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Family, friends remember late musician Jim Miller

SUBMITTED PHOTO Local musician Jim Miller passed away Saturday at 66 years old.

BEMIDJI -- Despite recent health issues that included a stroke three years ago, Jim Miller never stopped doing what he loved.

That was evident this past Easter, when he joined friends and family in playing a few songs on his guitar.

"He wasn't feeling very well but we put a guitar in his hands and we ended up playing a couple tunes," said his wife Kristi Miller. "It was really fun."

On Saturday, the local singer and songwriter known for his roles in the local bands Known Only Locally and Blew Munday passed away at the age of 66.

Kristi Miller described music as Jim's first love, and he played everything from guitar to fiddle to blues harmonica. Born and raised in the Nisswa and Brainerd area before moving to Bemidji, Miller was the main influence behind the string band "Known Only Locally," which formed in 1973, said Kristi, who played mandolin in the band. Jim and Kristi married in October 1974, and their son Amos is now 22.

"He was a very deep person, very philosophical," Kristi said. "It was kind of incredible how his mind worked. He had a very good memory for music and everything else too."

Friend and fellow musician Gary Broste said Miller was also known for playing guitar and singing in the blues band Blew Munday, which played every Monday at the Hard Times Saloon for about a decade in the 1980s and 1990s.

"He had a major influence on the entire local music scene," Broste said.

Miller experienced a setback, however, when he suffered a stroke three years ago. That affected his ability to play his instruments, Kristi Miller said.

"But he really worked hard at it," she added. "He never wanted to do anything else but play and write music. And he did. He accomplished that."

Even off-stage, creating music had a large influence on Miller's life.

"He lived his life as an artist," Broste said. "He was very uncompromising and he was very original."

Miller said there won't be a formal funeral, but she is currently working on scheduling a gathering to celebrate his life this summer. She expects music will be a major part of that event.

"I'm guessing there will be quite a few musicians who will want to play," Miller said. "We'll do something along the lines of where he was at and what he believed in."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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