At the relatively late age of 30; after seeing the movie Crossroads, Mikael Santana took up the study of the Blues Harmonica. By studying such masters as James Cotton, Little Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson, his progress on the instrument was rapid. Within two years he was serving an apprenticeship under the tutelage of Butch Mudbone on Beale Street in Memphis, TN. It was during one of these gigs that the band was honored one evening by Greg Allman, who sat in for several numbers, and later compared Santana's harmonica playing to that of the late Paul Butterfield.
Following Mudbone's advice, Santana went on to develop his skills as a front man, and with guitarist Al Rollag, formed the band Metropolitan Avenue with Steve Earnshaw on bass and Mike Karcz on drums. Using a repertoire built on the traditional Chicago blues style, Metropolitan Avenue incorporated into its sound the jazz, jump blues, and West Coast swing elements of such modern blues greats as Big Joe and the Dynaflows, Charlie Musslewhite, Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, and William Clarke.
After another two years, Santana took a brief sabbatical from performing in order to learn the rudiments of music theory, work on his vocal skills, and concentrate on writing original material. The fruit of this time of "woodshedding" was two CD's released on the North Magnolia label: 1997's Point of Departure, and 1998's In Transit; the latter featuring the masterful guitar playing of Sean Costello. Bill Ellis, music writer for the Memphis Commercial Appeal gave "Point of Departure" a 3 and a half stars rating and wrote of it:
"Blues harpist Mikael Santana leads his band, the Metrosonics, through a hot set of up-tempo electric blues that's part Memphis, part Austin and all good. Santana, who writes his material, is more of a roadhouse player than his producer, Billy Gibson. Santana's sturdy, straight-ahead harp-playing fuels many a catchy tune, including favorites Not My Problem, As Soon As We Can, and Be My Baby. And what's not to like about the CD cover, a shot of Santana waiting at a train station with a poster behind him that reads "Discover the Magic of Amtrak"."