MIKE WHEELER BLUES BAND W/ SHIRLEY JOHNSON @ BLUE CHICAGO
MIKE WHEELER BLUES BAND W/ SHIRLEY JOHNSON
|MIKE WHEELER BLUES BAND W/ SHIRLEY JOHNSON|
|Nicknamed the “Sweetheart of the Blues” by the staff at BLUE CHICAGO, Shirley has been gracing the stage here since the 1990s with her spectacular performances.|
Like so many African-American vocalists, Shirley Johnson started out singing in church and then went on to embrace secular music. The Chicago resident, whose influences range from Mahalia Jackson to Koko Taylor, Etta James, and Ruth Brown, is a gritty, big-voiced blues singer who can also handle soul and gospel. Although Johnson has spent much of her adult life in Chicago, the Windy City is not her hometown; she was born in Franklin, VA and raised in Norfolk, VA. Shirley came from a very religious family and was only six when she started singing gospel in a church choir.
When Shirley reached adulthood in the late ’70s, she pursued a career in secular music and made her presence felt in Norfolk’s blues and R&B circles. She went on to become an opening act for Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, Z.Z. Hill, and other well-known artists who were passing through town. In the early ’80s, she recorded some singles for two regional labels in Virginia and those recordings caught the attention of a man who was planning to start a label in Chicago. The aspiring record man expressed interest in recording Ms. Johnson and sent her a plane ticket to Chicago, but when she arrived in the Windy City she learned he didn’t have enough money to pay for a session.
Nonetheless, she decided to remain in Chicago and became active on the city’s blues circuit, where she has performed both Blues and Soul. The musicians she worked with in Chicago included Little Johnny Christian, Artie “Blues Boy” White, and keyboardist “Professor” Eddie Lusk (who was a staple at BLUE CHICAGO and took Johnson on the road with him on international tours.)
Since the ’90s, Johnson has made many recordings and in 2000 is one of the vocalists recorded on BLUE CHICAGO’s CD entitled “Mojo Mamas.”
This is The Mike Wheeler Band Website. One of the hardest working bands in Chicago. The Mike Wheeler Band consists of : Mike Wheeler- Guitar & Vocals, Larry Williams-Bass & Background Vocals, Cleo Cole -Drums , Brian James-Keyboards & Background Vocals.
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Mike Wheeler has a vast knowledge of music and a voice that’s reminiscent of the late Sam Cooke. He can sing and play everything so well that you may forget what the original record even sounds like. From Jazz to Rock, from popular music to Top 40, he slides in and out of musical genres with sophistication, ease and indulgence. Mike Wheeler is a brilliant staple in the Chicago blues community, playing and writing songs for a variety of Chicago artists including, Nellie Tiger Travis, Peaches Staten, Sam Cockrell, Demetria Taylor, Big Ray & Cadillac Dave. Mike was a well known member of Big James &The Chicago Playboys, a notable band in Chicago and recorded five albums with the group. He has travelled the world as an ambassador for Chicago blues music. He’s been to Monaco, France, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium, just to name a few. He’s also shared the stage with the most elite musicians the world has known, including Willie Kent, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, George Benson, Jimmy Johnson and Shemekia Copeland. Mike was inducted in the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mike uses Elixir Strings.
Larry Williams is a Bass Extraordinaire with unmatched stage presence and charisma. Influenced by artists such as Bennie Williams, Jerome Scott, Sam Cockrell, Larry Graham, James Jamerson, Willie Dixon, Stanley Clarke and Verdine White just to name a few. Larry’s style is clean and driving, reminiscent of the late greats yet modern, enabling him to play with the best in the business. From Gospel to Alternative, Larry can play it all. He has played on national and international stages. He has performed with Albertina Walker, Tyrone Davis, James Cotton, Jimmy Johnson, Buddy Guy, Vicki Winans, Koko Taylor, B.B. King and George Benson along with countless others. He has recorded on three major blues labels: Alligator, Blind Pig and Delmark Records. He is a true example of someone who knows what he was born to do!!
Larry uses Elixir Strings.
Cleo Cole began playing drums at the age of 10. He was influenced by his older brother Jethero Cole. Cleo played in his grammar and high school bands and also attended the Conservatory of Music where he was taught by Peter Romalis. He then began playing around town with various artists such as Doug McDonald, Alvin Cash, Floyd Taylor, Zora Young, Maurice John Vaughn, Shirley King, Big James, Nellie Travis, Peaches Staten, Sam Cockrell and Pistol Pete. His influences are Omar Hakim, Dennis Chambers, Billy Cobham, Bernard”Pretty”Purdie, Killer Ray Allison, Willie “Big Eyes”Smith and Willie “The Touch” Hayes. He has traveled all over the world. He was part of the Legendary Blues Cruise 2011 where he bonded with his fellow drummers. Cleo plays Yamaha Maple Customs and has a stick endorsement with Vic Firth. He has recorded on Blind Pig and Delmark Records. Cleo Cole is a drummer that you must see and hear for yourself!!!
Brian James is keyboardist for The Mike Wheeler Band. He has played and acted as musical director for The Chi-Lites, The Drifters, The Classic Five, Sugar Blue, John Lee Hooker Jr, Chico Banks and Blues Legend Lonnie Brooks. He brings to the band his varied and diverse range of experiences and influences stemming from stints with Reggae, Country, Jazz,Rock Zydeco, Pop, Blues and R&B groups.
Brian has an Associates of Fine Arts degree from Illinois State University and is currently working toward his B.A. in teaching. Brian is sponsored by Nord keyboards.https://www.youtube.com/embed/e4gd9oA_O_Q?rel=0&wmode=transparent&enablejsapi=1https://www.youtube.com/embed/I7FKOpnJPKc?rel=0&wmode=transparent&enablejsapi=1