Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Drummer Mark Hays founded The Little Elmore Reed Blues Band after discovering the funky east Austin blues dive TC’s Lounge in 2003. As he tells the story, “I had been playing at TC’s for a while with some other bands and had really fallen in love with the place. I had been a sideman all of my drumming life and thought I saw a chance to put something together from the ground up that would free me from having to conform to someone else’s idea of what and how to play. I asked owner T.C. Perkins if I could have one night a month to bring in some friends to play the blues in a different way than was being offered anywhere else in Austin. He offered every Tuesday as a residency, starting the next week. I called Pat Whitefield, who I’d been working with in his band The Leghounds and pitched him my idea. He was all for it and suggested I call my old boss Seth Walker. Seth had been working the singer-songwriter angle and was eager to get back to the blues and not have to be the bandleader. Seth jumped at the chance and when I asked him who he’d like to play with he immediately suggested Mike Keller. I didn’t know Mike personally at the time, only knew his reputation as one of the very best blues guitarists anywhere. I reached out and he said yes! So, in the span of about two days I was able to field this amazing team. I made it clear that I was tired of trios, tired of the same old songs and wanted to do something that I felt wasn’t being done much in Austin at the time. I was going to play the way I wanted to play, I would set the groove, they could choose the tunes, everybody had veto power. There was no money, no guarantees, no crowd, nothing in it for us but to play together for fun and see what would happen. We started the next week and did every Tuesday for a year or so and then moved to Mondays. It’s amazing to see people respond to a band that’s doing what it loves. Mondays at TC’s Lounge became the place to be and it just sort of snowballed from there. That was an amazing time and an amazing place.” He continues, “I love to set a big, fat groove and let the front guys kick each other’s asses back and forth on top of it. When you get that going and have an audience applauding solos and those great Austin dancers doing their thing, that’s heaven for me.”
Completely self-taught, Mark worked in many genres of American music from
blues, country, honkytonk and rock with artists as diverse as Seth Walker,
Gary P. Nunn, Smokin’ Joe Kubek &
Bnois King, Guy Forsyth, Cory Morrow,
Donny Ray Ford & The Honkytonkers, Tommy Alverson, Anson Funderburgh & The
Rockets Featuring Sam Myers, Jackie Bristow and many others.
Bassist J.P. (Pat) Whitefield is a co-founding member of Little Elmore Reed. He began is musical career in 1959 while in high school in Dallas, TX. Moving to Austin, Pat played with several of Austin’s most popular bands in the 60′s, 70’s and 80’s. Pat was an original member of the legendary Antone’s House Band, playing and touring with an exhaustive list of the most celebrated blues artists of his day as they passed through Austin including John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Pinetop Perkins, Memphis Slim, Robert Junior Lockwood, Albert Collins, Jimmy Rogers, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Hubert Sumlin, Buckwheat Zydeco, Cleveland Chenier, Otis Lewis, Willie Dixon, Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Barbara Lynn, Junior Wells, Joe Louis Walker, David “Fathead” Newman, Katie Webster, Paul Butterfield, Lonnie Brooks, Snooky Pryor, Mel Brown, Sunnyland Slim, James Booker, The Storm, Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Copeland and more. He was an original member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and did extensive stints on the road with The Angela Strehli Band and Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets featuring Sam Myers. Pat lives in Austin and has two children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law and two grandchildren.
Native Austinite Willie Pipkin started his music career at age fifteen. Willie’s father collected baseball cards, and Willie accompanied his dad to shows where he met Austin blues impresario Clifford Antone. Clifford and Willie’s dad opened a baseball card shop together and it there that young Willie met Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, who showed him his first guitar riff. Clifford invited Willie to Antone’s nightclub to hear some blues and Willie became hooked on the intense emotion in the music. He told himself that night at Antone’s that playing the blues is what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Willie would “go to school” at Blue Mondays at Antone’s and listen to Derek O’Brien, a musician whose blues guitar style he greatly admired. Willie is a self-taught guitarist, influenced by the music of the Vaughan Brothers, Albert Collins, B.B. King and Mike Keller. Willie played country and bluegrass early in his career and was an original member of the South Austin Jug Band. When LER founding member Seth Walker left the band, Willie stepped into his place bringing along with him his love of the blues and forging a reputation for incendiary, show-stopping lead guitar work. Willie has become a valuable sideman to many different artists in Austin. He has worked with Toni Price at the legendary singer’s Continental Club residency for years and is currently a member of his good friend Warren Hood’s band Warren Hood & The Goods along with Emily Gimble. Willie also plays on Wednesday nights with the Peacemakers at the Evangeline Café in South Austin and can be found most Sunday mornings at Jo’s Coffee on south Congress as a member of the Jo’s House Band.
