THE FOLK CLUB OF SOUTH FLORIDA, INC.
ACOUSTIC UNDERGROUND CONCERT SERIES presents
LUNA STAR CAFÉ, SATURDAY, May 5, 2014 – 8:00 P.M.
775 NE 125TH Street, North Miami, FL 33161 305-799-7123
Requested Contribution: $10, members of any folk club $7
Biography by Garrett Soden
Like the music he plays, Michael Koppy is himself a mix of down-home integrity and big-city hustle. Raised in Tallahassee, Florida, he was expelled from high school, despite being a finalist for a National Merit Scholarship. In 1967, he ran away from home, hitch-hiking to San Francisco just in time for the Summer of Love. “Wasn’t all that ‘summery’ or ”lovely’, but hell what did I know?”That was the first of what would be nine Atlantic-to-Pacific explorations across the continent by thumb and boxcar “Riding the rails isn’t really all that romantic or comfortable,” he reports wryly, “but you do get places eventually. And I guess I just wanted to see as much of America and Canada as I could. I was romantic. “
Traveling with little more than a guitar and a bag of clothes, he worked as a laborer in a gunpowder factory, stagehand, elevator operator, carnival roustabout, union organizer, small-town newspaper editor, construction worker, strip-show spotlight operator, and many other odd jobs. Finally settling in San Francisco, Michael boot-strapped his way into the entertainment industry, eventually producing and directing stage musicals, television, and concerts (Buck Owens, the Blues Project, Riders in the Sky), and other events.
Strangely, the one career Michael did not pursue was that of performer. Indeed, close friends did not even know he owned a guitar, much less that he could play one. For a full twenty-five years, from 1976 to 2001, the only way to hear his music would be to walk by his front porch on the right evening, where you might catch him playing some old song or practicing different chord fingerings while relaxing with a cold beer. “I never really saw myself as a performer; still don’t really. I’m more interested in what’s being said, and how it’s being said. The rest is ribbons and bows—we all get entertained, sure, distracted, but afterwards it’s what kept that interests me.”
But in retrospect, perhaps it’s not so odd that Michael never thought about playing in public. His repertoire, after all, was a grab-bag of old cowboy songs he’d changed to his liking, blues he’d learned from friends and street musicians way back when, ballads he’d modified, his own interpretations of traditional tunes, and bastardized pop ditties he’d heard so long ago he’d forgotten where—along with idiosyncratic originals that were hard to classify. “Back when I was a kid I used to re-write pop and country songs I’d hear on the radio—tryin’ to make ’em make more sense than they seemed to make to me. I just always, always felt that if you were gonna say something, then actually SAY something. Kinda dumb, maybe, but lots of songs are kinda dumb. But if you then play those ‘revisions’—what ya think are intelligent re-workings—for people, they figure you’re just too dense and dumb to learn the right words! What’s wrong with you!?” So he just made his love for playing guitar and writing a completely personal affair, and that’s where things stood for all those many years.
Until one evening in 2001, when he dropped into a bar on his way home from work, and where an open mic night was in progress. “You’d think I’d at least know what a danged ‘open mic night’ was, havin’ worked in entertainment and the performing arts for so long” Michael says, laughing at his ignorance, “but I honestly didn’t.” It was only after the barmaid explained the concept—and then spent a few weeks encouraging him—that he finally stepped on stage. The look on surprised faces when he finished showed there were folks happy to hear his old school front porch style of music and songwriting. “I think the first song I played was “The Yellow Rose of Texas”—and you can bet no one there had heard that one in a long, long time!”
Within weeks Michael was being invited to perform around San Francisco, with regular gigs and a slow-growing reputation. He was sometimes sandwiched between or opening for rock bands, but his unique style and songs charmed even these audiences. A short time later I heard Michael at the Hotel Utah Saloon, and approached him after the show with an offer to make a record. Michael’s debut album, “Red River Redux,” was released in the spring of 2006, “One Man, One Guitar and a Harmonica” two years later, and his revolutionary and stunning third album, “Ashmore’s Store” in 2012.