It’s been a banner year for bluesman Mighty Mike Schermer, who returns to his old Lake Tahoe stomping grounds tonight to take Center Stage for the third time at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Schermer notes that his Original American Music, est. 1966, was distilled in Austin, Texas, and aged in California. That’s some serious moonshine, and he’s also a Guitarsonist. In honor of his 50th birthday, he staged a number of Bay Area shows in August, joined by some heavy hitters in the blues world.
In late November, he completed his 8th annual Home for the Holidays tour, with stops that included Vallejo, Sacramento, San Jose and Redwood City. Tonight, he joins the Buddy Emmer Blues Band at Harrah’s for a free show beginning at 8 p.m.
His summer birthday shows included a reunion with his band the Soul Drivers in Santa Cruz, where he lived for 25 years. He was born in Long Island, New York, and grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
“I didn’t want to plan a party so I planned four of them instead,” he said.
Rick Estrin, Kid Andersen, Terry Hanck, Angela Strehli were some of the special guests who performed with the birthday boy. The Northern California shows are in Santa Cruz, San Jose, Folsom and Strehli’s Marin County roadhouse, Rancho Nicasio.
Schermer played Aug. 9 at Lake Tahoe with the Buddy Emmer Blues Band, his second appearance at the weekly Harrah’s Tuesday Night Blues.
“A mutual friend (Cherie Moses) hooked me up for the first one and I had no idea what to expect,” Schermer said. “I was blown away by how good and professional they were. I knew they were good, but not that they were that good. They learned all my stuff and they didn’t have their faces in the sheets to play it. It felt like Buddy and I were friends from the first note.”
He spent a week vacationing at his family house in Truckee, which is just north of Lake Tahoe. “My mom bought it after she divorced so she could see her kids at Christmas,” said Schermer, an avid skier.
Mighty Mike is a former guitarist for Elvin Bishop. He moved to Austin, Texas, seven years ago when he joined the Marcia Ball Band. Last fall, he released his fourth solo album, “Blues In Good Hands,” which includes special guests Ball, Strehli, Tommy Castro, John Nemeth and Carolyn Wonderland.
Before his last show at Harrah’s, Schermer spoke to Tahoe Onstage by telephone from Teaneck, New Jersey, on the tail end of a three week-long tour with the Marcia Ball Band.
“We did one day on the East Coast, the next in Seattle and worked out way back,” Schermer said. The tour wraps up Sunday in Rhode Island. “I am getting a good read on the country. Everything’s going to be fine. It’s not nearly as bad as they want you to believe.”
Schermer said he loves living in Austin, where there are 200 music venues in a 20-mile area.
“It’s a competitive scene but I already had a gig with Marcia when I showed up,” Schermer said. “Austin welcomed me with open arms. I went to Jo’s Hot Coffee on a Sunday afternoon and Willie Pipkin handed me a guitar.
“Everything is so compact , you can just walk out any day or night of the week and see great music. But I don’t recommend a musician move here without having a gig first. You would have to get in line and pay your dues. They guy serving your pizza can play circles around you.”
The week Schermer moved to town, he saw Gary Clark Jr. play a free show for a tiny crowd in the Continental Gallery. “A year later (Clark) was headlining Crossroads,” he said.
Schermer played on Sept. 17 at the Monterey Jazz Festival as a part of a super blues group with Daniel Castro and Chris Cain, both San Jose artists who also have played at Harrah’s Tuesday Night Blues. The band is called the Guitarsonists.
“We are just looking to diversify and give the fans something they normally couldn’t see,” Schermer said. “It’s also a way for use to play bigger venues than we could as solo artists.”
In 2015, the Guitarsonists played for the first time in Petaluma. Last spring, the trio appeared at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. After the show, Castro was euphoric.
“I am still grinning,” Castro told Tahoe Onstage the day after the show. “It was very magical. Schermer used to live out there, so he’s kind of known. We were just elated to find out the show was sold out. If time allows and we can put some stuff together we’d like to do more.”
“We didn’t know how good that was going to turn out,” he said. “It turned out way better than any of us could expect.”
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