Michael Beck: My initial interest in drums began when I was in the sixth grade in Bloomington, Indiana. I started with metal rods as drum sticks on cardboard boxes and played to the music on the radio. Then in Junior High, I bought my first drum set, a 1950 model, and joined my first group playing 60’s tunes, like “Louie Louie”. Our family then moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I met Rick Kennell (current bass player for Happy The Man). We formed a group together playing covers and original music. After High School I studied music at Indiana University for a short time, and began branching out playing many other styles of music, as much as possible, wherever I could, in clubs and concerts, with whoever I could find to work with. Rick Kennell, now back from the Army, called me to go with him to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to join a newly forming band, called Happy The Man, doing all original music.
During this time frame, I increasingly became very dissatisfied with the confines of the ordinary drum set-up and began on a path of experimenting with adding on cowbells, woodblocks, and as many percussion instruments that I could find to add to my drum kit. I read everything I could find on old vaudeville, big band, and wacky drummers of the past. I built scaffolding to suspend wind chimes and various odd instruments I had found or made. I began discovering sounds in everything from toys to junk, to just about whatever would make an interesting sound. I was very influenced by Harry Partch and his idea of what a musician should be. He began a musical company that built his instruments from found objects, and in combination with dance, pantomime, and musicianship, was one of the first people I knew of that was presenting a multi-media performance show. Because of my rather large drum/percussion set up, I began to experiment with dance and movement myself…. mostly out of necessity, with having to move from one instrument to another when scoring my drums parts in Happy The Man. With this new art form in hand, I slowly (with the incredible music the HTM guys were writing) developed my own unique style. I always felt HTM music lent itself to a percussionist who should not confine scoring his parts to just a drum kit. The music was incredibly symphonic; it needed the proper ambient sounds to accompany the drum kit to bring out all the emotion the songs entailed. The HTM time period in my life was one of the most unique and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. We worked as a unit, everyone had huge respect for one another, and together we created incredible music.
After leaving HTM, I played with various groups of all sizes, shapes, and styles. I did many recording projects, some small touring, and eventually moved back to Fort Wayne, Indiana to work at a drum/percussion music store, “The Percussion Center”. I became the in-house drummer for Marty Bleifield’s state-of-the-art new recording studio doing all the jingle and demo work. I continued to put together original music groups, and played in anything of quality that came my way. I began writing music more seriously at this time, and eventually discovered that making a living as a sideman had its shortcomings – joining a band to eventually watch it break up would put you back on the street again, looking for work. The roller coaster instability became a factor, especially with a family to support. My wife, Annie, of 24 years, has always supported my artistry in every way, which has allowed me to continue my passion for music. After a couple of years in Newport Beach, California, playing Reggae music and where musicians were plentiful, I decided to move back to Indiana, to Indianapolis, and start my own group “DogTalk”, in which I wrote 80% of the music. This was a unique sounding group that performed a wacky, positive Reggae/pop mix of upbeat music. I once again created an unusual ethnic drum/percussion set up to achieve and perform our unusual world beat sound. As the leader of this band, I also took on all the responsibilities of booking and running the group. We formed a corporation and were successful enough to have everyone on salaries, with benefits as well. DogTalk recorded four original CD’s and played with many established acts. We had a great run for 14 years. Incidentally, with me in DogTalk for 5 years, was Cliff Fortney, formerly of HTM in the early years, and on the Beginnings CD.
In 2004 I formed my own music booking company, which I still have and currently run today. I perform constantly with all kinds of musicians, in all styles of music, and continue the search for the perfect combination of musicians, to form the perfect band.
My son, Brenn Beck, decided at 21 to start drumming, he is now 31 and is currently touring Europe with his 2 member band, “Left Lane Cruiser”. He was signed a few years ago with Alive Records, and is doing well as a professional musician. My daughter Tierney has no interest in drumming, but is a Senior studying International Studies at IU Bloomington. My youngest son, Griffin, is just now starting middle school and is the drummer/percussionist for his school band. The heritage continues.