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An Interview with Sarasota Sideman Mike Kach

| Vicky Sullivan |

There are many talented musicians on the West Coast of Florida! They include the frontmen like Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, and Joe Perry of Aerosmith who have claimed the Suncoast area as their homes for years. There are musicians who have played in bands as sidemen to the “stars” in the music business, the famed “20 feet from Stardom”.  Sarasota keyboard player and vocalist Mike Kach is one of those players! He had that unique experience playing with Allman Brother’s founding member Dickey Betts in his band Great Southern.

What others have to say about Mike?

I reached out to the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and hometown guitarist Dickey Betts last week by phone and he was more than happy to talk about working with Mike! This is what Dickey had to say:

“Mike Kach is a great guy to be on the road with. He never gave me a minute of trouble out there, you know there are some guys who do, believe it or not (laughs). He was so easy to work with, and of course, he is a great singer and piano player.  I have nothing to say but good about Mike.  He came in the band through being around Sarasota. I had seen him play. I tried out a couple of piano players from up north, and then I had him come over, and I liked his playin’. 

It’s funny when he first started with me, I told him you don’t have to sing like Gregg Allman, you don’t have to sound like Gregg. Mike said “I am not trying to sound like Gregg Allman, I just sound that way,” Dickey said laughing “Ok as long as it’s natural” In closing Dickey said, “You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like Mike Kach.”.

Local songstress Twinkle had a few things to say about Mike as well:

Mike Kach w/ Twinkle

“What can I say about Mike? He’s the most Soulful player in the world. When we started in the Hurricanes together, we were pushing 20, but he was a year younger than me. We always felt like siblings, I love Mike with all my heart and have never been able to have a keyboard player since then because no one seems to move me like Mike does. What I mean by that is since we had the “Live at the Five-O” band together with Richy Kicklighter, Burt Englesman, and Gary Guzzardo. It was under my name, but that band was an amazing moment. We all created together, we made a live album there, the vocals are not recorded well, but the solos by the guys are epic!”

Interview with Mike Kach

Mike originally hails from Newtown, CT (Sandy Hook) and came to Sarasota in 1985. His interview will tell the rest of the story;

SP:  At what age did you become interested in music & start playing keys? Do you play any other instruments?

 “Well, from my best recollection, I saw Jerry Lee Lewis playing on TV when I was about 4 yrs. old, that did it for me. I started playing at 8yrs old, I’m a guitar owner and I enjoy messing around with it, but would never call myself a guitarist.

SP:  What musicians influenced you? When not playing, who do you listen to?

“I’ve been influenced by so many I could probably fill the page. I’ll try and narrow it down some for our interview here though. Lol. Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Billy Preston, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Elton John, Billy Joel, Jimmy Greenspoon, Dr. John, Chuck Leavell, Billy Powell, Taz DiGregorio, Jimmy Smith, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, my teacher Bob Tatro…I know I’m missing some here, but it goes on and on really…Of course, Gregg Allman!

When I’m not playing, I enjoy listening to my favorites that I’ve mentioned. Lately it’s been Jimmy Smith (I’ve been listening to Jimmy forever it seems, and I don’t think that will ever change.)

SP: How did you meet Dickey Betts and come to be in his band?

“We met through our mutual friend, guitarist/musician extraordinaire Chris Anderson. Dickey had “The Chris Anderson Band” back him up for a local benefit show here in our area. When the keyboardist seat opened up in his band, we got together.”

SP:  Tell us about working with the late, great guitarist Dan Toler?

“I Loved Dan Toler, and his brother David “Frankie” Toler. Dan (and David) were amazing musicians and friends, and would occasionally show me some cool stuff. Like a cool jazz chord voicing, or riff. Danny (and David) and I enjoyed similar music, aside from what we played at the time. Again, Jimmy Smith comes to mind.

SP:  I watched a YouTube clip of the 2004 show at the Rock Hall, what was that like to play there?

“It was fun and exciting to be at the Rock Hall. It’s a neat place, with tons of Rock & Roll history inside of those walls. The audience was really fired up, and that always helps the band.”

SP: Did it make you nervous singing Gregg’s leads? Did you ever meet Gregg?

“LOL…Yes, it was nerve wracking having to sing some of Gregg’s leads to say the least, especially in the beginning! LOL But, you just have to do your best, and try to stay focused on being in the moment during those times. It was simply a part of my job that needed to be done. It was really good for me in the long run, even though I wasn’t nearly as “comfortable” with singing at that time, as I was with playing the keyboards. Dickey was always patient and supportive of my singing though. I’ll always be thankful for that and the opportunity to be a part of his band!

Yes, I did meet Gregg, and for a short period of time (in the late 80’s) he would come around, and sit in with bands I was in. He had a place in Bradenton back then. We also had a few times just hanging out at that time, and mostly talked about music. He was always very kind and encouraging to me.

Mike Kach on the keyboard

SP: In 2015, there was an event for you at the White Buffalo Saloon that every musician in the Suncoast and beyond came to play and support you.  What was happening for you personally that day? 

“That was an amazing day! I’ll never forget that day, and all of the incredible efforts, support and love that happened there. For me personally, it was quite difficult in many ways. It was very emotional, and I was in a great deal of pain. But again, the amount of love and support was astounding and something I’ll never forget. I’ll always be grateful for everyone coming together to help me. Surreal.”

SP: How is your health doing now?

I’m very happy to say that I’m doing very well these days. It’s nothing short of a miracle in my opinion.

SP: The new generation, Duane Betts & Devon Allman, sons of Dickey & Gregg, have formed their band, Allman Betts Band. What has been your experience in working with both Dickey & Duane?

I think Dickey and Duane (Betts) really enjoyed playing music together on the road, as we all did. They have a lot of love and respect for each other.

 The Mike Kach Band recently played their first gig in months at outside at Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse since the pandemic started! Do you have any gigs coming up anytime soon?

“Well, we are excited to get back out there, when it’s safe to do so. Of course, the Covid-19 virus situation is affecting everything and everyone. At some point the virus will be an issue of the past and not a moment too soon. Meanwhile, I’ve been working on writing and recording demos. Many thanks to my friend David “Rook” Goldflies, (who sent me an old computer he had laying around with some recording software installed) of some new original songs and can’t wait to bring them to the band and everyone else!”

Photos by Vicky Sullivan

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