By Kristi Kates
Originally founded as a duo in Marquette, Michigan in 1991, the band known today as the Flat Broke Blues Band was given its moniker due to the obvious.
It was a reflection of the financial status of both of the founding members, says guitarist and vocalist Michael Letts, who should be doing a little better on that score when the band plays Petoskeys Crooked Tree Arts Center this Friday.
Today, Flat Broke Blues Band is pretty much the opposite, due to the success of their current lineup, which includes Letts as well as Mark Johnson on bass and vocals, Jim Cohen on drums, and Lorrie Hayes on vocals and harmonica, plus founding member Walt Lindala on guitar and vocals.
Initially, several members of the band came and went. By fall of 2001, our current lineup was assembled, and has worked together ever since, says Letts
As the name might indicate, the blues are the focus of Flat Brokes set list. Walt Lindala says the band is comprised of five passionate fans of the blues who enjoy listening to, playing and writing the blues.
Theyre also a band thats willing to travel several hundred miles to play a one-night show, which is probably another reason theyve been so successful.
Wed rather travel to perform to a venue full of true blues fans than play the same old tired cover songs at the local bar, night after night, for indifferent patrons, Lindala confirms, the power, soul, feeling, grit, and emotion of the blues is undeniable, and is what drives us night after night and year after year.
As they trek through their own quest for blues-related fame, Flat Broke has already shared the stage with several legendary names in the genre, and have also released their own CD of original blues songs.
Worth the Weight is the CD - which Blues Revue Magazine called ... an intriguing blend of the subtle and the swashbuckling... - and as for those opening act opportunities, theyve included sets alongside Shemekia Copeland, Louisianas Lonnie Brooks, and Queen of the Blues Koko Taylor, just to name a few.
One of my favorites was opening for Magic Slim, Letts says, truly a living legend and one of a few of the remaining Chicago bluesmen with direct ties to the original flowering of the genre. Funny story - I had gotten a new stage jacket that year. If you know Slim, his name is kind of an irony - hes a big guy! He saw the stylish black blazer I was wearing and said, Its a good thing you aint my size, or youd be fightin me for that jacket! Slim has a great laugh and sense of humor, and it was an honor to share the bill with him and his band. They were very gracious and friendly.
WORTH THE LISTEN
And as for Worth the Weight, the band has been performing songs from the new album at their live shows; but theyre not stopping there, with plans already in the works for a new album.
We are currently planning to record a new CD this summer, Letts explains, and we will be debuting some brand new material that we are currently writing for our new CD at our Petoskey show. We are quite happy with the new songs; they are the best weve done so far.
Flat Broke also covers other popular blues and even some R&B artists, although most of their setlist stays focused on the blues tradition.
We do everything from Chicago, to the West Coast style swing and jump blues, to more funky R&B tunes, Letts explains, we have been able to remain popular because we usually have some songs for every fan of traditional American music, and we even throw in some Rolling Stones if the crowd needs to rock. Feel free to dance in the aisles!
The Flat Broke Blues Band will be performing at Petoskeys Crooked Tree Arts Center at 8 pm on Friday, July 30. Tickets are $7.50 for CTAC members/$10 for non-members. For more information on the show, visit www.crookedtree.org online; for more info on the band, stop by www.flatbrokebluesband.com.