A cult artist the likes of Captain Beefheart, the Fugs and the Godz, Minneapolis' Michael Yonkers has been toiling in obscurity since the late '60s. With a solid foundation of surf rock and garage, Yonkers pushes the limits of distortion with guitar and effects modifications, and a raw and blunt approach to underground rock & roll.
Born in 1947, Yonkers began playing guitar in the early '60s. Raised on Link Wray and the Trashmen, he officially started his music career as the leader of Michael & the Mumbles who played proms and dances in the Twin Cities area. Constantly redefining and stretching the limits of their sound, the group eventually evolved into Michael Yonkers Band with Michael's brother Jim on drums and Tom Wallfred on bass.
In 1967, Yonkers cut his Telecaster down to a plank and began the other modifications on his equipment that would solidify the band's unique approach. Soon, Minneapolis music impresario Peter Steinberg landed the band a contract with Sire Records -- not unusual for a time when major labels were combing the underground for bands like the Mothers of Invention.
Microminiature Love was the group's first full-length and was intended to be released in 1968, but for reasons still unknown, the deal with Sire fell apart and the band broke up, their brilliant debut left languishing on a shelf.
In 1971, Yonkers' back was broken in an on-the-job-accident at an electronics warehouse -- a twist of fate that led to years of exploratory surgery that only made matters worse, and an allergic reaction to X-ray dye that left the guitarist with a degenerative spinal cord condition. But Yonkers kept recording, and released three solo albums on his own label in 1974 -- Grimwood (recorded in 1969), Michael Lee Yonkers (recorded in 1972) and Goodby Sunball (recorded in 1973) -- as well as Borders of My Mind with Jim Woehrle. Thy Will Be Done followed in 1976 and then Yonkers was relatively unheard of for two decades.
In 1997, Get Hip Records released a compilation of songs recorded at Richfield, Minnesota's Dove Studios called Free Flight: Unreleased Dove Recording Studio Cuts 1964-69 which contained two songs from Microminiature Love, "Puppeting" (which was mislabeled as "Microminiature Love") and the anti-Vietnam war song "Kill the Enemy." These stripped-down, seminal art rock tracks caught the attention of De Stijl's Clint Simonson, who spent over a year searching for Yonkers. Simonson released the virtually forgotten Minneapolis psychedelic-garage album Microminiature Love in 2002. The vinyl-only edition quickly became a record collector favorite, and in 2003 Sub Pop put out the CD of this strange, lost album complete with six bonus tracks recorded circa 1968. ~ Charles Spano