Mighty Mike Schermer releases new CD at Sly’s.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Most area musicians have similar stories about how they got into the blues. It starts during their school days when they discover their older siblings’ Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton records. Totally turned on to rock ‘n’ roll, they start playing guitar and form unnamed bands. Then, something happens that leads them to a deeper understanding of music, and they realize that their favorite musicians are just imitating blues artists.
Sometimes, this realization comes while listening to an artist like Muddy Waters on record. Other times, it occurs while attending a performance by a famous bluesman like B.B. King.
For Santa Cruz guitarist Mighty Mike Schermer, the musical turning point occurred at a 1984 Albert Collins show at UC Santa Cruz. Schermer, who was surprised by Collins’ high-energy performance, was changed forever.
“I guess you could call it an epiphany,” he says. “Musically, everything started to make sense at that moment.”
Five years later, Schermer was fronting a Santa Cruz blues band with Andy Santana called The Soul Drivers. The band made a name for itself by playing Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz every Tuesday night.
After one bassist departed to play in The Fabulous Thunderbirds and his replacement left to join Coco Montoya’s band, Schermer and the rest of The Soul Drivers called it quits in 1997.
Schermer started backing well-known musicians like Charlie Musselwhite and Angela Strehli. In 2000, he released his own CD titled First Set.
Five years later, Schermer is just putting out his sophomore album, Next Set. Schermer says there is a reason for waiting so long to finish the new work.
“On this record, I just wanted to have a bunch of strong material,” he says.
Next Set proves to be worth the wait. The CD—which is comprised of 10 originals alongside a cover of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters’ “Rain Down Tears” and Earl King’s “It All Went Down the Drain”—ranges from the excellent R&B rock of “That Same Door” to the shuffling blues of “Big Fine Girl.” One of the release’s standout tracks is “My Big Sister’s Radio,” a Van Morrison-sounding ode to the object that got Schermer hooked on music at an early age.
“That song really came out like my vision,” he says.
In addition to great songwriting, Next Set is filled with scores of guests from the regional blues music scene. Musicians like sax player Terry Hanck and organ player Dale Ockerman (formerly of the Doobie Brothers) make appearances on several tracks. Meanwhile, famed vocalists Maria Muldaur, Sista Monica Parker and Shana Morrison add lead and backing vocals.
While Schermer is looking into getting his album a distribution deal, the guitarist and songwriter will continue performing with a multitude of other bands, including Sly McFly’s All-Star Band, Maria Muldaur and soul singer Howard Tate.
“Here everyone has to play in several different bands to make it work,” he says.
But, according to Schermer, keeping busy musically has a distinct advantage.
“This August, I’ll have been 15 years without a day job,” he says.
Mighty Mike Schermer and his band celebrate the release of Next Set at Sly McFly’s, 700 Cannery Row in Monterey, Saturday at 9pm. 649-8050.