Mike Auldridge – Learning and Teaching by Howard Parker

HLPPromo

Howard Parker

Rob has invited me to think out loud a bit about Mike Auldridge. That’s not difficult for me as my love affair with Mike goes back to the mid 70’s, even before the fateful decision to take dobro lessons.

JLS_7811

I came to know Mike as a legend, a teacher, a businessman and later a friend. To this day I can’t pick up a reso or sit behind a steel without thinking about him. What I do today is clearly his “fault”. I had no choice.

A lot is known about Mike. His playing career was spectacular even though he made a lot of music that isn’t widely known today. That’s a subject for another time. I think today I’d like to touch on several aspects of Mike that while acknowledged may not be widely discussed, his openness to new ideas and his willingness to pass it along to the next generation.

I call it “Learning and Teaching”:

Learning – For many Mike’s name evokes images and sounds of the original Seldom Scene or those classic solo albums of the 1970’s. For those willing to dig a littler deeper there awaits the discovery of Mike’s earliest recordings with Cliff Waldron and The New Shades of Grass and the later works with Chesapeake, Auldridge, Bennet and Gaudreau, The Legends of The Potomac and dozens of solo artists, known and obscure.

05-12-2006 12;01;55AM

Listening to the Emerson and Waldron (Fox On The Run )(later Cliff Waldron and The New Shades of Grass) recordings can be a huge surprise. On my first listen I had to double check the liner notes. That couldn’t have been Mike. It must have been Josh Graves. Nope, it was Mike.

Emerson and Waldron 1

How did Mike “become Mike” of the Scene years? He and I had several conversations and he shared where he tried to be like Josh but it was forced and uncomfortable. It wasn’t until he allowed himself to be influenced by his environment and other players with similar interests that he began to bring the dobro “uptown”. “Wait A Minute” Seldom Scene live TV

Awards Mike and Buck Graves 1969 @ 300 dpi

Mike’s melodic lines began to sound less banjo like and more steel guitar and horn influenced. His phrasing got longer and more melodic over the decades. He was playing fewer notes and leaving longer spaces. His love of country and big band music found its way into his style. I’d like to think that folks like Buddy Charleton (Mike’s steel teacher) and Duke Ellington had a huge impact on what eventually became the classic Auldridge sound.

auldridge

Mike continued to be open to new sounds, music and influences over the decades. A move to larger bodied guitars gave him a larger voice. He took full advantage of the technology of the day and his reso began to “rock out” in the later Scene work.

Awards Mike 300promo shot

I’m personally a huge fan of Mike’s post Scene output. You could get a sense of what was to come if you owned a copy of the little known “Auldridge, Reid and Coleman”. None the less, it was a shock when Chesapeake emerged and unleashed their sound on an unsuspecting cadre of fans. Chesapeake Always On A Mountain Mike and the band had turned a corner and there was no returning. On those recordings you might hear typical rock guitar technique and phrasing.

 

 

Mike returned to the acoustic ensemble with Auldridge, Bennett and Gaudreau Auldridge, Bennett and Gaudreau (w/ guest Tony Rice) and although bluegrass Mike’s style continued to evolve with fewer notes and more “breathing space”. He could be out front and center without spraying notes like a machine gunner.

Mike retired from public performance during his tenure with “The Legends of The Potomac” Stompin at The Savoy Legends of The Potomac a contemporary band in full bluegrass mode. His style was fluid and melodic with a bit of “bite” when it suited him. He was at the top of his game.

Dobro Trio 2 DSC_9342

Two short anecdotes:

  1. A short road trip listening to satellite radio and Mike hears a dobro solo. He immediately pulls over, listens and says “I gotta call Randy Kohrs and ask him how he did that.”
  2. After a rehearsal for a “Three Bells” track Mike tells me how much better Rob Ickes knows the neck then him and hopes that he can get a few tips about how Rob approaches the neck.

The man was always listening, absorbing, asking questions and learning.

Hallie 2

Teaching – In my mind the thing that made Mike absolutely legendary and what set him apart from other top players was his willingness to pass along everything that he knew to whoever expressed an interest and an aptitude for work.

Mike might have been the first player to offer a series of written and video instruction material. He was an astute businessman and understood the need.

Mike went one step further by offering personal instruction at his home. Legions of the known and unknown made the pilgrimage to Mike’s basement. You’d be sitting knee to knee with the man as he’d demonstrate the lesson of the moment and gently prod you with “ok, now you try”.

His ability to explain. His gentle approach. His empathy. All of these things made him an extraordinary teacher.

Mike knew beginners. He loved to teach the correct basics so he wouldn’t have to undo a bad habit. He wanted students who couldn’t tune a reso. He’d teach them the correct way.

I tell players that learning reso from Mike was like learning rock from Elvis. Hundreds of players from all over the globe seem to agree.

Heck, Mike had a published phone number. Before my first lesson I stared at the number for weeks before calling. Once I did the phone rang and a voice said “Hi, this is Mike”.

He was seemingly happy that I called. I was stammering but managed to schedule a lesson.

