Patuxent CD-314 Mike Baytop & Jay Summerour
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Mike Baytop is President Emeritus of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation. Archie was his teacher and mentor, and he performed with Archie on harmonica and guitar during Archie’s later years. Mike was born in Washington, DC in 1948, where he lived most of his life. His father introduced him to music when he gave him a harmonica. Later in life, he became truly interested in playing the blues he heard as he was growing up. Mike's harmonica sound is influenced by Charlie Sayles, Phil Wiggins and James Cotton. His guitar playing is influenced by Mississippi John Hurt, Larry Johnson, Jerry Ricks -- and by Archie Edwards, under whom he studied for many years. He learned to play bones from Richard "Mr. Bones" Thomas.
Mike performed with Archie at the Smithsonian Institutes 150th birthday celebration. In 1997 they played the 90th anniversary of the Niagara Group at Harper's Ferry, WV, and at the Rocky Gap Festival in Cumberland, MD, this time joined by Mr. Bones.
Mike has recorded on Michael Roach's CDs “Ain't Got No Home” (1994) and “Blinds of Life” (1996). They performed at the first Bluebird Festival at Prince George's College in 1994 and at the 11th annual DC Mayor's Arts Awards in 1995. Mike joined Michael Roach on a tour in England in 1966.
In demand as a performer, Mike has played at the Bull Durham Blues Festival, Blues in the Burg Festival, DC Blues Society Festival, the Smithsonian National Folk-life Festival, and the Folk Festival at Ferrum College. He participated in the opening of the John Hurt Museum in Avalon, Mississippi. In 1998, Mike he played the role of the Blues-man in the play "I Am A Man." He also accompanies poet Theresa Davis on the harmonica during her poetry readings.
Mike has conducted workshops at Common Ground and has lectured and performed at the University of Maryland. He participates in the annual Percussion Discussion, a program for elementary schools. annually participates in the Percussion Discussion, a program for elementary schools. Other community service activities include performances at schools and civic events.
When I was seven I got a harmonica. I don’t remember how I got it, but I got it and just hung on to it and played all the time. But I always grew up around the blues. My grandfather played. His name was Smack Martin. He was an old blues player, played guitar and harmonica. He used to live in Rockville, in this little neighborhood behind the courthouse in a place called Monkey Run. That’s where all the black folks used to hang around. They used to live there. It was a section of Rockville that was an alley, had a little jook joint, a little pool room, and people used to hang out and play music and shoot craps and everything down there. I used to sit down and watch him all the time.
My mom used to have shows. It was ten women had a club; they were called the “Wonderettes.” They were a social club, and they used to book these bands into these parks and stuff and have dances…bands like James Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Etta James, and Koko Taylor. And I was a little kid, so I’ve met a bunch of these people when I was a little bopper. They’d have shows in these little ballparks and stuff. Have fish fries, and they’d have people like Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker, and just people like that. Have a little ball game and serve food and beer; and there was a place where the guys used to bootleg, and you know those were good times.
Then I saw Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and they reminded me a lot of my granddaddy, just the stuff they play, the style. And it was wild. It was something I just knew I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be in a whole band. Sonny Terry is kin to one of my cousins. I got to talk to him and everything, and that really excited me. I said, “That’s what I want to do with my life.” Then I hooked up with James Cotton, and he showed me a bunch of stuff. We used to go and hang out in the dressing room and he taught me stuff. So between him, Sonny Terry and Junior Wells, I’ve learned a little bit.
Me and Warner, we can’t get separated. Some people say we remind them a lot of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, even the way we talk to each other. But we have fun. We been on the road for a long time, we been through a lot. He had an old van; we drove that around for years. We run around like that for a long time. Then Tom Mindte [Patuxent Records] did a CD of us and that did pretty good, and we hooked up with Smithsonian Folkways and they had us doing a bunch of festivals and stuff. We got a pretty good following now.
I really respect Mr. Warner and his music. People need to know that he’s there, because there’s a lot of people I admire playing the blues, but he’s the real deal. He really deserves it. I think he’s just as good or better than some of the greater blues players that I know. And I’ll tell anybody. Not because I know him, but I know what he does.