I have too many remembrances to go through all of it, so here are some of my favorites. Hope you enjoy them.
I wanted to write this myself and do it in a conversational, storytelling format. It's been an interesting journey so far. Mike.
So one day I'm walking home from school (yes we walked to school in those days). On this particular day I stopped in at the neighborhood grocery store for a snack and heard something going on in the back storeroom. I followed the sound and found two guys sittin' on orange crates playing the guitar. The next thing I knew was that it was dark and I was late for dinner. When I got home everybody was waiting for me and wondering why I was late and I told my parents " I know what I want to do for a living". They said "What?" and I said "I'm going to play the guitar". (there was a quiet pause here). But I absolutely knew that I was going to do this. The time was fall of 1963 in Pulaski,Va and I was 12 years old. We all have pivotal moments in our lives and this was certainly one of those for me.
Then in Feb. of 1964 came the next quantum leap . "The Beatles".
I took a paper route and started saving my money and in the spring of 1964 I bought an acoustic guitar from Montgomery Wards catalog. That Christmas my parents bought me my first electric guitar and this is where things started to take shape.
I want to say something here about how I approached this whole idea of playing guitar for a living. My first and foremost reason for playing was very simple. I loved doing it and it fascinated me from a creative standpoint. Wherever it took me from there was almost completely without a plan except to just keep playing and see what happened. I've had, to this point,a really interesting and varied experience playing all kinds of different music as you'll see and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I don't know if this approach would work for most people but I stayed true to myself and that has been one of my greatest accomplishments in the music "business".
In 1964 along with my friends Ernie Garter, Ned Bane and David Jordan we formed a band called "The Jerks". We played in and around town and had a great time. It was a cool band for a bunch of kids. I know we got a lot of praise from the older musicians in town and that pumped us up. We were all 13 years old.
In 1965 Ned and I left "The Jerks" and joined forces with Timmy Gress, Bill Smith and Buck Moody to form "The Chancellors".(we also briefly added vocalist Archie Worell) This band played all over Southwest Va. and was a really popular group. We really had a blast doing mostly old and current R and B stuff. One gig I remember was when we played a sorority party at the then all girl Radford College. It was a rush weekend so there were bands playing all over the campus. We took a break and went out to get some air and check out some of the other bands but there didn't seem to be many people at the parties. So when we got back to our party we saw this huge line of people tryin' to get in and realized we were a big hit. It sure felt good. That place was packed.
Also during this time I did gigs with various other groups including "Eric T. and the Generations" and "The High Society". Also during this time Ernie Garter and I put together a band called "The Majestics" which had a 3 piece horn section. Ernie did all of the horn arrangements for this really smokin' band.
In 1969 the original "Jerks" reformed and started doing original material as well as covers of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Santana, Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, Howlin' Wolf etc.... At this point everybody was pretty accomplished and it really was a talented band. We were 18. I remember every single gig we played was so packed with people that I had to carry my guitar over my head to get to the stage. At the end of that year everybody went off to college etc. and this is where I started to practice constantly. I would play anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a day and this would continue for the next 14 years at which point I scaled it back to my current schedule of 2 to 3 hours per day.
During this time I had a tremendous amount of fun playing with my buddy Ernie Garter. We would sit with 2 acoustic guitars at his kitchen table and play for hours. This was the real deal, playing for the love of it. I want to mention here as well that even though Ernie decided not to pursue a music career he is easily one of the most talented musicians I've ever come across.
(I know at this point it feels like I'm writing an autobiography . Oh well, so be it.)
Also during this time period(70-73) I was attending college and just doing a lot of jamming with different people. One of note was with New York guitarist Loren Morrow. He had heard about me through of one of my close friends who was attending the University of Miami. Loren had just returned from England where he auditioned for the band Atomic Rooster. He was a really great player and we had a blast jammin'.
