveland's very small circle of blues enthusiasts, he formed his first band in 1966. The large network of Cleveland's teen clubs and greaser bars were not really the place for his band, so he opted to play long time residencies at bars like the Brick Cottage (near Case Western Reserve University) which helpd provide him with an audience of blues diggin' college students. Cleveland guitar legend Glenn Schwartz played in the band for a few months in 1967.
During the late 1960s, Mr. Stress and the band did get some chances to get a wider exposure by playing shows in Detroit opening for Steppenwolf and Cream. Supposedly Capitol Records had some interest in signing the band but they did not seem themselves as an 'underground rock' band like Capitol wanted.
By the time the early 70s came around Miller was well established as a local fixture, while musicians came and went in the band, often seeming as some kind of apprenticeship into a musical style and culture. One of the most noted members of the band was Peter Laughner, who joined after his own attempts at forming a blues influenced band had not panned out.
In the mid-late 70s the band were based at the Euclid Tavern, another old workingman's bar that adoped live music at the outskirts of the CWRU campus. They stayed there for years.
The band rarely made any recordings. The first MSBB recording was released in 1981, a live recording from Euclid Tavern. A nice recording studio was not the place to experience Mr. Stress, the best way was to catch him in person, but a live recording would have to do. He released a couple more albums in the late 80s/early 90s.
When the 2000s came Mr Stress was still active, but diminishing, years of something much less than the penthouse life was taking its toll. His eyesight had been deteriorating for years, and eventually he was diagnosed with cancer, which lead to his passing in 2015.
In 2017 a studio recording with Bill fronting (most of) the James Gang was released under the name Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade with the band covering blues standards. Another archival release - Live at the Brick Cottage 1972-3 was released in 2016.
The list of musicians who played in the band probably is close to 100, but besides Schwatz and Laughner, other members included Alan Greene, Butch Armstrong (Vito SanFillipo), Kenny Ruscitto, Mike Sands, and Pete Sinks
(LP) Live At the Euclid Tavern - ET 6969, 1981