In 2011 Mike has continues his never ending tour playing over 60 dates a year from sold out shows in New York City to raucous country clubs in Dallas playing for neo-punks , evangelical Christians and everyone who would listen for a moment or two. Mike is happy to play in your living room, concert hall, saloon, coffee shop or the back of your flat bed truck.
He is the "Real Deal" -according to the Illinois Entertainer.
Folkways artist, Bob Everhart tells us that "Woody Guthrie would've been proud"of what Mike is doing. Hope you'll agree and check him out real soon
Mike has been playing since the 1960's. A veteran of rock, country and blues bands. Mike sat in Muddy Waters bedroom, had Buddy Guy show him around the blues clubs where Willie Dixon, Junior Wells and Mighty Joe Young among others were hanging out.
The 1970's found Mike playing folk gigs at places like the Fifth Peg and Orphans in Chicago, alongside guys like Steve Goodman and John Prine. For all you alumni geeks out there,Mike was booted out of LANE TECH HIGH SCHOOL in Chicago. He finally graduated from the old CENTRAL YMCA HIGH SCHOOL that graduated neer do wells like MIKE ROYKO, MIKE BLOOMFIELD and BARRY GOLDBERG. He went to CENTRAL YMCA COMMUNITY COLLEGE for two years before graduating from the creative writing program at COLUMBIA COLLEGE. Lifelong kudos to teachers, JOHN SCHULTZ, BETTY SHIFLETT, HARRY MARK PETRAKIS and PAUL PEKIN.
He founded the Record Emporium in 1979 and has been selling music continually since then. He has had stores in three states and is currently located in Chicago and online at www.recordemporium.com.
The 1980's saw Mike in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan living on a farm and playing with country rock cover bands until guys like Pete Seeger and Utah Phillips discovered Mike's folkier/political side. He played the 75th Anniversary of the I.W.W. and places like the Hiawatha Folk Festival, Rhinelander Festival and Pike Lake. Returning to Chicago in the 1990's , Mike found work playing heavy metal bass in a band called Lobotomy. Played some roots rock with the Redones and, coming full circle, settled into a weekly blues gig with Bellyful of Soul where guys like Pinetop Perkins, Roosevelt 'Booba' Barnes, Pete Myers, or Dancin' Perkins were likely to sit in.
MIke has contributed to the television show 'Cupid" and the motion pictures,"Love Jones" Dualmania" and "High Fidelity" as an set advisor and an extra. He just finished another acting turn in a video for the band "Hotel Lights" featuring members of Ben Folds and the Archers of Loaf.
Finally in 2002, Mike, tired of 'playing rhythm guitar behind Jesus' booked some time at Acme Studio and recorded 'Landfill' with Devin Davis engineering. After a couple of surgeries and some rehab on a bad knee, Mike went in the studio again. With BILL GLAHN producing, Mike laid down the basic tracks at LOU WHITNEY's (Skeletons, Morells) studio in Springfield, MO. He took the rough tracks up to Third Ear Studio in Minneapolis where TOM HERBERS engineered sessions with JOHN ELLER and DAVE BOQUIST of SON VOLT adding multi-instruments. We mixed the entire album back at THE STUDIO in Springfield,MO and masteried with RANDY KLING down in Nashville. Randy has mastered all the RCA acts from WAYLON to PORTER WAGONER to ALICE COOPER.
2010 has a new album on the way along with publication of a poetry collection. An unearthed, live performance of Mike's 1960's garage band, the BOGUS RISQUE WEEDS is also being reworked and mastered for a possible release. A live DVD is also in the works. Mike also provided a couple of musical tracks for a Whiskey Bender documentary on independent record stores.
Mike currently has no songs about cats or about how depressed he is, but you never can tell, he might come up with one.
"Mike was great last time he was here--great, visual songs about industrial Chicago and real life, wrapped up with lots of story." - Kaleidoscope Coffeehouse
Solo show - acoustic guitar, slide guitar, harmonica and storytelling.
Landfill - 2003
Landfill EP - 2003
Record Emporium 25th Anniversary Compilation -2004
Tossin' It Away - 2007
"Red Shirt" has been added to Neil Young's Living With The War" web site.
Assembly Line Concert Compilation 2010
Johnny Lunchbucket (in final production) -2010
Live Mike DVD (in production) 2010
'Mike Felten is the Real Deal
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While all the Johnny-come-lately folk singers of the past decade or so are much appreciated, make no...While all the Johnny-come-lately folk singers of the past decade or so are much appreciated, make no mistake, Mike Felten is the real deal. On Tossin' It Away, many of these songs are about Vietnam and LBJ, back during a time when he first started playing music himself, hence the sparkle of authenticity here that many other folk albums lack. Also, thanks to its stripped down sound, the unnecessary artifice that plagues other so-called folk albums is non-existent, making it all the more enjoyable. (www.mikefelten.com)
- Dean Ramos
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"With a James Dean jacket and a cigarette" (opening line to Ghost in the House, by Mike Felten) ..."With a James Dean jacket and a cigarette"
(opening line to Ghost in the House, by Mike Felten)
Mike Felten, a Chicago folk singer and record store
owner, was in Lou Whitney's South Street studio in
early July recording tracks for his second album, the
follow-up to 2003's Landfill. "Ghost in the House,"
with its invocation of the 50's foremost symbol for
rebellion, was the first song up. After a few takes,
Whitney called Felten into the control booth to listen
to a playback.