In the spring of 1973 I packed all of my gear into my 66' chevy and headed south down I-81. My thought was to sort of end up in Miami and take it from there. On the way down to Florida I decided to stop in Nashville and see what was going on and here's what happened. A friend of mine in Va.(Mike Spraker) had given me a phone # of a guy who lived there so when I got into town ,after a little sight-seeing, I gave the guy a call to see if maybe I could spend the night, thinking I would head out for FL in the morning. Well the phone number had been disconnected and so I was sitting in my car next to the phone booth tryng to figure out what to do(because I had very little money). As I was sitting there I heard a rap on the window and there was a guy standing there that looked a bit like Rod Stewart. I rolled my window down and he said " you look like you need a place to stay". I said "yeah I do"
and he said "If you'll give me a ride home you can stay with me". So off we went. This turned out to be another one of those pivotal moments. This guys roomate was STAN HEMPHILL who had played guitar for LITTLE RICHARD. We hit it off and he let me sleep on his couch for 2 weeks. Although he has since passed away I am forever grateful for his kindness. Stan really liked my playing and took me around Nashville and introduced me to all kinds of people. One night he took me over to a club called "Deborahs Casino Royale". I got to get up on stage and sit in with "MEMPHIS SLIM". We also put together a band called "The Afro Space Boogie Band" and play at The Exit Inn. He also introduced me to people like David Allan Coe and Mac Gayden. At this point I thought I would stick around Nashville and see what else could happen.
One day during this time I was at Centennial Park and I saw a guy sittin' under a tree playing a dulcimer. So I went over, sat down and we had the nicest chat for about a half hour or so. We had many things in common including our age, the number of years we had been playing the guitar and just generally seemed to have compatable energy. He said he was doing some recording over at Quadraphonic Studios and invited me over to check it out. As I got up to leave I said "Hey man it's great to meet you my name is Mike Hutchens and he said "I enjoyed it as well my name is Dan Fogleberg". I had never heard of him before but remember thinking "that's an unusual name" and of course never forgot it. I decided to include this story because I just heard this week (12/07) that he had passed away and wanted to add some to the energy of what a nice guy he was and in some extremely small way wish him well on his new journey.
I had always been into players like Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Duane Allman,Santana etc... but during this time I started listeneing to Jazz Rock fusion. I loved the musicianship and started to turn my attention in that direction somewhat. I found the music challenging and liked the freedom of the writing style.Here comes another pivotal moment. I had a friend who was from South Dakota named Bob Seaton. He was a really good acoustic blues guitarist along the lines of Robert Johnson or Jimmy Reed. One day Bob was hitchiking over to my house in Sylvan Park and was picked up by this guy who said he was a musician as well. Bob told him a little about me and said that I was into the Jazz Fusion thing. This guy said he was into that as well and wanted to meet me so when they got to my house they came in and I met for the first time ALLEN WOODY. We really hit it off fast. Within 20 minutes we had already decided to start a band. He said he knew a keyboard player and that turned out to be TONY CROW. Tony knew a drummer and MONTAGE was born. The first drummer didn't work out and then we added MARK CAMP who was attending Peabody School of Music at the time as was Tony. Later we would bring JOHN MOSS into the band as the permanent drummer. We really went at it hard rehearsing as much as possible. I really loved this band. Tony and I were the principle composers and to this day I have never heard anything quite like it. We did gigs all over Nashville and were to my knowledge the first fusion band to play live here. Shortly after we started playing out I heard of another band called Islands featuring Stan Lassiter. Stan is an incredible guitarist and I'm glad to know him as a friend to this day.
Montage played a ton of gigs but two that were notable were the outdoor festival known as "The Rites of Spring" and opening up for "THE DIXIE DREGS" at a concert in Chattanooga. It was great to play with the Dregs and what nice people. As we were finishing up our soundcheck I turned around and they were all standing behind us listeneing, Steve Morse said "Hey our opening bands aren't supposed to be any good". How cool. Backstage before the show I got to sit and talk to Steve a little while and just found him to be a great guy. At one point he wanted to check out my guitar so we swapped. He had that famous crazy Tele and I had the first Mockingbird Supreme ever made. I really enjoyed meeting him. The chief roadie for the Dregs was a guy named Reddog. He had also been a roadie for the original Allman Brothers Band. I got to talking to him backstage and told him what a huge Allman's fan I was and he said "Hey I've got something to show you". So he comes back with this old Les Paul case and proceeds to pull out one of Duane Allman's vintage Les Pauls. He says "here" and hands it to me and I got to sit and play it for a few minutes. It had little silver bars layed into the back of it that said "Duane". I was really honored that he let me play it and it's something that I will never forget. I will certainly always remember these nice people.
