By Nate Dow
It's easy to understand why Mark "Guitar" Miller gets choked up when he talks about Brad Delp. A legendary guitarist in Maine, Miller had become best friends with the former lead singer of the band Boston. Delp even served as best man at Miller's wedding.
Since meeting in 1980, Miller and Delp often performed together. They also contributed to each other's solo projects. But, just as Delp's 2007 suicide left so much musical promise unfulfilled, all of those recordings remained under wraps.
Now, after several delays caused by financial problems and heartache from Delp's death, Miller has finally released "Whatcha Gonna Do," the solo CD he made with "special guest" Brad Delp.
Miller said it was Delp who urged him to resume working on the album, which he started recording in a Hollywood, Calif., studio in 2000 but abandoned due to lack of funding.
"Brad kept saying, ‘You should finish it, you need to finish it,' " Miller said from his home in northern Maine. "I asked him to sing on it, so he came up to Maine twice - drove his Volkswagen up here. When he heard the song ‘Nothin' But The Blues,' he said, ‘Can I sing on that one?' And so he did. He ended up singing background on some others. But if it wasn't for him pushing me, I might never have finished it."
Miller, 60, is a Down East blues guitar legend who's been playing professionally since he was a teenager. But "Whatcha Gonna Do!" is just his third full album in a career of more than 45 years. Love for his home state, dedication to his family and a run of bad luck with record deals has kept Miller chiefly in Maine. Delp, Miller said, recognized that he was deserving of more notoriety and wanted to lend his name to the project.
"Brad wanted to be on it because he wanted me to get stories in places like the Boston Herald," Miller said while recalling the man he calls "the King of Kindness."
"I wanted him because of his voice," he said. "His voice had a quality about it, a tone that was recognizable and original, just a great-sounding voice, one of the greatest in the world. But the friendship was way more important to me than the music. I think that showed in the way Brad wanted to help me."
It was during an ill-fated stint in Austin, Texas, where Miller developed pneumonia, that he heard the news of Delp's death.
"I cried all day," he said.
When funding to complete "Whatcha Gonna Do!" finally came through in 2008, Miller was too emotionally overwrought to release it.
"It was tough," he said. "I definitely didn't want to put it out in the first year after (Delp) passed away. But finally I called (Delp's ex-wife) Micki and asked her if was OK to have Brad's name on the cover, because it was obvious he wanted to help me and he would've OK'd that."
Miller got permission, for which he feels grateful to Delp's family. He said he feels some peace and closure with the release of the CD. But there is still unfinished music business. He can't understand why the Delp solo recordings he played on, some dating back more than 20 years ago, remain unreleased.
"I don't know why," Miller said. "The recordings are done, and it would be really cool to have it released for all of us - and for Brad. He did some really great stuff on it. But that's up to Brad's family. I am just thrilled that he is on my CD."
By Nate Dow