Bluesman Mighty Mike Schermer on Inspiration and Songwriting (Part 1 of 2)

Nevada-based Mighty Mike Schermer released his eighth solo album last year. He humbly titled it Just Gettin’ Good, but the plain truth is that he’s been making great music for many years. While he’s nominally a blues guitarist, Schermer’s music is informed by a wide variety of styles. Mighty Mike’s original songs are inspired both by the classic songwriting chops of heartfelt composers like John Hiatt and by the fiery guitar work of the giants of blues.

Released on the prestigious Little Village label, Just Gettin’ Good features instrumental support from ace players including legendary bassist Jerry Jemmott and in-demand producer Kid Andersen. Schermer’s busy performance calendar recently included an August 30 date in Sparks, NV at the Nugget Casino (Best in the West Rib Cook Off) and September 1 at Lake Tahoe’s River Grill on the Lake. I caught up with the songwriter-guitarist between engagements.

Musoscribe: How did you get your start in music?

Mighty Mike Schermer: Nobody in my family was musically inclined, but we did have music around. I started playing in band in grammar school. I wanted to play the drums; I was beating on pots and pans. My parents said, “Well, tell you what. We own a clarinet; why don’t you try playing that?” So I played clarinet for a year, but I quickly found out that in the school band, the first chair trumpet was the leader. Being a Leo and a bit of a control freak, I aimed for first chair trumpet!

I picked up guitar later. I grew up in New Mexico, and there was a great music camp there in the mountains called Hummingbird Music Camp. It was just a great place. They would let you try any instrument you wanted, so I gravitated towards the guitar.

My sister had a friend who played the guitar, and she gave me a few lessons later that summer; one thing led to another. I was into rock ‘n’ roll already, and my oldest sister was into a lot of hippie music. She would stay up late and watch The Midnight Special, and I’d sneak out of my room and watch with her.

How did you transition from rock ‘n’ roll to the blues?

That was thanks to Albert Collins. When I got to UC Santa Cruz in California in 1984, the first month I was there, I remember trying out a new wah-wah pedal. I was just smoking weed and hanging out in my dorm room, and a guy down the hall said, “You’ve got to see this guy, Albert Collins. I’ll buy your ticket.” It was on campus, so we just walked over there. The first note he hit, it was like a door opened up in front of me, and everything else closed behind me. All the hair stood up on my arms.

I got to meet him after the show, and he was super approachable and encouraging. After that, whenever he came through the Bay Area, I would drive up to four hours to go hear him play. I don’t know that he ever remembered my name, but he always remembered me.

There were a couple times when I couldn’t get in a club because I was still 18 or 19 years old. Albert had a 2000-foot guitar cord, and he’d walk through the crowd. In Santa Cruz one time, I went in with the band through the side door, and the bouncer threw me out. I stood there peeking through the window to watch the show until Albert came out the front door, and the whole crowd went out the front door with him. So I went back in with them!

Click here to continue