Mike Caldwell

Mike Caldwell

Mike Caldwell might just be the best-kept secret on the harmonica scene today. Never having pursued a solo career, he's relatively unknown except to the lucky few who have had the pleasure of hearing him live.

Born and raised in Templeton California, Mike taught himself to play Charlie McCoy songs note-for-note, starting at age thirteen. Local western swing singer Monte Mills gave Mike his first break as a regular member of the band at age fifteen. This blend of jazz, country, bluegrass and rock required Mike to accurately navigate complex melodies, harmonies and chord progressions from the very outset of his musical journey. The country and swing chord progressions were the perfect vehicle to experiment with Charlie’s flowing melodic lines and fills.

Mike’s older band mates introduced him to the recordings of other harp greats like Toots Theilmans, Norton Buffalo, Paul Butterfield and Stevie Wonder which enriched Mike's own emerging style.

At age eighteen Mike went on the road for a national tour with a country vocal quartet named "The Shoppe". As fate would have it, the Shoppe’s next record was being produced by Mike’s idol Charlie McCoy. Mike didn’t expect to play since Charlie was at the sessions but after hearing Mike, Charlie said "You play great, man! I'll play the bass and you play harp." Mike still considers that moment to be one of the all-time highlights of his career.

Mike’s Guardian Angel: Charlie McCoy

Mike first met Charlie backstage at a county fair performance. Charlie heard Mike play and jokingly told him to “Stay out of Nashville”. Mike has had the good fortune of having his idol as his mentor ever since. When Charlie asked Hohner to give Mike a listen, he was signed as an endorser. Two years later Mike received an unexpected call from Loretta Lynn's bandleader saying “Charlie told me Loretta should hire you”.

Over the next 10 years, Mike logged hundreds of thousands of miles with the Coal Miner's Daughter, performing around the world and making dozens of television appearances on "Hee Haw"," Nashville Now", "The Opry Live", just to name a few. Along the way on the country touring circuit, Mike also had the opportunity to play with many other country legends including Conway Twitty, George Jones and Boxcar Willie.

In 1994 Loretta took some time off the road. Mike was immediately approached by the producer of the "Country Tonite Show" --- a Las Vegas-based production which was enjoying a hugely successful eleven-year run at The Aladdin Hotel and Casino. The show was doing so well in Vegas that the owners were expanding to open a new venue in Dolly Parton's home town of Pigeon Forge Tennessee. Mike has been wowing crowds at 340 performances each year with “Country Tonite” ever since as the Music Director and as a featured instrumentalist.

Lightning speed / Great Taste

In the acclaimed book "Harmonicas, Harps And Heavy Breathers" Charlie McCoy stated “There's a kid named Mike Caldwell that tours with Loretta Lynn who plays so fast it's blinding --- there oughta be a radar gun on him. I thought I played pretty fast, but boy, he can burn it."

Mike’s melodic style is blazing fast yet immaculately articulate. His signature country playing masterfully blends influences of soul and rock making Mike one of the most respected harp players on the planet. More than just a world-class soloist, Mike has the rare musical maturity, taste and restraint required to be a great ensemble player accompanying vocalists.

Mike Caldwell recordings, information, lessons and appearances

See and hear Mike Caldwell live at Country Tonite - www.countrytonitepf.com/ • Mike Caldwell CDs are available at the Country Tonite venue or can be ordered directly from him by emailing him at kamikazeharp@hotmail.com. He has a website under construction • Instructional materials in development and will soon be available on mikecaldwellmusic.com

Mike Caldwell PLAYS