Rock 'n' Roll

  Rock 'n' Roll...

Birthed in the 1950s by the combination of the blues with country and western, jazz, gospel and swing. Critics said it wouldn't last. It was just a fad. A major record executive turned the Beatles down in 1962 saying that guitar oriented music was no longer popular and on its way out. Well, Danny And The Juniors knew better. Rock 'n' Roll was indeed here to stay. Today, it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

But way back in the beginning, no one knew just what was happening. It just happened. There was no MTV to watch and emulate. Bill Haley just rocked; Elvis just swiveled; Little Richard just bop-bopped. There was no design or plan; simply spontaneous creativity, simultaneously erupting all across the country. Like a musical wildfire, rock 'n' roll music swept from one coast to the other, engulfing musicians in its wake; combining their gifts into a powerful musical art form. Generations of youth thereafter would never be the same. Clothing styles changed. Language changed. Hairstyles changed. Cotton ball sales doubled as parents sought quiet relief. All as a result of this new music.

One of those musicians that was there in the beginning was a California high school student named Mike Deasy. Having been raised in a musical home, young Mike would go with his father Bill to the elder Deasy's dance music gigs, where he'd sit in and play along. Not long after he was playing for his sister's dance recitals and on local radio shows. While still in high school, Mike assembled his own rock and roll band and they began to back up the new national hit makers as they toured through L.A. including rock legends Ricky Nelson and the Everly Brothers.

In 1958, Deasy and his pals joined forces with a young Ritchie Valens and La Bamba-ed around southern California. This band included future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, super bassist / keyboardist Larry Knechtel, sax man Jim Horn and "Teen Beat" drummer Sandy Nelson. The following summer, Mike's summer gig was with The Coasters as part of The Kansas City Bell Blues Band. His next musical jump was to The Kelly Four backing Eddie Cochran on guitar and saxophone. Deasy then toured the states with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars as bassist for Chubby Checker and as a member of Duane Eddy's backup band, The Rebels, along with his former band mates Larry Knechtel and Jim Horn.

As the fifties gave way into the sixties and rock 'n' roll exploded into an international phenomenon, Deasy's legend and legacy was growing in California. He was voted top jazz guitarist and took 1st place in the Light House Jazz Festival. His guitar playing had now become a regular occurrence in "Gary Paxton's Garage" as well as the other demo studios of L.A. Then, after music writer-arranger Shorty Rogers saw him perform live with Richie Valens and Johnny Cash, and with encouragement from fellow guitarist Tommy Tedesco, who himself was already a legend of the studio scene in L.A., Mike entered into the hallowed halls of major label studio recording as a member of Phil Spector's "Wall Of Sound" studio band.

Soon, Deasy's guitar was to be heard on many of the top hits rocking the airwaves of the 1960s. That list of artists is a virtual who's who of 60s and 70s popular music: The Beach Boys, The Association, The Byrds, Bobby Darin, The 5th Dimension, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Fats Domino, The Grass Roots, Richard Harris, Michael Jackson & The Jackson 5, Jan and Dean, Billy Joel, The Mamas and The Papas, Barry McGuire, The Monkees, Elvis Presley, Helen Reddy, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Johnny Rivers, Tommy Roe, Diana Ross, Bobby Sherman, Simon and Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra, Spanky and Our Gang, Barbara Streisand, Tiny Tim, The Turtles, Frankie Valli, The Ventures, Mason Williams, and Frank Zappa to just get started.

Top forty radio hits included: "Along Comes Mary", "If I Were A Carpenter", "These Boots Are Made For Walking", "Windy", "Never My Love", "Cherish", "Baby I Need Your Lovin'", "The Tracks Of My Tears", "Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In", "MacArthur Park", "Like To Get To Know You", "Tip Toe Thru' The Tulips", "Classical Gas, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In", "Dizzy", "I Want You Back", "ABC", and "I Am Woman" which only scratches the surface.

But Mike didn't just hide out in the studios. He continued to turn heads in live concerts playing with such diverse artists as Cannonball Adderley at the Troubadour, Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey a Go Go, and Little Richard at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium. And recognition continued. Deasy walked away with a Lighthouse Jazz Club music scholarship award, a Downbeat Magazine readers poll award, and recorded albums with jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Gleason, Mel Torme, Della Reese, Stan Kenton, Nat Adderley, and Frank Sinatra.

His virtuosity was also in big demand for movie and TV soundtracks including: "Bullit", "Dirty Harry", "The Graduate", "Grand Prix", "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?", "Hang 'Em High", "Lady In Cement", "The Outlaw Joesy Wales", "Play Misty For Me", "Stagecoach", "Alias Smith and Jones", "The Andy Williams Show", "The Partridge Family", "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour", "The Sonny and Cher Show", and "The Flip Wilson Show" just to start. The conductor on Steven Spielberg's first feature film, "Duel", told Mike that whenever he saw the killer truck on the large overhead screen in the sound stage, "make scary sounds!". He did, the movie was very scary, very popular, and launched the career of a now legendary director.

Deasy soon became known in the music making industry as "The Guitar Man". He was in such great demand that he couldn't do all the sessions he was called for and his "leftovers" actually spawned the careers of others who came along after him. Mike has added his magical touch to over 4,000 recording sessions from the 1950s to today. And his influence is still felt daily, maybe even more today than when the songs were originally released. On hundreds of oldies and classic rock stations, thousands of times a day, worldwide, the guitar of Mike Deasy is still rocking the airwaves.

And it doesn't stop there. Today's movies love that era's music and Mike's playing has been featured in popular films of the eighties and nineties including: "Sudden Impact", "Twins", "Forrest Gump", "The Rock", and "October Sky". VH-1 periodically runs the "Elvis 68 TV Special" and also plays all the episodes of "The Monkees" TV show. Cable's "Nick TV Land" has shown reruns of "The Sonny and Cher Show". Turner Broadcasting's TBS and TNT constantly show the Clint Eastwood movies. "The Patridge Family" is still shown somewhere every night of the year worldwide. Mike Deasy's guitar permeates them all. Books written about the age of rock and roll studio recording usually make mention of Mike's contribution. "Guitar Player" magazine has done articles on his role in the history of popular music culture.

In the years since he left Hollywood, music producers still call Mike to add his hit making touch to their projects. But Deasy found a new call for his music. During the 80s and 90s, for nearly two hundred days a year, you could find him rocking 'n' rolling the young people of this country in the public school system. Using his searing guitar licks and a hip, generation-bridging sense of humor, Mike entertained kids while warning them of the dangers of drugs, casual sex, and gang violence. His "Yes To Life" program was heralded and praised by school systems and health departments in every state. And other countries begged for Deasy to bring his powerful message of hope to their youth too. Mike and his band Strykeforce made many inroads into the rest of the world including Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Europe, Central and South America, Africa, and Mexico. Today, Mike and his wife Kathie pastor the online ministry Rock Church, bringing the eternal message of hope and God's love to whomever has ears to hear.

Mike Deasy is considered by many in the music business to be one of the most recorded guitarists from the original rock 'n' roll era. He helped create that genre of music with his friends and others who caught the vision. And today, it's not unusual to see youthful chins drop in amazement when in concert, Mike's fingers explode in lightning fast guitar licks as a new generation of young people discover ...
The Guitar Man.

© 1998-2021 Rob Whitehurst