Over 50 Years of WTF?

Born July 31 in 1968 in Honolulu. Raised in the 1970’s on the overly sunny beaches of Panama City Beach, Florida. That boy never did tan very well. That is to say, he did not tan at all.

Not much you can do in a seasonal beach town if you expect a sunburn whenever you go out. However, music kept this young boy inside playing his guitar pretty much all of the time.

His dream come true…

The summer of 1978, he got his first guitar. He restrung it for the lefty he is and started learning. Within a year, tired of people telling him he played backwards and was hard to teach, he heard he would never have a great choice of guitars being left-handed. Young Mike left his local music store, and hopped on the city bus to go home. There he re-strung the guitar right-handed, starting over again.

His first gigs…

In 1980, he booked and performed his first show. It was with a band of kids 3-4 years older than him. He played a borrowed Fender Mustang and Princeton Reverb amp. As a teen, Mike played at churches, malls, amusement parks, schools, parties, parks… Soon he was showing up at school later and later by his junior year as he began (underaged) to get bar gigs. Mostly, he showed up in time to make his jazz band, performing arts band and choral classes. Music was the only reason he was showing up at all.

His early love was real rock from the 1950s, Doo Wop, Rock-A-Billy, and blues on to the psychedelic era. This kept Lawson out of the sun, in his room, deciphering songs and building a wide repertoire.

Things were not so happy at home for teenaged Mike. His folks divorced when he was 14, left with very little money, no security at home. He was a year ahead of himself in high school. He was attending classes at a local community college while in high school, but home life made it hard. Mike soon got his GED. He then left out on his own to do what young men stricken with the music bug do.

It was a rough start.

By 1984, Mike Lawson began playing with who knows how many bar bands. Some lasted a few weeks, months, or even just nights. The drinking age was 19. He could “pass” and, well, nobody checked IDs when you were hauling in music gear through the back entrance. Besides, how could such a young “kid” know all those “oldies music” songs?

While hanging out in the local college radio station in 1987, Lawson found some strange but intriguing records, one in particular, was “Vermin of the Blues,” by avant-garde musician Eugene Chadbourne. Lawson called him up and invited to Florida to do a show with him (to help taunt the local sheriff).

Mike never had seen “indie” done like that before.

Around this time, he was honing his skills, paying dues several nights a week at any gig he could get. He had a job or two on the side, learned to cook pretty well. He even ran a teen disco the summer of 1988. With a day hustle here and there, he was also hustling gigs at night.

That’s what musicians do.

In September 1988 he was living in Pensacola to join a bluegrass band, four nights a week at a local restaurant. For the few years he lived there, he worked almost nightly and all along the Gulf Coast and throughout the southeast. By the spring of 1989 was doing only solo acoustic shows, performing nearly 200. He was writing, booking, playing, anything to avoid a real job, and it worked out pretty well.

In 1990, he married his first wife, then three months later, learned he had his first son on the way. He had just released “Underground,” a primitively made, hastily-recorded six-song cassette EP on an 8-track cassette recorder. He convinced Eugene to go around the south on a five state, 14-day, 12-city tour. They started at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, they finished at The Point in Atlanta.

Boogie with a Bushman…

A January Winter Acoustic Tour with Will Kimbrough stretched from Florida to Texas and back. In March 1991, he moved to Nashville. In June, he had his first child. However, that’s when life started getting more interesting for him. Babies were expensive. So, Mike jumped into the publishing world: music, software. He created some of the first online music communities for record labels via CompuServe. There he interviewed Lou Reed, Thomas Dolby, his pal Bob Welch. Additionally, he uploaded the industry’s first 30 second samples of music for major record labels.

Now in need of diapers and formula, he toured as FOH engineer and road manager for Tom “Luke Duke” Wopat. He worked for Gibson Guitar in marketing. Mike worked directly with the USA line for about three years, managing the creation of their first online presences. Additionally, he worked with Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Scorpions, Aerosmith, Jimmy Page, and too many to mention, really.

Working with Fred Bogert…

In 1992 he met producer and engineer Fred Bogert. Fred moved into 30 Music Square West’s RCA Studio C room, in the building where Mike’s publishing company was located. Fred had the first digital hard disk recording system in Nashville. With Mike having a publishing office down the hall, he was all too happy to start working with Fred.

He started recording Ticket to Fly, in 1992. Later he brought in Jorma Kaukonen, Bob Welch, Joe Louis Walker, Merl Saunders, Dennis Robbins, and other friends. In 1995, he got the invitation to move to San Francisco to start a book publishing company with MIX Magazine. In San Francisco, Merl Saunders, began to mentor him after encouraging him to make the move west.

The rest of his life was beginning… and here he is. Read some more about stuff here…

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