When Mike Keller left The Little Elmore Reed Blues Band to devote his attention to his gig as a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mighty Mike Schermer stepped right into the LER frontman slot and has led the band into it’s next great era, adding some serious west coast swing and boogie to the LER mix. Mighty Mike was a fixture on the San Francisco Bay Area blues scene for over 20 years when he relocated to Austin TX in 2009 and joined the touring band of swamp-boogie piano legend Marcia Ball. During that time he carved out a solid solo career with four critically acclaimed CDs, an award winning single and thousands of performances at festivals and nightclubs the world over. He also became the “go to guy” sideman for such heavyweights as Elvin Bishop, Maria Muldaur, Angela Strehli, Bonnie Raitt, Howard Tate, Charlie Musselwhite, Sista Monica, Shana Morrison and many, many more. A dynamic performer, powerful guitarist, tasteful songwriter and solid vocalist…Mighty Mike has been called “Funky and authentic!” by Bonnie Raitt. Elvin Bishop said of Mike “Every time I play with him my booty hurts afterwards from him kicking it all night!” and Tommy Castro adds that “Mighty Mike Schermer is probably the best blues guitarist, singer and songwriter you’ve never heard of…and probably not for long!”
most recent addition to the Little Elmore Reed family and the band’s new
secret weapon is Miss Emily Gimble
on vocals and piano. Hailing from Crawford, TX, Emily grew up in a family of
musicians. Her grandfather is the great western swing fiddle master Johnny
Gimble, a member of the great post-war Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys band and a
universally respected session player and bandleader. Seeing her Grandpa &
Dad’s love for music helped her develop one too. With music always around
her, she went to gigs every weekend, meeting people, listening to music and
hearing many fascinating stories about musicians. Her parents enrolled her
in Suzuki, playing violin when she was four. Emily stuck with it until she
was eight and then told her parents she would rather play fiddle. She never
really got around to doing that and finally took up piano at age ten. She
took lessons from local piano teacher Becky Ward in Crawford for four years.
There were a few years of strangling a guitar with power chords and playing
as loud as possible before she took up the piano again at McLennan Community
College. Emily says that the people who taught her the most about playing
piano were her Dad, Grandpa, and veteran Austin jazz guitar guru Slim
Richey. When Emily first started playing regular gigs the bands would throw
her solos song after song and being put on the spot, she recalls, will make
you want to go home and learn about your instrument, and it still does.
”When you hear Emily Gimble play, you can’t help but close your eyes and
imagine Billie Holliday or Ella Fitzgerald. Her voice touches you on a
spiritual level, it embodies the depth of her soul and her love for the
music.” says Austin Daze editor Russ Hartman. Willie Pipkin says “She is a
rare and special talent. Her voice and soul are as timeless as music itself.
I’m so honored to get to play music with her.” The accolades don’t stop
there, Warren Hood says “Emily is one of the most talented people I’ve ever
known. She is just as amazing tickling the ivories as she is when she
sings.” Little Elmore Reed drummer Mark Hays says “When Emily starts to sing
I just close my eyes and am carried along by her powerful, soulful voice and
gorgeous, behind-the-beat phrasing. Then she takes a solo on piano and I
sometimes have to holler out loud at what I’m hearing. She’s a jewel and I’d
play with her anytime for free.” You can catch Emily often with many
different acts in the Austin area including the Jo’s House Band and with
Warren Hood & The Goods, both with her friend and LER band mate Willie
An accomplished bandleader in his own right, vocalist and harmonica ace Greg Izor frequently joins The Little Elmore Blues Band on Monday nights. Greg joined the Little Elmore Reed family initially as a sub for Dale Spalding during the band’s tenure at TC’s Lounge and became a regular after Spalding’s relocation to new Orlenas in 2011.
