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Mike Wilhelm is a guitarist, singer and songwriter from California, United States of America. He was born in Los Angeles in 1942 and first learned to play blues guitar in his teens, from legendary Tennessee bluesman Walter "Brownie" McGhee. He served for a short time in the U.S. Navy before starting his professional music career as an opening act for The Chambers Brothers.
He was a founding member of the influential Bay Area band The Charlatans, who were the first psychedelic rock band in San Francisco. During the 1960s, when the photographer Herb Green asked Jerry Garcia who his favorite guitarist was, Garcia responded "Mike Wilhelm" without hesitation. Although they were hugely influential on the San Francisco counter-culture scene during the late 1960s, The Charlatans never managed to break into the national Billboard charts and only released one album, The Charlatans, before breaking up at the end of 1969.
A version of Buffy St. Marie's "Codine", recorded by The Charlatans in 1966, was used in the movie Boys Don't Cry during Hilary Swank's sex change scene. The song's guitar solo, one of Wilhelm's favorites, was deleted from the movie soundtrack and the Charlatans had to sue the director of the film in order to receive royalties.
After The Charlatans disbanded, Wilhelm formed a trio called Loose Gravel in the early 1970s. Wilhelm famously gave Bill Graham "the finger" in the movie Fillmore: The Last Days, when Graham refused to let Loose Gravel perform in the film. Graham liked the scene where Mike gave him the finger so much that he left it in the movie.
After Loose Gravel broke up, Wilhelm spent six years as lead guitarist with The Flamin' Groovies and toured Europe and elsewhere with the band. He played on two of the Flamin' Groovies studio albums, Flamin' Groovies Now! (1978) and Jumpin' in the Night (1979). Both albums were reissued as part of the Groovies' three-CD set, Bust Out at Full Speed: The Sire Years.
Wilhelm has also released several solo albums, including Wilhelm, Wood & Wire, and Mean Ol' Frisco. The latter album featured musical contributions from original Charlatans member Richard Olsen, ex-members of Quicksilver Messenger Service John Cipollina and Greg Elmore, and songs by harmonica player and photographer Sandy Guy Schoenfeld. Wilhelm, Cipollina, Schoenfeld, and Eric Rhein from the Mean 'Ol Frisco album sessions can all be seen in the 1988 film '68 as musicians playing a 1960s-style free concert in the park. In 1987, Wilhelm performed with Schoenfeld as a duo at the San Francisco Harmonic Convergence Festival and two weeks later with members of the Bay Area Supergroup The Dinosaurs, at the 20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. In addition, Wilhelm also participated in the recording of the as yet unreleased Austin Sessions album with Steady Freddie Krc.
In the mid-1990s, Wilhelm was involved in the remixing of unreleased demos and recording sessions by his old band The Charlatans for Big Beat Records' The Amazing Charlatans CD. This remixing work for the album was largely done during his spare time, when he wasn't roofing his house. In 2005, Wilhelm was involved in a reunion of The Charlatans for a performance at a memorial concert for Family Dog founder Chet Helms in Golden Gate Park. The band reformed again, two years later, for a free concert commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco.
Mike Wilhelm currently performs with the Bottle Rock Blues & Rhythm Band in Lake County, California where he also resides with his wife, Ana Maria, their cat, Felix and dog, Boogity. Read more about Mike Wilhelm on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.
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