Dec 9, 2005 – Mike Botts was born Michael Gene Botts on Dec 8, 1944 in Oakland, Ca. while still at college he played with a band called The Travelers Three and worked as a studio musician. He was working with Tony Medley when he met David Gates and became a member of Bread from 1970 to ’74, after which he toured and recorded with Linda Ronstadt for 2 years. He reunited with Bread in ’76 to ’78 for one final album and world tour. His always continued his session and studio career – working, recording and touring with the likes of Karla Bonoff, Andrew Gold, Richard Carpenter and Dan Fogelberg. In 1996, the members of Bread once again reunited for a world tour that ran until the fall of 1997. He also contributed to several soundtracks for films and finally recorded his only solo album, Adults Only, released in 2000.
In Mike’s own words a flashback of his life in music:
From Oakland to Sacramento
I was born in Oakland, California, then raised for my first six years in the nearby town of Antioch and at age seven the Botts family moved to Sacramento. This is where my fascination with music and drums started to become a “hands on” reality, thanks to a school system that had a music department and for the encouragement and guidance I received from a grumpy but caring old music instructor named Mr. Wolfe. While I continued my formal music education in school, my informal education came mainly from the local radio stations. By the time I was starting high school, I was also starting to play gigs around town with local bands and had developed a particularly strong interest in Jazz and Rhythm & Blues.
It was during this period that I was listening to everything from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Little Richard and Fats Domino. By the time I had entered college I had become a “large fish in a small pond”, so to speak. It afforded me some great playing opportunities such as working for a short time with Jazz greats like guitarist, Wes Montgomery and organist, Jimmy Smith, as well as being first call on some of the best gigs in town. But deep down I knew that if I was going to continue to grow and find new musical horizons I would have to leave Sacramento.
From Sacramento to LA
It was during my second year of college that I was offered a few casual summer gigs with a group based out of Los Angeles called the Travelers Three. A few months later they called me from Canada to say they were going Electric, they needed a drummer and offered the job to me. We all got along great. I enjoyed the music and besides, it was my ticket to Los Angeles and The Road, so of course I accepted. Being in L.A. soon gave me the opportunity to break in to recording.
With some networking and recommendations by a few close friends, I was able to do more and more session work in between the college and club tours with the Travelers Three. As the group started fading, my career as a session player started getting brighter. In fact, it was at a recording session for the Travelers Three that I first met David Gates. David had been brought in to produce some recordings of us for Capitol records. The record company passed, the group broke up but I continued to run into David occasionally in various recording sessions around the city.
From Bill Medley to David Gates
Over the next couple of years, outside of being a member of an ill fated group called Joshua Fox, I pretty much focused my energy on developing a career as a studio musician. It was during this time that I got a call to do a session with Bill Medley and ended up working with him for the next two years. So, between touring with Medley and all of the session work, I was staying very busy. And just when I thought my career had stabilized and I was really locked in, I got a call from David Gates. David wanted me to come by to meet the other guys in BREAD and hear their first album. Having been soured by previous group ventures, I have to admit I was less than enthusiastic. But after hearing the music and meeting Jimmy and Rob, I agreed to become a member. After all, even if the group failed I always had the studios and Bill Medley to fall back on.
Well, little did I realize what was about to happen. I was able to balance BREAD, Bill Medley and recording sessions pretty well, at least for awhile. Then while I was doing a series of concerts in Hawaii with Medley, I got another call from David. He had called to tell me that “Make it With You”, was climbing up the charts and we had a hit on our hands. At that point I knew I had to make a choice. So, with the understanding and encouragement of Bill Medley, I flew back to L.A. to be a full time member of BREAD.