Greg has quickly become one of the rising powerhouses in the world of blues harmonica. Effortlessly blending the sounds of South Louisiana, Chicago, and Texas he creates a deeply rooted traditional sound that is unique and fresh. Greg grew up in Vermont, honing his chops with local bands. He moved to New Orleans in 2000 in order to study with the cream of the crescent city’s blues masters, befriending one of today’s greatest harmonica players, Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone. Sansone mentored his young student, and taught him the importance of forging an individual style. Izor strives to make traditional music fresh, by bringing a great deal of intensity and creativity to his playing and by adding a variety of influences. He developed his fiery showmanship on Bourbon Street in his early twenties, where he was featured at the Funky Pirate Club five nights a week and was also a member of the King Brisket Boys, a New Orleans all-star blues band that started out as the house band at Gatemouth Brown’s BBQ joint. During his time in Louisiana, Greg played with a number of legends including Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Eddie Bo, Jerry “Boogie” McCain, Henry Gray, Wolfman Washington, and Oliver “La La” Morgan. He also performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival and was featured on a number of the city’s harmonica shows, a Jazz Fest favorite. Izor’s songwriting and playing shows the influence of the harmonica masters as well as Louisiana blues, southern soul, swamp pop, early jazz and R&B. Greg says “I think it’s really important to keep the blues alive, and the best way to keep the tradition alive is to know the music of the masters, and add your own thing to it to keep it modern and stay creative within the genre.”
Moving to Austin from New Orleans in 2006, Izor immediately fell in with the city’s deep well of blues talent, playing with veterans like Pinetop Perkins, Gary Primich, Derek O’Brien, Denny Freeman, and Marcia Ball, as well as the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Mike Keller, Johnny Moeller, and Nick Curran. He rapidly established a reputation for intense, high energy performances, stunning technique and musical prowess, playing at clubs like the Continental Club and Antone’s as well as cutting his first record, “I Was Wrong”.
An in-demand touring musician, Greg also fronts his own band which tours often in Europe and also works occasionally with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets. In addition, Greg often plays with Willie Pipkin and Mike Keller in The Peacemakers at the Evangeline Cafe on Wednesday nights.
“Izor proves to be that all-too rare total package: a creative vocalist, harp player, songwriter, and showman.” -Living Blues.
Mike Keller is a founding member of The Little Elmore Reed Blues Band. From the band’s inception in early 2004 until his retirement from the weekly residency in 2011 Mike was a pivotal member of the band, contributing his amazing, fully mature guitar work, increasingly assured and soulful vocals and some of the most memorable songs and performances of the Little Elmore Reed band’s TC’s Lounge era. Mike still plays with LER occasionally, whenever Mighty Mike Schermer’s schedule with Marcia Ball keeps him out of town on Monday nights. Mike appears on both of LER’s recordings, “The Little Elmore Reed Blues Band” and “Live at TC’s Lounge”.
Mike and his brother Corey grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and moved to Austin in 1995. The Keller brothers grew up in a musical family, both starting out on piano when they were 4 and 5 years old. Five years later Mike decided he wanted to play the bass and Corey the guitar. Encouraged by their parents they both played in the high school band, drum corps and orchestra. By the time Mike was 12 he had started playing the guitar and when Corey was around 11 he switched to the drums. Mike graduated high school in 1994 and six months later moved to Austin, Texas to totally immerse himself in the flourishing music scene there and learn all he could about the blues. Growing up Mike was influenced by Jimi Hendrix and the Vaughan brothers and through them learned about the masters of the blues. Mike’s influences include Kenny Burrell, Freddie King, Albert King and B.B. King, Otis Rush, T-Bone Walker, Derek O’Brien, Jimmy Reed and later the slide techniques of Elmore James, Earl Hooker and Robert Nighthawk. Corey followed Mike to Austin and it wasn’t long before their talent caught the ear of Clifford Antone who gave the Keller Brothers Band a regular weekly gig at Antone’s club playing with and opening for all the major blues bands who came through the area. Mike’s stellar musicianship and near encyclopedic knowledge of the blues idiom have made him an in-demand player ever since. Mike has worked with Double Trouble, “Big” Doyle Bramhall, Marcia Ball and Warren Hood. Mike joined the legendary Fabulous Thunderbirds in 2008. He can be found on Wednesdays along with his brother Corey with The Peacemakers at the Evangeline Cafe.
