Growing up in northern New Jersey and North Carolina, guitarist, singer and songwriter Michael Powers (born Michael Murchison) learned about the rural south, and gospel and blues music, at a young age. His father was a Merchant Marine who sailed around the world before settling in Bayonne and opening a small store. Powers' father, James B. Murchison, divided his time between northern New Jersey and spending summers working the tobacco fields in North Carolina; as a result, young Michael spent summers in the rural south, where men would gather each night on front porches to play music.
Powers' parents separated when he was just five, but he continued to accompany his father to North Carolina during summer vacations. It was his mother, Doris, who bought him his first guitar by cashing in a book of savings stamps. After a family friend came by with his own guitar and played a tune, Powers rushed back to his room to duplicate what he'd just heard, and he was able to do so. From that point forward, Doris Powers was convinced her son had special talents, so she imposed a strict musical practice schedule on him. Fortunately for us, Powers' mother had hip tastes and she made him listen to the records of Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and Billie Holiday, and of course, he liked the blues, too, or he wouldn't have pursued it.
Powers was 12 when he first saw Jimmy Reed, and that proved to be a turning point and a revelation for young Powers, who decided then and there that he wanted to pursue the life of a bluesman. Shortly after he heard Jimmy Reed, he saw the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on their famous Ed Sullivan Show debuts, and he was doubly smitten with his guitar practice. Another major influence would be Jimi Hendrix, and it is perhaps Hendrix's playing that is most evident on Powers' albums.
While still in high school, he formed his first band, the RB ZigZags, and he worked in a procession of other bands after that point. One band he was in, the Adlibs, toured with national acts around the country, so Powers had the chance to share stages with the likes of the Everly Brothers, Kool and the Gang, the Box Tops and Richie Havens. Powers recorded with the Adlibs on their hit, "Boy from NYC."
Less than a month after he graduated from high school, harmonica legend James Cotton asked him to come on tour with his band, and so he left the Adlibs. After getting off the road from his tours with Cotton, Powers formed a new band, Moonbeam. They remained together for the next 13 years, touring around the U.S. and opening for James Brown, Bo Diddley and the Ronettes. After those years on the road with Moonbeam, Powers finally launched his career under his own name as a bluesman, and that led to recordings and performances with all of his blues heroes: Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker and Chuck Berry, among others.
Powers' albums include Onyx Root, his debut, released on Baryon Records in 2004, and Prodigal Son, released in October, 2006 for the same label. Both albums were well received by critics and DJs in Great Britain and the U.S.
He's accompanied by several of New York City's top blues session players on Prodigal Son, including Jimmy Vivino on guitar, bassist Michael Merritt, drummer James Wormworth and guitarist Jimi Zhivago.
Powers includes inventive covers of Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand," Jimmy Reed's "Oh John," and Blind Gary Davis' "You Got to Go Down," on his second release, Prodigal Son. ~ Richard J. Skelly