Michaels family moved back to Whitehaven from The Midlands when he was four or five years old. His Father was Whitehaven born and bred, and worked as a miner for most of his life. He had moved the family to Nuneaton in Warwickshire in search of work but because of health issues, decided to return to his home town in 1956.
Having a very musical family, there was always a banjo or an acoustic guitar laying about and on his 13th birthday, Michael had his first guitar. A Vox ‘Stroller’ bought for £12.00 from Brookes Electricals on Duke St in Whitehaven
The picture above shows Michael in his first band. Michael on lead guitar, Len McMean on drums, Alan Shipley on bass, Keith Henderson on vocals, Dave (?) on Rhythm and ‘Noddy’ Cleaver making up the numbers. He eventually met up with Frank Hall, Dennis McCarten and Rodney Beaumont and formed a band named ‘Magenta Mural’ which was eventually renamed ‘Heaven’ and worked with a band from Birmingham called ‘Earth’ who later went on to become Black Sabbath.
Michael left the band and Whitehaven in 1969 and Frank Hall and Dennis McCarten went on to form ‘Necromandus’ a band which toured extensively with Black Sabbath. Frank Hall is still a drummer to be reckoned with and has had a fantastic career. Dennis McCarten unfortunately passed away some time ago as did Baz Dunnery and Billy Branch of ‘Necromandus’.
On moving to Coventry in ’69, Michael very quickly immersed himself in the culture and joined a band named ‘Liberation’.
Liberation lasted for a year or so and Smitham met up again with Jim Pryal in another band called ‘Stepmother’ which played only one show! The live music scene at that time in Coventry was very active and Michael eventually bumped into long time friends, Paul Hooper, Bob Jackson and Tim James and together, they formed a band called ‘Monster Magnet’. This band had as many as 8 people on stage at any one time. It all depended who was in town on the night of the gig……
Long before ‘tributes’ were thought of, Monster Magnet did a ‘tribute’ show to The Beatles at The Lady Godiva pub in Coventry or ‘The Dive’ as it was known. ‘The Beagles’ did most of The Beatles early catalogue. After working for peanuts in ‘original’ bands and having to work full time as a store-man at Oscott Equipments in Coventry to make ends meet, Michael was asked to join a band named ‘The Yankee Clippers’ who were an Irish Show Band. It was here that Michael met Barry Walker who asked him to join his band ‘The Eyes of Blue’ who went on to become ‘Smackee’.
Along with Barry Walker, Kevin Connelly, and Trevor Hilton, Eyes of Blue backed American acts touring in the UK, Germany, and Italy, and became the backing band of “soul legends” Percy Sledge, Ann Peebles, and The Marvelettes. As the popularity of the band increased, an ever increasing number of American artistes, chose the band to back them on their visits to Europe. Pop legends such as Del Shannon, PJ Proby, Johnny Tillotson, and Bobby Vee also used the band many times on their European tours. They then decided to change the line up to appeal to a different market and recruited sisters Dawn & Carol Glenville.
Terry Bown was put on bass and Ricky Medlock was given the drummers seat. During this time, the group toured at least twice a year throughout Germany and entertained in major cabaret venues in such cities as Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg, Köln, and Berlin. Paul Hooper joined Smackee a short time later when Ricky Medlock and Terry Bown decided to leave. Tom Mullins, a fantastic musician, was brought in on bass guitar. Smackee won ‘Band Of The Year’ at one point in time and came second in the nationally shown ‘Search For A Star’ TV show.
In 1983, twelve years after joining Smackee, Rod Allen and Barry Pritchard from 60’s legends The Fortunes came to check Michael out at a show Smackee were doing at a club in Coventry. The Fortunes were looking for a possible replacement for Barry’s brother David, who unfortunately had to leave The Fortunes through ill health. He was offered the job that night, and now, nearly forty years later, Michael has become The Fortunes longest serving member.