Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
A. I am a 60-year-old blues singer and harmonica player that has been touring and recording since I was 25 years old, with the exception of the period from 2002 to 2011. During that time I chose to stay home and raise my children and take part in their childhood development until they finished high school. I have been married to my wife Therese for 27 years, and we both put our family ahead of ourselves. My good friend, the late Jimmy Rogers, did the same when he was in Chicago in the early sixties.
I grew up in NYC and began playing and performing there as a teenager and was able to meet many Chicago Blues legends, such as Muddy Waters and all his great sidemen, Howlin’ Wolf and his band, James Cotton, Eddie Kirkland, Big Walter Horton, Rosco Gordon, and others. These friendships allowed me to tour, record, and mentor with Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, Louis Meyers, and Rosco Gordon. I spent almost 10 years with my band, Little Mike and the Tornadoes, backing these artists before receiving my first recording contract in 1990 from Blind Pig Records.
Q. What style of blues music is your favorite?
A. Chicago-style blues has always been my favorite. I pride myself on the ability to play and feel the traditional blues sound as it was taught to me by my mentors (SEE PREVIOUS QUESTION). I also enjoy guitar-based blues as well some good old-fashioned rock and roll, as long as it has a groove and isn’t crowded up too many notes. I remember Pinetop telling me when I was a young man “don’t play everything you know in one solo.”
Q. What attracts you to the blues?
A. The feel of the music. It’s so easy to dance to. The groove and feel are what is key to all music, but especially the blues. The blues also tells a story. I always liked songs that gave me a visual of a situation in someone’s life. I can always relate to a song that way. When I write, I always try to tell a story. Sometimes it’s my personal story, sometimes it’s just a story. That means the lyrics, solos, and rhythms have to flow naturally to create a beginning, middle, and conclusion.
Q. Do you remember a specific experience with blues music?
A. I have many. It has been my life. I didn’t just jump on the bandwagon. I have been loving this music since I was a teenage boy when all my friends were finding rock. I remember riding in the car with Calvin Jones, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie Smith, from club to hotel to club, whenever they toured the East Coast. I would go to Chicago and stay with Pinetop and he and Jimmy would take me out to the clubs to sit in and meet people.
Q. What famous blues musicians do you admire?
A. There are so many, that I know I will miss a few and feel bad about it. There is a great blues singer in Chicago, Zora Young, who I recently recorded with and she is one. Zora is Howlin’ Wolf’s second cousin. She has sung with most of the Chicago blues artists and legends, dead and still alive. Pinetop introduced me to her on her club date in Chicago 25 years ago and we have stayed friends.
Of course all the previous mentioned artists that I learned from are on this list. I also love the way Kim Wilson plays and the original Fabulous Thunderbirds with Jimmie Vaughan have always been one of my favorites. I also love everything Otis Spann ever did and I used to tell Pinetop that Spann was my favorite piano player and he would say “Oh yeah? Well, Kim is my favorite harmonica blower” and then we would both laugh. But I know that Kim is the best in the world on the harp and with the blues. Kim was all the Bluesmens’ favorite, and he deserves to be.
I also admire J.P. Soars and Albert Castiglia, two very promising young guitar players with a real feel for the blues. Albert used to come see me play when he was a college student. Both these can play a lot of styles of blues, and be modern in their approaches, but don’t make the mistake of playing too many notes.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share?
A. I am happy to announce that Little Mike and the Tornadoes just released a new CD with Zora Young, titled Friday Night” It is available on Itunes, Amazon, CDBaby, and many others. Here is a link” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/zorayoungandlittlemikean
I also want to tell everybody that “we love the blues. We love you, and we love everybody that LOVES THE BLUES”!
You can catch Little Mike live during the big North Central Florida Blues Society show on Saturday, October 17 at the High Dive in Gainesville with Long Tall Deb featuring Colin John, the Mr. NoMoney Band from Italy, the Pete Karnes Blues Band and the Bridget Kelly Band!