BREAD soon became the all consuming part of our professional lives. We were either in the studio or on the road from 1970 to May of 1973. That’s when the group decided to take a hiatus from all the pressure and pursue some individual projects and goals. It was shortly after the breakup in 1973 that I started working with Linda Ronstadt. I recorded and toured with Linda for about two and a half years. It was an absolute ball working with Ronstadt and what a band !! Fortunately, I was still able to balance my studio work and my obligations to Linda until I got another call from David in 1976. David called to tell me that he, Jimmy Griffin and Larry Knechtel had been discussing a possible reunion. Well, within weeks of David’s call, I had sadly given notice to Linda Ronstadt and was back in the studio with BREAD cutting tracks for the Lost Without Your Love album.
The band continued to tour through 1978 but unfortunately some irreconcilable differences within the group eventually involved all of us in litigation and caused the group to disband once again. Over the next few years I continued doing studio work with various artists. At this time, I also began trying to develop my production and songwriting abilities with some measure of success. Outside of a short tour of the U.K. with David in 1980, I devoted most of my time to recording and developing my talents as a musician, writer and producer.
By 1982, I was feeling that old urge to hit the road again . So when Karla Bonoff invited me to join her band for a summer tour with James Taylor, I gladly accepted. After that I proceeded to work with Karla on and off for the next couple of years. In late 1983 I formed a group with Andrew Gold. I first met Andrew while working with Linda Ronstadt back in 1974. Although we had all the ingredients for commercial success, the group (Houdini) became a victim of what I call a spontaneous internal combustion, which was ignited by the third member of the group. Unfortunately, It never got off the launch pad. Oh well, Se la vie!
By 1985 drum machines and computers had been introduced to the music scene. It soon became evident that this was not a fad or novelty and that they would be incorporated into all areas of music. Consequently, I had to become a computer programmer as well as a drummer. Becoming at least somewhat computer literate not only helped me in studio work but was also an enormous help in developing my songwriting and production abilities over the next few years. From 1985 through 1990 I was almost totally involved in recording as a player, singer, writer, and producer. The only exception was a short tour to Japan with Richard Carpenter in 1989. But other than that, I stayed in L.A. and concentrated on expanding my talents and abilities in other areas of music including some video production and direction.
In the summer of 1991 I got an opportunity to tour and record with Dan Fogelberg. After the previous five years, the gypsy in me was more than ready to start touring again. Because Dan usually goes out on tour only once or twice a year, it was, once again, easy for me to balance touring with session work and other projects I was involved in.
That brings us to ’96’. I had just released “Double Platinum Drums”, my first CD rom of drum samples and loops, I’d started working on a recording project for the NBA and was waiting to get a phone call from Dan Fogelberg regarding a possible tour. Well, I got a phone call but it wasn’t from Dan. It was from a man named Selwyn Miller, who very politely informed me that he was representing, guess who? That’s right, DAVID GATES! And that became the beginning of an extensive two year world tour to celebrate the group’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
After completing the world tour with BREAD, I began diligently working on my first solo CD effort, “Adults Only”. Although it took quite a while to complete, it’s now finally available and I couldn’t be happier or more satisfied with the results. I had the invaluable help of some of the best musicians and engineers around and they were indispensable in helping me turn my musical vision into a reality. The whole “Adults Only” CD project became a wonderful personal experience and a genuine labor of love. I hope you enjoy it as well.
This was followed by the great ‘Na Kama Hele’ (the Travelers) “Slack Key”project which was just plain fun. The original members of the ‘Travelers 3’ reunited along with Rick Cunha to record two CD’s, “Ki Ho `Alu Journey” and “The One They Call Hawaii”. They’re a collection of some of the great classic songs of Hawaii done in the traditional style of “Slack Key” guitar. You can check out both CD’s while sipping your Mai-Tai at www.nakamahele.com.
I’ve most recently been back working with Dan Fogelberg again and having a great time. Dan has always put together excellent bands and this last one was one of the best. We completed an extensive U.S. tour during the summer of ’03 which I later chronicled in my tour journal. A couple of months later the tour was followed by a special taped “live” performance with Dan and the band for the Chicago based PBS music series, “Soundstage”.
Mike sadly passed away from colon cancer on Dec 9, 2005 at the age of 61.