Mike Flanigin has gone from teaching himself how to play the Hammond organ, to playing some of the greatest stages in the world with artists like ZZ Top, Steve Miller and Jimmie Vaughan. Get to know the man behind the B3!
NAME: Mike "The Drifter" Flanigin
HOMETOWN: I'm originally from Denton, Texas, but I've lived in Austin for the last 25 years.
MUSICAL TRAINING: I never went to music school or had any formal training. I started playing the Hammond B3 organ because Antone’s nightclub in Austin kept one on stage. I loved the sound of it so much that one night I snuck up there and tried to play while the house band was doing a set. A guy had told me, "If you find the key of the song, count up three notes for a minor, and four for a major." Somehow that seemed enough to start with. Later on, I traveled to New York and found my hero Big John Patton, who made a lot of great Blue Note albums in the 1960’s that I had. He was the one who really taught me what the B3 was all about.
FIRST GIGS: After I fooled around on the B3 at Antone’s for a couple of months, the great blues singer/drummer/songwriter Doyle Bramhall Sr. hired me to be in his band. I also became part of the Antone’s House Band, which backed up a lot of the great blues legends at the time.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: I really listened to all of the old Blue Note and Prestige organ records and all the great organists. Like I said though, Big John Patton was probably my biggest all-around influence because I had the chance to spend a lot of time with him. My big three are Baby ‘Face’ Willette, Freddie Roach and Big John, And also Shirley Scott and older organists too like Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Baby Face Willette Face To Face, Freddie Roach Mo’ Greens Please, Lou Donaldson The Natural Soul.
MY BIG BREAK: Steve Wertheimer opened The Continental Gallery here in Austin and gave my organ trio a residency every Friday-Sunday from 10:30 PM to 2:00 AM. I did that for seven years straight. That was how I got my "10,000 hours," basically. Without that, I never would have gone on to play places like Madison Square Garden, the Montreux Jazz Festival or Jazz at Lincoln Center with people like Jimmie Vaughan, ZZ Top and Steve Miller.
LATEST ALBUM: Jimmie Vaughan Trio featuring Mike Flanigin Live At C-Boy’s.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? The Hammond B3 organ. It’s all I’ve ever played. I just love everything about it.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? I just got done playing with ZZ Top in Las Vegas. My next gig is our organ trio with Jimmie Vaughan opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in Florida. It all sounds a long way away from classic organ trio territory, but that’s what I love about it - showing people who might not otherwise hear it, this sound and style.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Play your instrument all the time, but also go out and live life. You have to have life experience - all the ups and downs, to be able to have something to say musically worth listening to. That’s ultimately what people relate to in your music - the sorrow and joy. If your life is boring, your music will be too.
For more information, visit www.mikeflanigin.com