The late “3 Fingered Jack” Miller touched many people in many ways, but all of them agree on one thing: Jack was a colorful character.
“He had an angel’s voice with a devil’s attitude,” said Renee Seamount, after taking a shot of cinnamon whiskey Saturday during a toast in honor of the well-known local entertainer.
Seamount was one of many acquaintances, close friends, family and everyone in between who gathered at Meconi’s Tacoma Pub & Eatery to celebrate the life of Miller, who died July 21 at age 76.
Miller spent more than 50 years traveling around the Pacific Northwest sharing his operatic voice and his rock ’n’ roll guitar – gaining a large fanbase on the way.
He was known by many as a former owner – and to some a savior – of the Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor; he was known by many more as a street musician outside Safeco Field in Seattle.
Kris “Sonics Guy” Brannon, another well-known fan favorite who attends events advocating for the return of NBA basketball to the Seattle area, said “3 Fingered Jack” was popular with Seattle sports fans.
“I’d be delivering the Sonics message and he’d be delivering the music message,” he said Saturday.
Miller owned what was then called the “3 Fingered Jack Tides Tavern” in Gig Harbor from 1969 to 1973. He performed at the bar regularly for a couple of years and then bought it after the owner fell into financial troubles, said Nancy Bess, one of Miller’s former girlfriends and the mother to his youngest daughter, Theresa Boyle Patterson.
“Jack saved it from the wrecking ball,” Bess said.
Miller fell into financial troubles of his own, and he eventually lost the bar. Some say he claimed to be “cheated” out of ownership, but few details are known about those allegations.
Miller’s legacy is still an important part of the Tides’ history; he is described on the tavern’s website as “a Jerry Garcia look-alike whose tenor voice resonated across the dance floor on Friday and Saturday nights in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”
Miller’s family said he adapted and mastered a four-string guitar to play with precision despite the missing fingers on his right hand, which he lost at age 11 while playing with gunpowder in Montana.
Miller was also in several movies and has a profile on imdb.com, a website dedicated to movie information.
But it was his constant presence at Safeco Field that struck a special chord with many of Saturday’s attendees.
Recently, the family placed a memory board outside the baseball stadium for fans to remember the musician, who spent about 16 years performing there.
Tori Puryear, a longtime family friend, said scores of tearful fans shared stories about how he impacted their trip to the ballpark.
“He definitely identified with all the Mariners fans,” she said.
Tarina Marie, the oldest of Miller’s three adult children, said she had never met many of the dozens of people who attended Saturday’s celebration. After seeing Miller perform hundreds of times herself, she wasn’t surprised that unfamiliar faces came out to pay respects.
Many said they didn’t know Miller well but were touched by his music enough to come out and meet his friends and family.
Dee Stephenson of Gig Harbor said she was just an acquaintance but that she had seen him perform at venues all over the place.
“You never knew where he was going to show up,” she said.
As popular as Miller was with fans, he was just as popular with women.
“He was an entertainer,” Bess said, laughing. “He was quite a ladies man.”
Bess said Miller’s performances at the Tides Tavern would attract hundreds every weekend, causing seismic movements on the dance floor.
“His music was so infectious, everybody wanted to dance,” she said.
Friends and family say Miller had a voice that projected far and that he originally trained as an opera singer.
His son Shane Curtiss Miller said his father would find the spot with the best acoustics outside the stadium so everyone could hear him.
Saturday’s event could be described only as a party, and the younger Miller, who was visiting from Colorado, said that reflected his father’s life.
“He always had a good time,” he said.
With no shortage of fond memories, one stood out to Miller about his father.
“He used to say, ‘When it’s not fun, I don’t want to be here anymore,’” he said. “That was Jack.”