Our Greatest Band Series - Mick Furlo is Back • Old Friends & New Beginnings

Mick Furlo Band Appearing Saturday, October 10th with Special Guests Crofton, Stoltz & Nash

    icon Sep 24, 2015
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Mick Furlo is a legendary presence in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. In an interview with Review Magazine, Mick lays it all out -  from the rush of success in the eighties to the brush national exposure in the nineties to the insouciance brought on by the new millennium squeeze.

Nothing mattered anymore when tea parties and stock markets crashed and our dreams became smaller. We were taken in by the dark knight of the senses and the rot set in;  even our music could not feed us. In the digital world songs became spare change. We were all drifting. Mick Furlo knew it instinctively; he’d seen it before, it was the rot that opened the wound… but the lens had changed again.

Mick gave up the poison nectar and his vision cleared and he was aware of an inner “presence” of something or someone and it felt like love and healing. This led to Mick Furlo’s Old Friends & New Beginnings Show @ White’s Bar on October 10th with special guests The Crofton, Stoltz and Nash Band. 

Mick did a phone interview in anticipation of the event. Here’s his story. The Mick Furlo Band was one of the top draws in the 1980s alongside The Flies, My Dog Bob and The Burdons. The musicians were incredibly gifted: Donny Brown, drums and vocals; Rick Brown, bass guitar and vocals; Bob Merrill guitar and vocals (later replaced by Dean Vanston); Iris Furlo, violin, keyboards and vocals. Mick was the singer and guitarist and he wrote many of their original songs.

Mick explained the dynamics of the band. “Everyone sang and had a good ear, which made the vocal harmony easy. Donny was especially good at arranging vocals. In those days we liked to cover modern rock, the type popular among college students. We also knew we had to be in touch with the top 40 charts to play in the tri-city area.”

The band’s popularity soared almost immediately. They could play and perfect different styles of music, from country rockers like Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker to classic rock to power ballads and old time rock & roll rock & roll. Iris’ incredible versatility allowed the band to stretch out and take chances.  She had a great voice with a powerful range. Mick knew that Iris was a strong presence in the band. He explains, “Iris’s voice was a strong point at the time so I started to write a few songs for her to sing. The songs went over pretty well and we kept them in the playlist.” 

The band was on a roll between 1983 and 1990. They mixed originals with covers of Joe Jackson, The Tubes, the Motels, the Police, Heart and the Pretenders. However, things changed when Iris left the band. Mick explains, “When Iris became pregnant with our son Cory we knew we had only a short time to revamp the song list, knowing that we could never replace her, we remained a four piece and that’s when we decided to put more of a focus on original material.”

In 1988, the band wrote over a dozen songs and went to Chicago to record their first album. To this day, Mick recalls that time fondly. He recorded at the Chicago Recording Company on Dearborn Street. Tom Hanson recorded the band. CJ Vanston (Dean’s brother) was part of the recording process. Mick recalls, “CJ added keyboard parts to about half of the songs. He’d been living in Chicago doing session work for the huge advertising market out there. At one point CJ said I never listen to anything and then he put his rig up on the control booth and blew everyone’s mind. He’d tell the engineer what to do – a little more ambience please, more bottom etc. He was fabulous. It was a graveyard shift – 8pm  to 3 or 4 in the morning for a couple of weeks, it cost $10,000!”

Shortly thereafter Donny and Dean decided to move on, so Mick replaced them with two excellent musicians, Brad Silverthorn on drums and A.J. Dunning on guitar. It brought different points of view that helped the band find its own mark. Mick felt the band was different but still very good. They recorded a mini album of original songs that enabled them to do a few showcase gigs in Chicago. The promoter was Prism out of Ann Arbor.

“We opened for a few national acts and my favorite was opening for Adrian Belew in East Lansing.” (Editor’s Note: Belew was a member of the progressive rock band King Crimson and also played with Talking Heads and David Bowie). Marty Essen from Twin City Talent was Mick’s manager and he did get Mick and the band on a tour in the winter of 1990. They had a big stretch van and toured several southern states. Mick recalls it as a great experience, but then the rot set in. Mick recalls, “We never got a deal. We were told that we were being shopped around. Kelly Millionis was part of it. He made contacts with the Chicago Recording Company and MTV and then he bounced to Los Angeles. He knew a lot of people like the Rapanos family who were prominent in Midland. Kelly had a flat in the Town House in the Marina Towers and worked from there.”

Millionis Industries produced, manufactured and marketed Invisible to You, a great album chuck full with great singing, gorgeous harmonies and lyrical sophistication. The song list included:   Dream of Our Own, When Will We Learn, Let It Rain, It’s a Beautiful Day, See You Walk Away, Calling Out Your Name, I Feel Good, Starting All Over (Again), Say Goodbye, and Invisible to You.  Several of those songs are on You Tube. Check it out and astound to the great harmonies, musicianship and Mick’s incredible vocals.

On the cusp of something bigger, the band fell apart and went their separate ways. Mick took like a boxer who got sucker punched. He could only say,  “All things come to an end and we were done by 1990.”

Mick was devastated; his dream had become a distant dark cloud in his horizon. In his mind’s eye, he looked for salvation, because music was his life and it coursed through his veins like blood to oxygen.

Gradually he regained his focus to developing the club scene through his time at Zingers and other clubs. He brought in national bands and had a great time getting swapping stories with Rick Derringer who gained fame from  his hit making years with the McCoys (Hang on Sloopy) and Johnny Winter (Still Alive and Well and Rock & Roll Hoochie Coo.

CODA: Mick Furlo has something to say…

“Now some 25 years later I started writing again,” he explains.  “Being much older now I figured do it now so I’m not sorry later. The people I’m working with are a joy to be with. I want to introduce the band, which consists of my old friend and bro Mark Krawczyk, bass; Jeff Coty drums, Tim Barraco, guitar, Maye Donovan (vocals), Cheryl Lyons, vocals, percussion and guitar.”

The material is a bit different than anything I’ve done before. It’s a sort of blues funk. But it is the Mick Furlo Band!”




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    Mike Collver

    Enjoyed the new band, Mick! Great new materia!