"It just looked like so much fun."
A short time later, while playing at a friend's house, he spied a bass guitar sitting in a corner.
"I'd never seen anybody playing it," he said.
Miller picked it up, and the noise that followed attracted his friend's older brother, Darnell.
"He came down the stairs, screaming," Miller said. "He was screaming, 'Don't touch my bass,' but he was just joking."
Darnell showed him how to play a little. By the time Miller got home, he wanted a bass of his own, so he went through the Sears big book holiday catalog, found a listing for the instrument and showed it to his grandmother.
He said, "I don't remember if it was for Christmas or for my birthday."
Miller's birthday is just after Christmas.
"I told her I wanted a bass," he said, "and she ended up getting it for me."
When Miller was a kid, he said there was always a lot of blues music around Chicago. It wasn't hard to find other musicians to play with, and people were always glad to show a young musician what they knew.
"Back then, everybody wanted to get together," he said. "You'd get a guitar and a bass and some guys, and you'd just go to somebody's house and jam."
It was a different time.
"The younger generation doesn't get together like we did," he said. "People do things differently."
Miller became a regular sideman. He played with bluesman Tony Rogers and then Mojo Buford, two of blues icon Muddy Waters' bandmates.
"I even played a little with Prince -- just for a little while," Miller said.
And then he worked with blues great Lonnie Brooks for 10 years, before deciding to strike out on his own a few years ago.
"I was getting on up in my 50s," he said. "I'd done all this playing with everybody else, and it just seemed like time. I can play this bass fairly well and I can sing a little bit and I know how to smile."
Miller stays busy. He plays constantly and records, but he said he was looking forward to getting back to West Virginia, where he plays often.
"I try to stay connected to West Virginia," he said. "The people there are so nice to us. It's that Southern soul hospitality, I guess."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.