MILLER, BILL “MR STRESS” (1 January 1943 – 19 May 2015), was a significant blues vocalist and harmonica player.
Born around Cleveland’s East 30th street and Central Avenue, Bill Miller grew up in an integrated neighborhood. His parents divorced around 1945 when Miller was two years old. Because of the neighborhood in which he lived during the 1950’s, Bill was immersed in the African-American musical culture. Childhood friends would share their blues and JAZZ records with him, and he listened to the genres on late night southern radio shows.
Bill moved to PARMA, attended, but did not graduate from Benedictine High School. Later, when he was 19 years old, he earned a G.E.D.
Miller grew up playing the clarinet, however around 1962, he decided to switch his performing focus to the harmonica. Soon after, he would start his first group called The River Rats. This band became locally known as one of the first groups to play blues and jazz music in the FLATS. After about a year of playing harmonica in The River Rats, Bill Miller’s performance name became, “Mr. Stress”. Additionally, the band experienced a name change from The River Rats, to the “Mr. Stress Blues Band”.
The Mr. Stress Blues Band gained considerable popularity around 1965 and to this day remains a fixture in the city’s musical history and memory. The band opened for well-known rock groups like Cream and Steppenwolf. Additionally, Miller was offered a recording contract from Capital records, but turned it down due to the lack of sales that were taking place at that time for blues and jazz music. Nevertheless, Mr. Stress would be listed on Cleveland Magazine's "Cleveland’s Most Interesting People", class of 1983.
Miller married for the first time in 1970, but it lasted only a decade. Bill met his second wife around 1991, they partied hard together, but Bill decided to quit drinking and smoking. This in turn prompted the couple towards Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Unfortunately, Bill’s second wife met someone at the meetings, and soon after she divorced Miller.
Around 1994, Miller released his album, “Killer Stress”. After just a few weeks of its release, Miller had a heart attack at age 51. He suffered a variety of ailments following his heart attack, among them macular degeneration which left him mostly blind and dependent for the last 20 years of his life. The degeneration of his sight also impacted his love of reading. Miller always possessed a passion for reading about the history of the 20th century, especially military history.
During the mid-1990’s, he also reunited with his 27 year old daughter who he had with a woman from a past relationship. Interestingly, when the couple found out that the woman was pregnant, Bill asked her to marry him, but she refused because they had only known each other for a few months. Instead, the woman decided to put their child up for adoption. Fortunately, Miller and his daughter stayed in contact after their initial meeting. In 1997, Bill Miller divorced his second wife and was later seriously affected by this break up.
The Mr. Stress Blues Band held a consistent performing status at the B and the Brick Cottage next to CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY for almost two decades. On May 19, 2015, Bill Miller died at the age of 72 years old in his apartment in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS.