Interview by John “Junebug” Stuerke
This month’s spotlight shines on longtime local musician, Mike Elrod, who has been a professional guitar player since the 1970s. Mike has submitted his self-produced CD to the International Blues Challenge and believes this one is a departure from his past music in that he’s introduced some psychedelic elements, along with the blues. On this CD, Mike plays every instrument, recorded it by himself, and wrote all the songs. Mike has performed at the King Biscuit Blues festival in West Helena, AR, the famed Ground Zero blues club in Clarksdale, MS, and Poor Monkey’s in MS, the Waldo festival, Paola Roots festival, and the Kansas City, KS blues festival.
Mike and John “Junebug” Stuerke are longtime friends and former bandmates, so we asked Junebug to interview Mike for the newsletter.
John: How did you get into music and why blues?
Mike: I was born and raised in San Francisco and came into my teens around the mid-late 1960s. My buddies and I would hoof it to the old Fillmore District, Fillmore Ballroom, where Bill Graham would always have blues acts, such as Albert Collins, Albert King, BB King, etc., opening for the rock acts. That’s where I got the blues bug. I went home and told my Dad I wanted to be a blues guitar player to which he exclaimed, “Oh crap, we’ve got to get these kids outta San Francisco.” We moved to Huntington Beach, but only stayed about a year. There was stuff going on there, too, and my father decided we would move to Kansas City. Being from Texas, he thought Kansas City still had cows running through the streets. This is what he was looking for to curtail my music passion. So, we moved to Kansas City. Little did he know there was a healthy blues scene here. Before I could drive, I would hitchhike or walk to the bad parts of town to listen to it.
John: Let’s get to some of the people you’ve played with; some of the folks everyone will know. Wait, you got fired by Chuck Berry before you plugged in, right? Let’s get to that story.
Mike: Yes, we had the same agent, and one day he asked me if I wanted to drive to St. Louis and play with Chuck Berry because his guys were out on the road. I was the first guy in, set up my amp and was noodling around when Chuck came in, saw me, was offended by the fact that I was playing, and fired me on the spot. I think Chuck was slightly inebriated. I drove back and that was a bad scene.
John: You’ve been in Kansas City for a long time and played guitar for a lot of people. Who are some of the significant cats and bands you’ve played with?
Mike: One of my highlights was playing with Bo Diddley. It was virtually the only show my father ever came out to see me play just because he liked Bo Diddley. Of course, playing with Bobby Rush 3 or 4 times was always great. Then there’s D.C. Bellamy, Billy Gibson, Big John and the 39th Street blues band, King Alex and the Untouchables, Bobby Smith Blues band, Gary Alaska Sloan, Cotton Candy, the Linda Shell and the Blues Thang, Johnny C and the Automatics, Chick (Stoopdown) Willis, the BWB band, Freddy Robinson, and my own band, the Roosters.
John: Oh, and don’t forget the main band that carried you to stardom!
Mike: Right, it was the Porchlights.
John: Ok, I’ve heard your crazy story about state highway patrol, so give us a story about being on the road and something crazy happening.
Mike: The craziest thing that ever happened was when we were on our way to a bar gig and stopped by a liquor store to buy beer. A bunch of bikers saw the equipment in the van and said we’re having a big party at Lake of the Ozarks and need a band. We said sorry, but we already have a gig. They said not anymore and let us know bad things would happen if we didn’t follow them down there. We thought this can’t be too bad, so we followed them and thought we’d pass the hat and make a little money. They put us on a little river on a barge tied off with a generator going into the Lake. Things were going fine until someone got drunk and cut the ropes to the barge and we went floating down the river going into the Lake. That’s just one thing that comes to mind. It was not a good experience.
John: So, how did things end? How did they get you back to your van and equipment?
Mike: They didn’t; they just forgot about us and went on partying. We were floating around until we could get back to the shore and hoof it back to the van.
John: Ok, Mike, we’re going to wind it up. What are your plans now that you’re retired, and the Porchlights have retired? You’ve got the new CD out. What’s your next gig or plans for music?
Mike: Well, right now, I’m still playing a little bit with The Houserockers at Knuckleheads, filling in every now and then. That’s basically all the playing I want to do for a while. I’m finishing up a CD with Jaisson Taylor that’s almost done, but Jaisson’s been so busy with Brandon that he can’t get over here to finish. But I’m just enjoying hanging out in my little studio and learning how to write songs again and I’m just going to chill out for a while and see what happens. But I’ll be back playing, I’m sure.
Mike will be appearing with The Houserockers on November 9 at Knuckleheads. I saw their last show with Mike and it was pretty tasty, Chicago blues with some added psychedelic jams. You can get Mike’s newest CD at the show, or order it online at https://www.ebay.com/itm/186143995471 — Webmistress