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Michael Anderson – still tearing up the strings

  • Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Ever attend an awesome performance of The Gap Band, Charlie Wilson or the Bar-Kay’s and wonder who was the guy tearing up the strings? Memphis native and guitarist, Michael Anderson, is the answer to the question. by Erin Gilleylen
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Ever attend an awesome performance of The Gap Band, Charlie Wilson or the Bar-Kay’s and wonder who was the guy tearing up the strings? Memphis native and guitarist, Michael Anderson, is the answer to the question.

Michael Anderson during a performance in Spartanburg, S. Car. (Courtesy photo)

Anderson, lead guitarist for Wilson and the Bar-Kay’s, parlayed an interest in music as a child into a well-seasoned musical career that has featured performances with many of his idols. Look out for his new solo R&B album at the end of this year.

Erin Gilleylen: How long have you been playing guitar?

Michael Anderson: Since I was 14. We can’t do that math. We’re just going to leave it at that. (laughs)

EG: Who introduced you to music as a child?

MA: Actually, I gravitated to music… the first time I remember gravitating to music was when I use to hear this guy that played trumpet in the high school band. On the next block over from me, he’d be in the backyard playing… and it just inspired me to get in to music. That’s my first memory of wanting to play an instrument. And from that I started playing trumpet in junior high school and high school. And from that I started playing the guitar. I was just playing both. I would hear guitar…you know like the Isley Brother’s in the late ’70’s and ’80’s. I’d hear them and Earth, Wind, and Fire. I’d hear the guitar part. I just gravitated to the guitar after that, and from then on that’s just been my thing.

EG: So, I know that you play lead guitar for the Bar-Kay’s who will be performing for the American troops in Iraq and Kuwait soon. Will you be joining them?

MA: No, actually I’ve been to Iraq three times with Charlie (Wilson), though. I’ve never been with the Bar Kay’s for some reason…But I mean it was cool; it was good going there and doing my part. Show the troops some love. They appreciate the fact that we’d put our lives on the line to perform for them.

So, it was good for me. It was good interacting with them. You know, trying to see what they go through every day. And trying to live the life that they live there. That’s what we did. We weren’t staying in plush hotels while we were there. We were actually staying on military bases. So, we got the kind of experience that they experience when we were there. We ate with them. We slept with them. So it was good to see that, do that, experience that.

EG: …How long have you been working with Charlie Wilson?

MA: About 13 years now. You know, I’ve known Charlie for about 20 something years. I’ve lost track of time (laughs). But I’ve been working with Charlie directly in bands for about 13 years. We did “United We Funk” back in 1998. We did the “Opportunity Years” together. And then in 2001, I started playing with him in The Gap Band. From there, he started doing his own solo thing. So he went from The Gap Band to his solo career and I’ve been with him ever since.

EG: I heard you really tore up the strings at the Essence Festival recently during your solo of “Early in the Morning.” Which of Charlie’s or The Gap Band’s song are your favorite to perform?

MA: Actually, The Gap Band’s songs. (pauses) “Yearning (For Your Love)” is probably my favorite song to perform because it’s one of my favorite songs anyway, playing or listening to. I just love the song, always have. And you know, it was just out at a part of my life when it influenced me a lot. I like “Oops Upside Your Head” because it’s a great song, a happy song. People seem to enjoy it. It brings out a different side in people to me; people just standing there singing. Just get into that like nothing you can imagine sometimes because they just love the song. So, those are my two favorites with him.

EG: What is your most memorable moment while touring with Charlie?

MA: Something I remember the most was playing with…actually The Gap Band at the time plus Charlie because he was lead singer. But we did the Tom Joyner Cruise in 2001 or 2002. The whole set was 3 hours and 21 minutes. It started at midnight first of all. (laughs) And at the end of it, maybe the last 30 minutes of it, we just had everybody that was a musician that could play or sing come on stage and jam with us. That jam session, we had Earth Wind and Fire, The Isley Brothers, Joe It was just one big jam session. A lot of my idols growing up, I got to be on stage with them.

EG: Wow, how was it to share the stage with idols?

MA: Yeah, I mean I’ve been blessed in that way. A lot of the people I’ve idolized I’ve gotten to actually perform with them or play with them, be on stage with them or at some point talk with them. So, its been great. It’s been a good ride.

EG: I, also, heard that you may be dropping an album of your own soon. Is that true?

MA: Yeah, that’s true. Actually, I’m working on my second album….I should have it done by the end of this year.

EG: What should we expect to hear? Is it R&B?

MA: It’s an R&B CD. Well, (it’s) mostly me singing and guitar playing. A lot of R&B and little bit Hip Hop I guess you could say; a balance of upbeat tempos and ballad tempos, some smooth things. Probably something that women would appreciate more than guys. But you know, that’s what I do.

(Watch City Beats Correspondent Erin Gilleylen on City Beats at 12 a.m. on Wednesday and on the ‘N’ Style TV Show (Tuesdays at 7 p.m.) on Comcast Cable Channel 17.)

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