Growing up in Los Alamos, N.M., a young Michael Schermer pointed his sisters’ handheld transistor radio at the corner of his house and worked the dial. With just the right weather and timing, he could tune into 1070 WDIA out of Memphis a clean 900 miles beyond the flatlands of the Bible Belt.
Jan. 30 | 8 p.m. | Za’s Lakefront | Tahoe City
Feb. 2 | 7:30 p.m. | Art Truckee | Truckee
If you’ve ever spun an AM dial on a lost, lonely, cross-country night drive, you may have noticed the radio begin to pick up stations from far away. This natural magic trick is caused by changes in the ionosphere that allow radio waves absorbed by the outer atmospheric layer during the day to be reflected rather than absorbed, thereby skipping them across vast distances.
“Being at 7,000 feet and curvature of the earth from across Texas I could pick it up late at night,” he says. “Needless to say, I stayed up way past my bedtime.”
Fortunately, Schermer’s physicist father and closet Rat Pack fan mom didn’t mind too much.
“I got the golden treatment since my three older sisters broke every rule in the book before I ever came along,” he says.
Nowadays, Schermer is known by stage name Mighty Mike Schermer. In addition to fronting his own blues band, he is a session guitar player with an array of well-known roots and blues artists including Marcia Ball, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite.
Schermer will be teaming up with members of The Blues Monsters and Groove Foundry to create a supergroup in the mold of The Blues Brothers for two concerts to benefit InnerRhythms dance studio in Truckee. Called “Blues Brothers: A Night of Performing Arts,” the concerts will be at Za’s Lakefront in Tahoe City on Jan. 30 and Art Truckee on Feb. 3.
“For a lot of people in my age group, the Blues Brothers were a bridge to that type of music,” says Schermer. “We heard them do tunes before we ever heard them by Sam [Cooke] and Dave [Lil’ Dave Thompson]. It was pop culture. We watched it on Saturday Night Live.”
Both events are being produced by local entertainer, promoter and owner of Art Truckee gallery, Michelle Erskine.
“Michelle booked me for Truckee Thursdays and a few other gigs last year,” says Schermer. “When she approached me about doing a benefit concert with a Blues Brothers theme, I figured it could be a good way to ensconce myself in the Truckee-Tahoe music scene while doing some songs that I already know.”
Schermer fronted his first band in Los Alamos called Billie Blast Off & The Rockets at age 14.
“At that point, it was really more of an excuse to get together at the drummer’s house and eat his parents’ ice cream,” he says.
Because his sisters eventually went on the straight and narrow, Mighty Mike got to be the black sheep of the family. After high school, he moved to California to attend University of California, Santa Cruz. It was there that he had the life-changing experience of attending an Albert Collins concert on campus for $3.
“That first note changed my life and everything I knew about the blues,” says Schermer. “He came out incredibly loud and powerful. He played one huge note. The tone and feeling were pure and unadulterated.”
When he’s not on tour, Schermer is working on his song craft.
“Over the last 10 years I’ve really developed as songwriter,” he says. “Somebody tells me a story and the first thing I think is: There’s a good song. Wherever I am, I try to write it down.”
Appropriately, one of his most popular songs is called “Big Sister’s Radio.”