Around this time we added drummer John Moss and continued playing live all over Nashville. We also went into Sound Emporium Studios on a spec deal to get some stuff recorded but never ended up with anything we were really happy with.
As great as Montage was the realization came that we were starving and needed to make some money somehow. We hooked up with a great vocalist named Michael Paris and did a series of high profile gigs with him. He put together a great band including all the members of MONTAGE along with incredible singer and percussionist "Mellow" Mel Owens and Saxophone great Sam Levine. We tried to devise various plans to stay together but eventually ended up all doing different things for the time being.
I played with a lot of different artist's during this period so here are some of my favorite stories from this time.
I was on the road with the pop group "Skyline' for a couple of years and one cool gig we had was playing in Louisiana at the "La Bossier" Hotel. We played every night across the hall from Dionne Warwick". On our breaks we would go across the hall and we would sit and watch her show. Just amazing. Skyline was a very interesting band including the aforementioned Tony Crow and John Moss along with amazing vocalist Teri Reid (who has been one of Nashville's top Jazz vocalist's for many years) and also the extremely talented bassist, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Jim Hill. We later added another amazing vocalist, Patricia Caines. She had just finished touring with "Dave and Sugar" on the Kenny Rogers , Dottie West tour.
I heard about an audition for the 60's hit group "The Vogues" so I went down to check it out. I guess I passed the audition because I got hired and ended up going on the road with them for a while. We played mostly the East Coast and Midwest and the fun thing about this was , for the first time, being asked for my autograph. Also getiing first class treatment everywhere we went.
I was fortunate enough to get to play guitar in slide legend Mac Gayden's band for a while. This was a great band including Roy Vogt, Tommy Wells and Costo Davis. We did the TV show Nashville After Hours on TNN with Tommy Crane of the Charlie Daniels Band sitiin' in with us. We also did some recording at Quadrophonic Studios on an album Mac was working on. So I'm in the guitar booth with my head phones on laying down this tricky riff that I had come up with for one of the tunes. I've got my head down concentrating and when the take is over I look up and looking through the glass at me is Carl Perkins. Wow. I come out and and he shakes my hand and says " mighty fine son, I'm Carl Perkins". I will certainly never forget this. What a genuinely nice man.
Also during this time I got to play with Spice Davis from the hit R & B group Shalimar. This was another great group including Roy Vogt, Costo Davis, Dale Armstrong and led by keyboard player Loyd Berry from the group Bottom and Co. One gig we did with Spice was a showcase for the major record labels. This gig was at The Cannery and the place was packed. After the show I was walking off the stage and a group of guys sitting at a table in the front asked me to come over. They were so kind and told me how much they enjoyed my playing and asked me if they could get my phone number. I of course said I'd be glad to. Turns out these men were James Brown's original band "The Flames". Since Brown was one of my idols growing up this really floored me. It still does.
Also during this time I did a series of gigs with experimental rock group "The Neon Bushman". This was a very eclectic band led by frontman Mike Cribb. When it came time to record their 2nd album they brought in Allen Woody and Tony Crow along with myself to help them lay down the tracks.
Another person I enjoyed sittin' in and jammin' with was Phil Doss and his band "The Groovetones". Phil was one of the founders of "The White Animals" and a great sax player, guitar player and songwriter. We really had a great time and I appreciated him letting me hang out.
In 1984 I heard that Peter Criss of the rock band "Kiss" was holding auditions here in Nashville for a new band he was putting together. He had left Kiss and was starting something new. I called them up and they asked me if I could bring a bass player and a drummer and audition together. So I immediately got on the phone and called Woody and John Moss. Some of the best musicians in town we're audtioning for this gig so we got together before we went in and decided that we would just lay back and groove the doors off. After we had played a couple of songs I could tell they were excited and I left feeling very confident. Two days later we were hired and I was really glad to be playing with my buddies again. They asked us if we knew a keyboard player and of course we recommended Tony Crow and "Montage" was back together again.
This was a cool gig. I thought Peter had a good heart and really wanted to do some different things musically.
