A Brief History
It all started in Modesto, California on December 29, 1946. Or at least that’s when I was born (with a broken heart, the song says). Modesto is the first place Merle Haggard got paid to play music; I think it was five dollars for an evening of picking and singing. But that’s another story; as for me, unless you count playing on the streets of San Francisco for tips, the first place I got paid to play music was for $15 in a San Jose bar. That was in the summer of 1971, so already we’ve covered more than 24 years in this little bio.
My earliest influences were country; every morning my family woke up to the music of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzel and others on a country radio station. I remember thinking that all those singers were right there in little ol’ Modesto. Later, after we moved to the suburbs of San Francisco, I fell into the clutches of Elvis Presley and the rest of those rock ‘n rollers, but I didn’t lose my taste for country. In fact, I think I fell into the sway of every type music that came along: folk, folk-rock, blues, rhythm/blues-folk-country-acid-rock, you name it, and still never lost my taste for country, or, for that matter, western. So today, when I’m asked what kind of music I play, I may say country and western, but really I play whatever I like, and it all has a country taste to it. But to name a few idols: Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Roger Miller, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson. Every time I think of a name it leads to another–the list goes on forever. I play songs done by all of these and many.
But anyway, here it is 1971 and I move to Napa Valley and start my first band, Family Pride. I recorded my first single, California, with the Buckeroos at Buck Owen’s Studio in 1974. After going through alot of changes with the band, in 1976 my family and I moved to Austin, Texas. I lived there for three years, traveling all over Texas, playing a lot of music with some fantastic players like Steve Jaxon, Steve Wolf and Dave Stafford, an original member of Family Pride, sometimes on the very stages that Hank Williams and Elvis Presley had played, but in 1979 California called me back home and I’ve lived here ever since.
In 1981 I went to Germany on a Marlboro promotion tour. (I know, I know, it’s bad karma to promote smoking. I think I’m still paying for it.) It was a five month tour that really turned me on to playing in Europe. I met a German country band called Too Far Gone who invited me to come back the next year for a six week tour. While playing a festival with them I was offered a good paying 2 week gig in Zurich, Switzerland, later that year. Man! This European stuff is great! So, naturally, I didn’t play Europe again for 15 years. During this time I was spending a lot of energy on my family, raising two beautiful daughters, and I didn’t want to spend so much time away from home. I did manage to keep playing music and writing songs, and worked at getting enough gigs to keep a band together, but there never seemed to be enough good paying gigs to keep the good playing musicians together as a band.
It was during this period that I started calling the band The Michael Thomason Band, since I was the only one I was sure would be there. But there was a pool of great musicians in the bay area that I could call on for specific gigs.
Some of the musicians I worked with during this time are: Amos Garrett, Bill Kirchen, Keith Allen, Larry Otis, Carl Brouse, Gary James, Kenny Dale Johnson, Norton Buffalo, and of course Don Schmitt, who is in the band now.
In 1986 I got the chance to work on a musical western, Buffalo Dreams, with sk dunn and Jim Neu. What a gas to both act in and write and record the music for this play which we performed in Napa Valley and New York City.
Back in Austin in 1994 I again met up with Jens Dunker, from Too Far Gone, and we both realized that we really should be playing music together.
Early in 1997 we began to do just that. Jens came out to California, rented a cheap set of drums and the band started out on a new course. In the fall, Don Schmitt, engineer Steve Peterson and I went to Germany where we gigged with Jens and other German musicians, Harry Haberecht, Wolfgang Litter, and Hermann Lammers-Meyer, and together we started recording Won’t You Ever Learn at Jens’ NFZ Studio in Sulingen. We finished the album in 1998 at Prairie Sun Recording in Cotati, CA., and did a small release tour in California that summer.
We recorded our next album, Buffalo Dreams, at NFZ Studio over a period of two years, completing it in the Fall of 2000. In February, 2004 we started a new album in Germany and are now finishing overdubs and mixing in Cotati, CA, with expectations of a release in the Spring of 2005. These days The Michael Thomason Band has an international flavor with musicians from both Germany and USA doing alot of traveling, playing several months a year in Europe and doing more and more fair work in the states. I love playing with this bunch and if you like soulful country music you’re gonna enjoy listening to us.
Michael Thomason: vocals, rhythm guitar
Jens Dunker: drums
Don Schmitt: bass, vocals
Ruediger Karahn: steel guitar, electric and acoustic lead guitar, vocals
Sean Allen: electric lead guitar
Jessie Thomason: vocals