Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Based in the Allentown, PA area, the home of Bethlehem Steel, blues guitarist Mike Dugan and his band have taken the influences of the region known as the Rust Belt and created their own style of blues. Formed in the early 1990's, Mike and the Blues Mission have toured the East Coast playing a variety of festivals and clubs building a loyal audience and sharing the stage with many blues legends.
Growing up in Southern New Jersey and later establishing his musical roots in the once booming steel mill and smokestack region of Pennsylvania known as the Lehigh Valley, guitarist Mike Dugan has taken the influences of the region known as the Rust Belt and created his own style of driving blues. Since turning professional in the 70's, Mike has relentlessly toured the East Coast playing a variety of festivals and clubs, building a loyal audience and sharing the stage with many blues and rock legends.
Mike arrived on the New York City blues scene in the early eighties with his band that featured Howie Wyeth (Bob Dylan), John Siomos (Peter Frampton), and Wayne Hammond (Mick Taylor). As word spread of the band's intense performances, both fans and the music press began to notice Mike's talent as both a guitarist and songwriter. In 1985, he was named "Blues Guitarist of the Year" by the New York publication Show Business News, an honor that had been previously awarded to Roy Buchanan, Mike Bloomfield, and Eric Clapton.
In 1987 Mike Dugan and the Survival Band was formed, and the focus on original songwriting and recording began. Two years later, the band released a CD titled "Workin" which featured 8 songs penned by Dugan. The College Media Journal (CMJ) wrote, "Mike Dugan deals in blistering, sizzling blues guitar... pulled off with surprising savvy and chops for a relative unknown... sticking to his original tunes, Dugan shows he's a real one-man show as far as the blues are concerned, writing, playing, producing, and singing- all clean, sharp and professional." The album was played on college radio nationwide and remained on playlists for a 3 year period. In 1990, the album was nominated for the "Best Contemporary Blues Recording" award by the Philadelphia Music Foundation.
As word of Mike's guitar prowess spread, he was invited to sit in
with the legendary Les Paul at his regular Monday night session in New
York City. "God, I've got Albert Collins on my hands here!" exclaimed
Les after the first song. Another invitation to sign on with New York
based RaveOn Records followed soon afterwards.
To further develop original material and his own style of what has now become known as Rust Belt Blues, Dugan moved on to form the Blues Mission, and established his main base in Allentown, PA, the epi-center of blue collar America that Billy Joel captured so well in his famous song of the same name. Mike has taken the best elements of the people and passions of this region and put them to song - some blistering blues/rock, some emotional ballads, but all of it speaking loud and clear from Mike's guitar.
Appearing primarily as a three-piece band, the Blues Mission
spotlights the guitar skills of Dugan and a mix of original and classic
blues material as well as popular covers. Featuring a line-up of Rob
Fraser on bass and backing vocals, and a rotation of drummers including:
Jim Oakley, Steve Decker and the Lehigh Valley's Scott Williams. The
band has expanded its full time touring reach from New york to Florida
and regularly appears as a warm up act for numerous national and major
label artists as well as head lining east coast festivals & events on
His first RaveOn CD "Blues from the Rust Best" is a landmark recording that met with critical success. The foundation for Mike's reputation as inventor of the blistering Rust Belt Blues sound was established with this recording, and is carried throughout his subsequent releases. This CD has played on nationally syndicated blues shows as well as garnering rave reviews from blues magazines like Living Blues Magazine, "Mike Dugan has direct slashing guitar style... is also a straight forward singer, but it's as a songwriter that he's most likely to grab your attention." This was evidenced further when Mike's song "There's No Talkin To Ya" was recently featured in a 1996 episode of the TV series Homicide.
The band's follow up RaveOn CD, "All My Blues", captures an even deeper, more sophisticated blues songwriting skill. It's range takes you from the beautiful multi-mood guitar anthem title track to the driving rhythm of "Blues Machine" encompassing great depth and versatility. Guest artists included keyboardist Carl Snyder, a 30 year veteran of the Chicago blues scene with Junior Wells and Son Seals, top New York City horn section the Uptown Horns, blues guitarist Bobby Radcliff and harmonica aces Fulton Patrick of the Virginia Blues All Stars and James Supra, one of the Lehigh Valley's most gifted performers. To top it off Shirley Lewis, a gutsy blues singer who hails from Massachusetts and east coast festival favorite, lends her vocals with Mike on "Vintage". The album received a rave review in the July '98 edition of the respected Blues Revue Magazine by none other than senior reviewer Art Tipaldi.
Mike asserts that he's been living the blues all his life, and his latest RaveOn CD, 'A Step Ahead of Trouble' makes the message very clear. This CD showcases Dugan's mature and focused approach to the blues through his dynamic guitar work and original lyrics. As always there is a tribute to blues legends, in this case, Freddy King and Roy Buchanan, as well as tasty horn and harp licks throughout. The CD also received a great review from Blues Revue Magazine and other blues periodicals.
Dugan says he wants to "educate and inform the unenlightened about the blues." The Blues Mission is just that - a top notch tour-de-force blues education, and from this accomplished artist - is well worth the investment in seeing and hearing Mike Dugan's brand of Blues - from the Rust Belt.