Michael (Mike) Kilgore

Michael (Mike) Kilgore a native Detroiter is currently the drummer for the legendary band Black Merda. He has been drumming for Black Merda off and on since the mid 70’s. Michael is known for his versatility on the drums and his precise time keeping of staying in the pocket.  Some musicians refer to him as the Doctor of Drumming or Pocket Man. Michael also freelances with other performers when he is not working with Black Merda.

Michael Kilgore was born November 29, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. Michael began playing the drums at the age of 12 years old. He was inspired by many entertainers at a young age but the one entertainer that stuck out the most was James Brown. He remembers the way James Brown would move around on the stage doing his fancy dance routines and ending it with the split.  James Brown would use (2) drummers on most of his shows and every time James Brown would make certain moves, the drummer would accent the moves with him.

The way the drummers would accent James Brown’s move caught Michael’s attention. After witnessing James Brown’s performance,  Michael began following James Brown’s shows and every time he caught one of James Brown’s shows on television he would grab some pots and pans or some oatmeal and grits boxes with two pencils and began playing and imitating the drummers.

Michael later caught the name of one of the drummers (Bernard Purdie) and he began following all of Bernard Purdie’s shows. It didn’t matter who Bernard Purdie played with, Aretha Franklin or King Curtis, he was one of Michael’s major influences.  When Michael’s parents witness him playing the pots and pans one evening they took notice of him developing rhythm and that’s when they decided to buy him a semi- professional set of drums for Christmas. When Michael woke up Christmas morning and saw the drums it was a done deal. He hasn’t looked back since.

Michael was a self- taught musician until he started Mackenzie High School in Detroit. He began taking formal lessons on how to read music and music theory. He began playing with the high school marching band, the stage band and singing with the choir. He discovered the art of jazz drumming and started following a drummer by the name of Buddy Rich. That's when Michael decided to expand his versatility on the drums.     

Michael graduated High School in January of 1970 and landed a job at Great Lake Steel. Shortly after landing his new job he bought a car and moved out of his parent’s home moving into his own apartment. Shortly after moving into his apartment he married his high school sweetheart and moved her in with him.  In November of 1970, Michael was drafted into the armed forces and decided to spend his tour of duty in the Navy. He was lucky enough to spend most of his military time over in Hawaii. That’s where he started playing with his first professional band. He landed a gig playing 5 nights a week at a well- known club located near downtown Honolulu called Surreys lounge with the house band called Bobby Lester and the All-Stars. Every major entertainer that was in town would come and perform or sit in at this club which gave Michael a chance to play with various artists. While serving his duty in the navy from 7am till 3pm, Michael would perform with the band from 9pm till 3am in the morning. During his time in Hawaii, he also decided to expand his knowledge in the art of drumming and started taking advance drum lessons from Don Ho’s drummer Benny Lagrimas. Benny was one of Pearl Bailey’s earlier drummers before she married Louis Bellson, another popular drummer.

 Michael was discharged from the Navy but had to stay in Hawaii for another 3 months to finish out his contract with Bobby Lester and the All-Stars at Surreys Lounge. After the contract ended, Michael packed all his belonging and took the next flight out of Hawaii back to Detroit to rejoin his wife and 2 kids whom he had sent back on an earlier flight shortly after his discharge. Michael had taken a military flight from Hawaii to San Francisco and a commercial flight from San Francisco to Detroit. While on the commercial flight he didn’t realize that he was sitting first class right next to one of Motown’s greatest music directors, for the Supremes,  Dr. Teddy Harris.

During the flight back to Detroit he got a chance to converse with Teddy Harris and discovered,  not only was Teddy Harris on that flight, the whole orchestra and the Supremes were on the same flight. They had just finished performing a show in San Francisco. That was one of the highlights of Michael’s musical career. “I got a chance to exchange information with Dr. Teddy Harris and informed him I was a drummer”.   In 1973, two weeks after returning home from Hawaii,  he decided to give Teddy Harris a call. Teddy hired Michael as a back up drummer for Grant Green.  He also hired him for a one night performance at the Jazz West (Detroit) accompanying Spanky Wilson. That's when Michael's musical career began in Detroit. Michael hasn’t looked back since.

Since Michael’s return to Detroit, He has developed a reputation as one of Detroit’s leading show and studio drummers. He has performed with various top entertainers such as: The Contours, Carl Carlton, The Marvelettes, Bobby Rush, Priscilla Price, Chic Willis,  John Lee Hooker Jr, James Barnes and the Agents, The Holidays, JJ. Barnes, The Fantastic Four, Albert King, Little Milton, Little Sonny, Beans Bowles, Betty Lavette, Rudy Robinson and the Hungry Five, The Royal Jokers, David Ruffin,  Moment’s Notice, etc. The list goes on and on. Musical productions include: Crack-Stepping and the Rhythm and the Blues. Michael has also earned the reputation as one of Detroit’s leading Gospel drummers and because of his precise timekeeping on the drums. MICHael is a regular studio drummer, recording drum tracks for various local artists.  Michael is currently performing with the Black Merda Band and he is also the founder of the Reality Band, Ashtone Entertainment and Ashtone Records.

Michael is currently in the recording studio with Black Merda working on a new Cd soon to be released. 

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