Weeks later at our first meeting he asked me to play something. His reaction was (yes, I still have the cassette) “Hey man, I don’t want to discourage you but you’re doing it all wrong.”

It was all uphill from there.
Mike at his best, chatting, demonstrating and having a good time.

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Howard-Parkers-Steel-Dobro-and-Music-Page/217550135054

http://www.resoguit.com

Howard Parker plays music professionally in the mid-Atlantic region. He credits a late 70’s radio broadcast of the Mike Auldridge solo in “Keep Me From Blowing Away” for his decades long obsession with the resonator guitar. In 1997 Howard formed resoguit-L, the email discussion group for lap style resonators and the resoguit.com website. Howard joined Beard Guitars in 2004 as the “beardbizguy”, the company’s business administrator. He retired from the day to day operations in 2012 to pursue performance opportunities. He maintains his relationship with Paul Beard and company as a “special projects” guy.

15 thoughts on “Mike Auldridge – Learning and Teaching by Howard Parker

  1. Alan Rausch says:

    Nice wrap up Howard. I know I went to the basement later than I should, but when I did it changed my playing forever. How many greats sit inches away from you and say “This is how I play”. Even before that he asked me at a show one night how the sound was during intermission, I told him what I thought and he walked me over to the sound guy and said, repeat it to him, I agree. They donʻt come any better than that.

  2. Steve Holley says:

    I never got a chance to make it to the basement. I had planned to take some lessons from Mike, but as his cancer progressed that never materialized. I did, however, purchase about every instructional material that he produced, including his pre-tab song book. I appreciated his skill and his talent, but from the videos that you have posted, he seemed to be a down-to-earth nice guy. Thanks for posting this great tribute for his legion of fans.

  3. Robert says:

    hi there… just took a quick look, but looks great! Thanks!

    I wonder if you have a mailing (e-mailing) list and could send out notices when new things appear on the site??

    thanks!
    Robert

    • Howard Parker says:

      I’m pretty sure I got that option when I registered for the blog. I also see an option at the bottom of the screen “notify me of new comments via email”.

  4. Howard Parker says:

    Yes Alan,
    I always thought it was odd that Mike should ask ME about aspects of his playing. I was flattered, humbled and slightly put off by the question. 🙂

  5. Kenny Franklin says:

    This was an incredible read n listen. Thank you, I first heard the Dobro on a David Bromberg record. It was Mike Auldridge playing Georgia on my mind. That was 1979 & I went right out n bought my first Dobro. I’ve been a life long fan of M.A. n a Dobro player ever since. I only knew it was so easy to contact him n learn directly from him 🙂 that woulda made things a lot easier! Thank You! Kenny James.

  6. Myron Johnson says:

    That was really great Howard. I was able to learn a few things from Mike over the years, you really hit the nail on the head. Mike spend time with anyone wanting to learn and love doing it. I think of him often and I sure miss Mike.

    • Howard Parker says:

      Thanks Myron. I know we were like the 5 Musketeers every year in Dallas. Speaking of which I look forward to seeing you once again!

      h

  7. Andy Bing says:

    Thanks Howard. That is a fitting tribute to a wonderful musician and teacher. I was so lucky to take lessons with Mike at his home in the early 80s when I was just beginning to play dobro. He was everything you say. During my first lesson, in the pre-tuner era, I was tuned a little flat, and instead of telling me to tune up, he said, “Let me get in tune with you” and tuned down to me. In later trying to play along with the recording of that lesson, I wished he’d made me tune it up! But that gesture reflected the way he was. Later, after I had moved from DC, I was back in town and went out to the Birchmere on a Thursday to see the band. On the break he came over, introduced himself to my wife, and sat and visited with us for a good long while. Later, when I would see him over the years at festivals and shows near my home in New York, he always made time to talk to me. He was a very sweet man, and he gave me a great gift of music.

  8. robanderlik says:

    Thanks Howard. What a treasure of memories, photos and videos! Mike touched so many people with his music and through his generosity and gentle spirit. Although I never met Mike in person your article helped me to better understand this great man.

  9. Steveareno says:

    Congratulations on the Squareneck Journal. Just in time. Recently got back into Dobro after a 25 year break. Mike Auldridge was my inspiration and was lucky enough to see him perform with the Seldom Scene, way back when at McCabes. Also got Josh Graves bio out from the library and wouldn’t you know it; found a JG model Dobro and got a good deal on it (virtually unplayed). Nice flame maple body and neck.
    Keep up the great work. I’ve bookmarked the site…and keep on pickin’

    Steveareno

  10. Joan T Warren says:

    Thank you for this tribute; it warms my heart to know how many lives my Uncle Mike touched. I loved growing up with his music and missed out on too much of him when I moved away from the DC area. I don’t know if you would be interested in a tribute I wrote a couple of months after he passed, but I welcome you to read if you are. Here’s the link: http://joantwarren.com/2014/02/24/resophonic-forever/
    Anyway, thanks again, I will come back to hear and see these videos again!

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