Mighty Mike Schermer, the guest star at this week’s Tuesday Night Blues with the Buddy Emmer Blues Band, has been mighty busy.
Schermer’s home base is in the Reno-Tahoe region, but he’s been the guitarist for Austin’s Marcia Ball Band for 12 years. A co-headlining tour with Marcia Ball and Tommy Castro that was first slated to start in April 2020 was finally held, along with several more shows. Schermer estimates he’s played 25 concerts in the last five weeks.
“It felt like all our gigs from the last year and a half were crammed into a month,” Schermer said. “The crowds are really appreciative that (live music) is back.”
Schermer lived in Northern California for many years, playing in Elvin Bishop’s band. When Bishop cooled the heels a bit on his “Traveling Shoes,” Schermer moved to Austin to team with Ball, who has constantly toured the globe for decades.
Since the pandemic, Michael Archer replaced Don Bennett on bass.
“Don was in the band 40 years, longer than any of (Marcia’s) marriages,” Schermer said. “He’s emblematic of what a lot of people went through during the pandemic, which is to just put a life into perspective. How you spend your days is how you spend your life. He’s been on the road for 40 years. Who knows, he might have thought about retiring before but the gigs just keep coming, and the road just keeps rolling by under your feet. You look down and 40 years has gone by. It gave him time to back up and say, ‘Now’s the time.’
Onstage interaction is was Schermer missed the most.
“Even if you are playing the same set every night, there is so much that’s going on,” Schermer said. “It has to be a live gig. It’s not the same as playing together in a studio or a remote event. It’s almost like a team playing a game. The clock starts and you have to jump. There’s no going back and fixing your mistakes. A lot of people are in my boat in that they just missed playing with each other onstage.”
Emmer’s Tuesday night shows are a celebration of spontaneity. The weekly performances began in 2015 and have featured guest artists from across the region and even nationally. Repeat guests include Steve Freund, Daniel Castro, Chris Cain, Terry Hanck and, of course, Schermer. This is the second reboot of the Tuesday shows since March 2020.
“I’ve been jamming with other guitar players for as long as I can remember, so it’s really natural for me and it’s obvious that the crowd really digs it,” Schermer said. “Keep the music simple and use it as a canvas for jamming and having fun.”
Schermer’s dedication to blues began with a moment frozen in time by Albert Collins, “The Master of the Telecaster.”
He was an 18-year-old freshman at UC Santa Cruz when a friend bought a $3 concert ticket and insisted that he attend the show.
“It was such an epiphany,” Schermer said. “I didn’t know it until that moment that that’s what I’d been searching for my whole life. I had played a lot of music and listened to a lot of music and had gone through a lot of genres, and it wasn’t too big a stretch. I was into blues rock, (Jimi) Hendrix and Stevie (Ray Vaughan).
“I’d seen B.B. King, and it was a good show but it wasn’t a life-changing thing at that point. But boy, Albert came out with his volume and his power and his energy. And what really amazed me was he did it all with one note. The hair just stood up on my arms and I went, ‘Whoa, what the hell was that?’ Stevie would come out and he would play a flurry of notes. Albert came out and stung just one note and everything just went: Whoa!”
The next morning, Schermer was the first customer in a Santa Cruz music store where he bought a Telecaster.
A mighty good way to start.