Micki Free might be the best guitarist no one has ever heard of -- well
the general public that is. Mention his name to people in the business,
such as Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Bill Wyman of
The Rolling Stones fame and they will all sing his praises. In fact, all
three legends are currently working on projects with Micki Free.
Ask KISS frontman Gene Simmons his thoughts on Micki Free and a smile will
come over him.
I discovered Micki over 30 years ago when he was a 17-year-old guitarist
playing in a regional rock band from Illinois, said Simmons. His band
opened for us and I watched him (Simmons was big on discovering new
musicians in those days, Eddie Van Halen was one of his discoveries) and I
told him after the show that he was going to be a star and if he ever came
to L.A. to give me a call.
Micki Free will bring his blistering blues guitar and high energy rock and
roll show with him this Friday, August 19, to Leelanau Sands Showroom.
Free decided to become a rock guitarist when at a young age he got to see
the person many consider to be the greatest of all time.
I was just eight or so and my father was in the military stationed in
Germany and he was given tickets to see Jimi Hendrix; and he gave them to
my oldest sister who took me to the show, said Free. We were in the
third row and Hendrix came out in pink bell bottoms and said this song is
for the lady in the front row with the pink panties. He busted out into
Foxy Lady, and at that moment I thought to myself, hell yeah, I gotta be
a guitar player.
His family eventually moved home near Chicago. In high school, Free honed
his blues and rock guitar chops, eventually forming his own band
Smokehouse, playing shows with Ted Nugent, Rush, REO Speedwagon,and local
favorites Cheap Trick. Free developed a reputation of being a rock and
roll guitar prodigy.
Meeting Gene Simmons was my big break, said Free. I took him up on his
offer and after high school headed out to L.A. and to my surprise Gene
remembered me. We started writing songs together -- it was wild.
Simmons introduced Free to his then girlfriend Diana Ross.
Diana liked what she saw and agreed to manage me. I started playing gigs
around L.A. and was developing a following. Diana and Gene arranged for me
to play guitar on Janet Jacksons first album. Everything seemed to be
coming together for me, said Free. Then one day Gene gets a call from
the band Shalamar and they want me to join their band as their guitarist.
My initial thought was to turn them down, they were R&B and I was rock and
But Gene Simmons gave Free something else to think about.
I had never heard of them but they were playing big venues and were
climbing the R&B charts. Gene thought it would be a good move for me,
said Free. He put it to me this way: joining Shalamar would be like
getting into a limo every night versus getting into a cab. He was right,
it was the right decision at the time.
For the next eight years Free toured the world with Shalamar selling out
20,000 seat venues, staying in first class hotels and eating at the best
restaurants. He even won a Grammy. When the group called it quits in 1991,
Free decided to pursue more of his blues and rock aspirations.
In 2002 he released Black Moon... Black Sun the first of his two solo
rock albums. His second album released later that year, Gypsy Cowboy,
was nominated for seven Native American Awards (Nammys), which named him
Best Male Artist of the Year in 2002.
Part Cherokee, Free decided to take a break from his career in 2003 and
explore his heritage. He moved to Arizona and began learning about his
culture. He mastered the Native American flute and returned to music in
Well, the Seminole tribe of Florida had purchased the Hard Rock Cafe and
they called me about being a performer for their opening night ceremonies.
I just assumed they wanted me to play the flute, said Free. I was
shocked when they said forget the flute. We want some of that Micki Free
rock and roll, I guess I havent looked back since.
While Frees hard-driving blues rock didnt hit home right away in the
states, it did over in Europe where he had been in constant demand
including being asked to play on the main stage of one the largest music
festivals in England.
I was asked to perform four years in a row at the Hard Rock Calling
Festival with close to 100,000 people. I shared the main stage with
Aerosmyth my first year and since then with Paul McCartney, The Police,
Eric Claption, Bruce Springsteen among others, said Free. It was an
awesome experience but what was really cool I brought over some Native
American dancers and brought them on stage and the crowd went nuts. I
think for most of them it was the first time they had seen a Native
American in full headdress dancing on the stage.
Last year he had another musical highlight happen while at the Hard Rock
Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones asked if he could join me on stage,
said Free. We hit it off and a lot of the media said we were the hit of
the festival. Bill also said he wanted to perform on my next project so
he will be on my new DVD and CD project coming out this fall.
Free has a full tour already booked for this fall in Europe and he hopes
that will be the case for him next year in the U.S.
They are starving for my style of music in Europe. I am getting a feeling
that is starting to be the case here as well.
Free has surrounded himself with not only talented musicians but the
legendary manager Henry The Horse Smith, who was with The Yardbirds, Led
Zeppelin and Aerosmyth. Frees bandmates include former Cheap Trick
bassist Jon Brant, and drummer Cindy Blackman formerly of the Lenny
Kravitz band and wife of guitar great Eric Clapton.
While most people may not be familiar with Micki Free, he guarantees one
thing if you attend his show at the Leelanau Sands on Friday, August 19,
at 9 p.m., he promises when you leave you will remember him forever.
For details and to purchase tickets go to www.casinos2win.com and to
check out Micki Free visit www.mickifree.com.