While it’s entirely accurate to describe the music of Detroit legend Michael Katon as ‘blues’, it also fails to do justice to the power, intensity and raw Motor City attitude that Katon commands with every note and chord. Ever since he first started playing around the bars and clubs of Detroit at the tender age of fifteen, Katon has infused the traditional blues sound with his own Michigan ‘tude, and is today considered one of the world’s finest exponents of blues rock.
After spending 20 years on the move, honing his trade with various blues and rock’n’roll bands, Katon relocated from Los Angeles where he had been living during the mid-70’s, to the aptly named village of Hell, Michigan, and released his debut solo album, ‘Boogie All Over Your Head’. In keeping with his own DIY ethics and with a firm desire to avoid compromise, the album was released on Katon’s own Wild Ass Records label. It was his dirty boogie style, hoarse vocals and hard-hitting riffs that helped Katon win popularity with fans of hard rock and metal music as well as the blues cats.
Released in England, his second album ‘Proud To Be Loud’, cemented his international reputation as a guitarist to keep a firm eye on in the 80’s. Following wild, whiskey and sweat drenched shows in the U.K., Katon found himself in the pages of British metal publications like Kerrang! and Metal Hammer.
As the spandex-clad eighties made way for the grungy, plaid-adorned nineties, Katon responded with the sonic attack of 1992’s ‘Get On The Boogie Train’. Hard hitting and completely, gloriously lacking in subtlety, the album showcased Katon’s own unique take on a traditional genre. Fans of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn had found themselves a new hero, particularly in Europe where Katon found himself able to command a growing and fiercely loyal fan base.
1994’s appropriately titled ‘Rip It Hard!’ did exactly that, with the title track blasting out of the gates like a bull with a matador to aim at, and the record never lets up from there. No More Whisky, Lucky Lucky Lucky and Barbeque On My Boogie were instant fan favorites.
1996’s ‘Rub’ was no less ferocious, though it also managed to highlight Katon’s lighter side, with tracks like the slow blues howler If I Have A Heart Attack Baby and the acoustic genius of The Devil’s Daughter showing that Katon could play slow when he wanted to. That same year also saw the release of Katon’s debut live album, ‘Bustin’ Up The Joint! – Live’. Recorded at the intimate Howard’s Club H in Ohio, the record successfully brought all of the sweat and grit of a Michael Katon concert into living rooms all over the world.
As Y2K arrived (and the predicted devastation failed to occur), Katon celebrated with ‘The Rage Called Rock ‘N’ Roll’, his sixth solo studio album. In glorious contrast to the title, this saw Katon displaying a tad more restraint – a more song-based record.
2002’s ‘Bad Machine’ saw Katon returning to the raw and wicked fury with which he made his name. The song titles (Pierced, Tattooed And Twenty Somethin’ Boogie, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Whisky, Blood ‘N’ Guts and American McMofo) gave away exactly where Katon was coming from at this point in his life.
2006’s ‘MK’ and ‘Diablo Boogie - Blues Brewed In Hell’ both saw Katon carry on where he’d left off, bringing fire and brimstone blues and boogie to the new millennium.
2007 saw the release of his second live album, ‘Live & On The Prowl’. Recorded in Europe during the 2006 MK tour, the album exhibits the flat out sonic firepower of a Michael Katon show.
2008 saw yet another live album culled from the ‘MK’ tour, ‘Bootleg Boogie Live’. Raw and uncompromising, ‘Live & On The Prowl’ and ‘Bootleg Boogie Live’ show the world that Katon is still as relevant as ever in the 21stCentury.
As the first decade of this new millennium approaches its end, it’s refreshing to know that Michael Katon, a blues artist in the purest sense, is still around and playing music the way he wants to play it. Such integrity is rare in the modern music sense. Michael Katon is indeed the real deal.