Singer, pianist, guitarist, songwriter, bandleader
Born Jesus Miguel Sanchez, 17 February 1964, Hackney, London, England
Mike Sanchez is one of the greatest rock n roll stars that the UK has produced, though he was born well after rock n roll's greatest commercial succes. He is a great showman with a charismatic stage presence. "Mike Sanchez is our Little Richard, with a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis thrown in" -a quote from Jeff Beck.
Sanchez was born in North East London to Spanish parents Jesús Sánchez Diaz and Manuela Bastida Gil. Jesus is a fairly common Christian name in Spanish- speaking countries. In 1975, when Sanchez was 11, his family moved to Bewdley, Worcestershire, where Mike attended Bewdley High School and Kidderminster College. He was introduced to rock 'n' roll by his much older brother John, who left Mike his old Dansette record player and a bunch of singles. The Sanchez family had a beat-up old upright piano and Mike took piano lessons, but he always had a problem reading music and learned to play by ear. When he was 14 or 15 his parents bought him a cheap acoustic guitar and it was as a guitarist/ singer that Sanchez started his career in music. With a few schoolmates he formed the Rockets, who played mainly rockabilly, influenced by the Stray Cats and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. But Sanchez felt more attracted to black rock n roll.
In 1984 Mike joined the Big Town Playboys as pianist and vocalist. The band was founded by Ricky Cool and Andy Silvester and specialized in rhythm and blues and rock n roll from the 1945-1958 period. They have released a series of studio albums as well as a collaborative project with guitarist Jeff Beck, entitled "Crazy Legs" (1993). This album, produced by Stuart Colman, has been hailed as the ultimate tribute album to Gene Vincent. At the end of 1999 Sanchez left the Big Town Playboys to pursue a solo career. He had already started to perform as a solo artist in 1988, to supplement the Playboys gigs. His debut solo album "Just A Game" was recorded and released in 1997 while still with the group. This was followed by "Just Can't Afford It" (2000) and "Blue Boy" (2001). Meanwhile, the Big Town Playboys continued with singer Big Joe Louis and they are still around today.
In 2001 Mike became a member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, replacing pianist Gary Brooker. They play more or less the same kind of music as the Big Town Playboys, just for their own enjoyment. Apart from Wyman, the group included Albert Lee, Andy Fairweather Low and Georgie Fame, among others. Sanchez stayed with the Rhythm Kings for four years, but in the meantime he had also formed his own seven-piece rhythm and blues outfit under his own name. The band consisted - besides Sanchez himself on piano and vocals - of ex-Playboy Andy Silvester (guitar), Al Gare (bass), Mark Morgan (drums, also formerly of the Big Town Playboys), the Harlem Horns (Al Nicholls and Nick Lunt) and the vocal group The Extraordinaires. This line-up often featured Irish-born vocalist Imelda May who later launched a highly successful solo career. She is the main vocalist on the most recent Sanchez album, "Almost Grown" (2012). Two other CD's are collaborations with Swedish bands, first Knock-Out Greg and Blue Weather ("Women & Cadillacs", 2003) and later The Beat From Palookaville ("Babes and Buicks", 2010). From 2003 onwards, his albums have appeared on his own Doopin' label.
The big line-up mentioned above (trying to emulate Johnny Otis' R&B Revue) turned out to be a bit too hard to manage. Currently Sanchez is fronting a six- piece band simply called Mike Sanchez and his Band. They tour all over Europe. Superstardom never followed, though. Mike couldn't and wouldn't sell out his R&B style. "I'm Mike Sanchez, I do boogie woogie and I do rhythm and blues. That's me."
What I've always found amazing is the way Sanchez and his band manage to recreate the sound of Amos Milburn from the late 1940s and early 1950s, both vocally and instrumentally. Quite a few times I wasn't sure if I was hearing Milburn or Sanchez.
A new album is scheduled for early 2015, featuring unreleased recordings from 2004 with Albert Lee on guitar.
Official website (includes discography) :
(Authorized) biography : Michael Madden, Mike Sanchez - Big Town Playboy. York : Music Mentor Books, June 2014. 306 pages. Foreword by Robert Plant.
Recommended CD's :
DVD : Mike Sanchez - Red Hot ... Live! (Ents.dvd.001, 2003). 29 tracks.
Acknowledgements : Hercule Hotrod (two-part interview in Now Dig This, September-October 2007), Pete Bowen, Wikipedia.
YouTube (all live performances) :
Dik, November 2014
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