On our 1st gig I got to meet drummer Carmine Appice who was a member of one of my favorite bands from the 60's "Vanilla Fudge" (of course he also played with Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart among others.). He was a friend of Peter's and had come to show his support. Also on this gig we went on right before "Alcatraz" featuring Yngwie Malmsteen. While I was waiting backstage his guitar tech let me sit and play some of his scalloped neck strats.
I want to lay to rest something I read on another website. This person said that when Peter came to Nashville that he had hired a country band to back him up as if this was some sort of lesser direction. I laughed really hard when I read this. The musicians in Nashville are REDICULOUSLY good. They can play any type of music as good or better than anybody in the world. This town will humble you quickly. It's sure humbled me more than once.
Anyway he was backed up by a tremendous band in any genre. We were in Michigan (I think) and we were opening up for Eddie Money and the Atlanta Rythm Section. It was soundcheck time and we we're about done so we just started messin' around and jammin' a little bit. Doing a fusion kind of thing. When we got done as we were walking offstage a guy that was there to interview Peter from Modern Drummer Magazine came up to me and Allen and said " wow you guys are awesome, what are you doing this gig for?". Cool validation.
We did some recording with Peter at Cinderella Studios but they never got released.
After the Peter Criss gig ended I went back to writing. I ended up writing 30 or so eighties style pop rock tunes and thought it would be cool to try something in that style. So along with Brian Pugh, David Chandler and John Moss we put together the band "Mind Over Matter". John would later leave the band. We then added Roy Orbison's keyboard player Jim "Turbo Kirby and multi-instrumentalist Scott Wilson. This was a very interesting band with a group of top notch musicians. We recorded one album "Crazy" and played tons of gigs all over Nashville. "Crazy" was one of the top sellers of local music at Tower Records. One interesting gig was opening up for The Artimus Pyle Band. I found Artimus to be a really great guy and it was a pleasure meeting him. Also during this time I was introduced to guitarist Felicia Collins(Late Night With David Letterman) who had some kind words to say about the band and their guitar player. I was introduced to her by another great musician Jan Pulsford (Cyndi Lauper,Thompson Twins). Jan is really awesome and forward thinking.
I did a bunch of sessions during this period with all kind of different artists but a couple that I really enjoyed we're : One I did for Carl Tatz at Michael Bacon's (The Bacon Brothers) studio where I got to play with the great session drummer Kenny Malone. An honor. Carl's music was also very cool and fun to play. I also did some sessions for English artist Gilly Elkin. She was very quirky and interesting.I did this solo for one of her songs and it was just out there(as I tend to be occasionally) but she loved it. Very cool.
Another interesting session was with the amazing keyboard player and hit songwriter Michael Mishaw. This was at "The Castle" and featured Donna Mcelroy on vocals and Craig Steinburg on bass. The song "Take My Advice" was one of the hippest things I ever played on. I also got to play some smooth jazz guitar on a song for my friend Hollie Farris (longtime trumpet player for James Brown who also toured with Steve Winwood). It came out very well and had a very cool vibe.
I've been playing the last few years with the R & B band The Baby Boomers as well as rhe BB Jazz Quartet. We have literally played many hundreds of gigs together all over Nashville and surrounding states. This band has some really great musicians including, Brian Pugh, John Moss, Guy Johns and the fabulous vocalist Patricia Caines. We have done a lot of really cool gigs but one I'll mention was in April 2005. We got to do a set before and after the great Felix Cavaliere and the Rascals. I had been a huge fan of the Rascals back in the 6o's and meeting Felix was really amazing. Back in 1968 my friend Bob Byrd and I went down to Roanoke Va. to see the Rascals and we're just blown away.I told Felix this story and he actually remembered the gig. He was so kind to give me a little time and put up with my obvious fan-itis.
Since this time I have been writing and recording my own CD's in all kinds of different musical styles. The first one I did during this time is called "Let The River Run" and is available on this website in the music section. It is a compilation of different styles from rock to pop and jazz. The second CD now available is called "Just Passing Through" and I'm not sure how to classify it. It just is what it is.
My newest CD "Help A Poor Man Live" is now available
This is a blues/R&B CD that I have been promising for
the last few years. I hope you enjoy it.
My new all instrumental cd "Space Between Whispers" is now available at