John Bartus

I first saw Steven Miller playing guitar in a nightclub in Islamorada some 30 years ago (or thereabouts). I had stopped in after playing a gig in the Upper Keys, and I had heard stories about this amazing axe slinger from Key Largo. I stepped inside, ordered a beer, and proceeded to be blown away by what I heard.

I believe the band was Steven’s Blackwater Sound band, and my introduction to Steven’s ability was when he started the guitar riff to the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane.” It was as if Joe Walsh himself was standing on that stage, playing that signature lick. It was note-perfect. I stayed and listened for a while, and it didn’t matter what he played — his notes and his tone were perfect for the songs he played. 

Fast forward some years, and Glenn Faast (my longtime friend and drummer in several of my bands) had been playing with Blackwater Sound. Glenn was also playing with me in Storm Watch, and Steven sort of organically became a member of Storm Watch as well. I had been the only guitar player in my band, playing both rhythm and lead. There are all sorts of sordid rock and roll tales about multiple guitarists copping attitudes and not getting along in the same band. 

That never happened with us.

Steven fit in like he’d been playing with us for years. I gladly gave up playing lead guitar on a lot of our songs because, frankly, he played them better than I did. His tone was (and still is) amazing, and we meshed perfectly. It was always pure joy playing music with Steven — we never got in each other’s way. For years, I told people I played with the band mostly so I could hear and watch Steven play guitar. Steven could easily hold his own on the big stages touring with myriad rock bands on the road today. He really is that good.

Fast forward to the present, and Steven isn’t doing too well. He had complications from a recent surgery, and is trying to maintain until he’s healthy enough for another surgical procedure to correct what went wrong the first time. He’s been out of work for months, and his wife, Alisa, is holding things together as best as she can.

Simply put, they need our help.

On Sunday, Oct. 8 beginning at 1 p.m., the Caribbean Club in Key Largo is hosting a huge concert and benefit to help Steven Miller. Lots of the finest Florida Keys musicians will be there to play and lend support. Among those scheduled are Jimmy Hawkins, Ron Thoman, Luke Sommer Glenn, Dashboard Dave and The Fender Benders, Ric “Bluesfuze” Arra, Key Largo Jam Band, Allan Truesdell, General Eclectic, The Carousers, Scott Youngburg, Vinny Beard and more. John Mavis, Luke Ptomey, and I will play a set as Jade Storm. 

Dave Feder has donated a guitar that will be auctioned off, and Pasta Pantaleo has donated a very cool work of art to help raise funds for Steven. There will be 50-50 raffles, and all of this will help a Coral Shores graduate and a true native son of Key Largo and the Upper Keys. 

If you can’t make the benefit, a GoFundMe page has been set up. Point your browser in the direction of, and search for Steven Miller. Anything you can do will be a huge help.

If you can make the benefit, please come with a generous spirit. Steven has played numerous benefits for other people and worthy causes, and now he needs our help. There’s a Facebook event page and a Facebook group for the Steven Miller benefit, and you can keep track of everything leading up to the event. There are links there to the GoFundMe page as well.

I really hope to see you (and a whole lot of other people) there at this benefit. It’s time we rally and take care of one of our own, someone who has give a lot to his community and spread so much love and joy with his music. See you at the Crib.

– John’s Perpetual Island Tour stops every Monday at Boondocks, Wednesday at Brutus Seafood, and Sunday, October 8 at the Caribbean Club for the Steven Miller benefit. Check out John’s music anywhere you stream or download your music! Or point your browser to:

Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.