Little Elmore Reed drummer Mark Hays has this to say about Mike; “In my
entire career I’ve had more trancendent, uplifting musical moments playing
with Mike Keller than with any other musician. His musicianship is inspiring
and his knowledge of and respect for the blues makes every gig a learning
Dale Spalding began playing harmonica and guitar as a teen in Southern California absorbing the recordings of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton, Jr. Wells and John Lee Hooker as well as contemporary local bands like Canned Heat, Taj Mahal and George ”Harmonica” Smith. In 1969 Dale moved to San Francisco where he studied harmonica with the great Sonny Terry who introduced him to Brownie McGee, Willie Dixon, Johnny Shines, Lafeyette Leake, Big Walter Horton, and many other bluesmen.
After years of traveling and playing Spalding has developed a unique harp and vocal style. In the early 90′s the Dale Spalding Band worked all over California and featured some of LA’s finest musicians including legendary drummer James Gadson, Texas saxophone ace Lon Price, and the soulful Bruce “Funky Mal” Malament on piano. In 2000, Grammy winning Latin Conguero and band leader Poncho Sanchez heard Dale and his band, and they immediately became fast friends and musical brothers. Poncho featured Dale’s vocals and funky harmonica on his “Latin Spirits” CD and in 2003 on a recording of “MaryAnn” with Ray Charles on vocal. Spalding moved to New Orleans and established himself in the local music scene before hurricane Katrina forced a relocation to Austin, Texas. Dale has appeared with Dave Alvin, James Cotton, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Papa Mali, Otis Rush, Pinetop Perkins and Redd Volkaert, and was a member of Austin’s premier blues band Little Elmore Reed during their tenure at the late, lamented TC’s Lounge.
Dale can be heard on The Little Elmore Reed Blues Band’s self-titled studio album as well as “Live at TC’s Lounge”. Since 2007 Dale has been a member of the legendary blues-rock band Canned Heat. Dale currently resides in New Orleans.
Eve Monsees was born in Houston in 1983 and an Austin resident since age eight, she got her first guitar and began taking lessons at age twelve. At fifteen she began sitting in on blues jams at Austin clubs, and within a year she was getting her own gigs, including an opening slot for Jimmie Vaughan at Antone’s. In 2002, the year she graduated from high school, she along with drummer Mike Buck formed a band soon to be known as the Exiles. In 2004 their self titled debut album, was released.
By then Monsees had already gone through her purist phase and come out the other side with a taste for a more garagey kind of blues that’s the contemporary equivalent of the Rolling Stones’ early career. Developing a wider range has given her the opportunity to play with bands ranging from the LeRoi Brothers to the Go Gos. Early on, Monsees learned more or less in tandem with her neighbor and schoolmate Gary Clark Jr., now another of Austin’s most promising blues guitarists. Over the next couple years, Monsees began picking up on Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and other Austin blues cornerstones.
She began hanging out at Antone’s Record Shop, getting a crash-course in blues history from the staff (including Buck), and boning up on her Magic Sam, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker and Freddie King. On her fifteenth birthday, she and Clark went to a blues jam at Babe’s on Sixth Street in Austin, and they wound up returning regularly. Around this time, local blues patriarch Clifford Antone took both Monsees and Clark under his wing and allowed them the opportunity to play with Hubert Sumlin, Lazy Lester and other greats at his namesake club’s annual birthday celebration. Monsees learned how to play with other blues based musicians while refining her own luminous leads and deft rhythm work. This led to a regular gig with bassist Erin Jaimes and guitarist John McVey, who instilled the importance of rhythm guitar. At the age of 18, Monsees took a job at Antone’s Record Shop, a store Clifford Antone opened in 1987. Her tastes broadened, as she discovered jazz, older country and rock and roll while building up her own record collection. While working with Buck, the two realized they shared a similar vision for a band and began to assemble the Exiles. Eve and the Exiles proceeded to carve out a niche on the Austin club scene. In March of 2004, they released their debut disc in mono which was recorded at Fort Horton Studios with tube equipment exclusively for that classic 60s sound. Eve has been a frequent guest artist with the Little Elmore Reed Band at their TCs gig for several years and now at their Monday night gig at the Legendary White Swan.