A Funny Thing Happened at MAMA’s or I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Guitar to Sing

Last night, I went to hear two of my very favorite musicians, Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp aka Red Tail Ring, at one of the metro-Detroit area’s finest folk music venues, MAMA’s Coffeehouse, in Bloomfield Hills. For the uninitiated, Laurel and Michael, who reside in Kalamazoo, play old time Appalachian-styled country music, and they do it extremely well. I’ve written about them in previous blog entries; they are an inspiration to me, and whenever I hear them live, and I’ve heard them quite a few times over the past two-and-a-half years, I always leave their performance taking more with me than I’d brought. I very rarely miss them when they come anywhere within 75 miles, so I was quite excited to have them playing 15 minutes down the road from where we live.

Earlier in the day, I had played an afternoon show at Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room-Shelby Township’s Second Birthday Bash, and had a fine time doing so. I had my playing out of the way, so I was ready to just sit and enjoy Red Tail Ring, but, as I was leaving to go to their show, my wife Kim asked if I was taking my guitar. I replied, “No, I’m not playing, why should I?” I drove over to Mama’s, and when I arrived, Jim Bizer, who manages the music and MC’s the shows, asked if I had brought a guitar. The format usually calls for a main act, an opening act, and at least two “open mic” performances to start things off. (I filled one of those open mic spots a few years ago, in what was my first important performance after having picked up playing again.) Well, for whatever reason, they had no one to fill those slots last night, and Jim wanted to know if I might be willing. The irony is not lost on me that just minutes before, Kim had asked if I’d be taking a guitar.

I told Jim, that, no, I had not brought any instruments, but I could sing some a capella songs, since I have them in my repertoire. He asked if I wanted to think about it, and I told him, “No, let’s do it!” And so it was that I got the evening started with the old lumberjack song from my CD, “Michigan-I-O,” Leadbelly’s old field holler, “Linin’ Track,” and the traditional country spiritual, “Down in the Valley to Pray.” I’m happy to report that my performance was very well-received. While I don’t do a lot of open mic performances these days, I’ve thought for the past year or so that it would be great fun to do something like this, and it was such a pleasure that the opportunity serendipitously appeared in a setting that is by no means just any open mic. It was all the more gratifying that I got to do it with Laurel and Michael listening. My only regret is that I didn’t have a harmonica or two with me, because I have several songs with harp and vocals that I could have drawn from. Note to self: always carry one or two harps in the car, just in case an opportunity like this happens again.

As for Red Tail Ring, they were marvelous, as always. It was also fun to finally meet and hear the opening singer, Bob Marshall. Bob is a second generation Michigan cowboy (he was a rodeo steer wrestler back in the day), and his original songs all revolve around that theme. I also love the fact that he plays old Guild 12-strings, which I can totally relate to.

All in all, it was a great day of music for this old boy!



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"In the best traditions of folk music, George’s songs evoke personal experiences and historical events, and George certainly has had some experiences, let me tell you. But the experiences of which he sings so truthfully here, while almost mundane when taken literally, are made to seem so much more meaningful, so much more heartfelt in his hands and within his voice. These arrangements are as near to the folk tradition as one could hope, are exactly all that’s necessary for each song, and when accompaniment and backing vocals are used, they feature David Mosher on several traditional instruments, as well as Bill Arnold on dobro, providing simple support to George’s already ample foundations." —Michael O'Brien, Open Mike


And George Heritier from Oak Park shared his clever songwriting, cool and entertaining lyrics and hot guitar/harmonica riffs. He got the best round of applause for the whole festival! I am a huge fan of acoustic blues and folk music and George is one of the best I have heard. I would make it a point to go see him ANY time he plays, it will be well worth the effort! —John P. Bayerl, PhD - SeMi Bluegrass.com