"You know, I had one of those," Whitney tells Felten.
It was a lucid moment. Between the sound engineer,
musician, and journalist, there were more accumulated
years than some Mormon family reunions. Or so it
It's not often that this 51-year-old music journalist
could be referred to as "the kid" in a work situation
especially when an interview involves an artist
working on their debut or sophomore effort. But it is
becoming less uncommon.
Felten is not the first AARP candidate to kick off a
recording career. Fat Possum blues artist Robert
Belfour worked construction for 35 years before
releasing albums. Bob Frank, who was hailed as a
"southern Bob Dylan" when his 1972 album on Vanguard
was released, took a 30-year sabbatical to work on
irrigation systems in California after friction
developed between he and the record label. Rich
Capalbo and Andy Willis of The Amoreys, were both over
50 when they released their first album, Tasty Frieze,
in 2000. None of the above are nostalgia acts. "I hate
nostalgia," says Willis.
As the sessions for Felten's record progressed,
Whitney would offer suggestions. "Try it this time
with a little more 'ham.'" "Can you drop the key one
notch?" Sometimes slight alterations in a song's
arrangement were made. Whitney commented to me about
the ease in which Felten could adapt, the sign of a
seasoned musician who had worked at his craft for many
years. About halfway through the first day of
recording, Whitney was marveling, "This is the best
batch of songs that have come through this studio in
at least five years."
Mike Felten has been writing and stockpiling his songs
for around 35 years. Bob Frank tells a similar tale.
"I never stopped writing songs while I was working a
union job and raising my family," Frank told me in a
2002 interview. "I've been refining them and writing
new ones all these years." Since Frank's release of
Keep on Burning that year, he has retired from his
job, released 2 more critically acclaimed albums, and
now performs at folk festivals around the country on a
What Felten and Frank share, as well as many other
gray-haired "rookies," is they are incredibly talented
artists who have led a workaday existence. They have
used that experience to craft songs that are rooted in
the way most of us live our lives. Both can be
political in their songs and there is a maturity to
their politics, not often found in younger performers.
They know what they are for, as well as what they are
against. And they are using their advanced years to
express themselves in a manner they have denied
themselves in the past.
"I played in a lot of cover bands for the cash," says
Felten, "trying to keep a family and a store afloat.
At one point I was playing seven days a week, four
hours a night and six hours on Sunday. I don't know if
done it for 'exposure' or one of those other words
that just mean 'free' in the musician's lexicon. I got
paid and folks heard 'Proud Mary' and 'Green Grass of
Home' instead of Landfill."
Felten downplays his natural ability. "Nothing about
music ever came easy. As good or as bad as I am right
now, I worked hard to get here." Working hard included
opening gigs for such folk luminaries as John Prine,
Bonnie Koloc and Steve Goodman in the early '70s and
later for Utah Phillips. In the '90s he wound up with
a regular blues gig in a band called Bellyfull of
Soul. "It seemed like every major blues artist sat in
with us at one time or another. Pinetop Perkins,
Lonnie Brooks, Dancing Perkins, Jimmie Lee Robinson,
Lindsey Alexander, all the Maxwell Street guys."
For his second album, Felten chose Springfield's Lou
Whitney to record the basic tracks. Felten explains
the decision this way, "I always loved the Morrells
and the Skeletons. It is always great to work with
somebody that was coming out of the boom box when I
was digging potatoes in Michigan. He's done records
with a lot of people who I like. Guys like the Bottle
Rockets and Dave Alvin. I had covers by both of those
guys on the list for my last band project. There is a
shared perspective on what a positive end result would
"I recorded Landfill with Devin Davis, who has an
excellent, critically acclaimed album out. He is a
younger guy. I think the problem we had was that
neither one of us knew our roles. I'm not an engineer
and at the outset, he thought that all he should be
WAS an engineer. By the time, he was comfortable
enough with me to voice an opinion, the project was
just about all in the can."
But Felten doesn't exclude the possibility of working
with younger engineers in the future. "Age difference
is a double edged sword. On one hand, a young guy
might not catch your short hand, but they aren't as
entrenched in a style or the 'way things have to be
done'. From my varied background, I didn't know if I
should make a blues album or a rock album or country
album or a folk album. In the end, I just wanted to
make a 'Mike' album. I think the edges were a little
more jagged on Landfill than the one we are working on
"Lou is still making music. He knows what it is to be
a lifer. A lot of the wizards that we grew up with are
selling time shares. Making a living is important, but
making music is paramount in our scheme of things.
Devin was great and I think he'll be where we are
thirty years from now. I don't think he'd know what a
James Dean jacket was, but Lou did."
Despite their talent and experience, demand for aging
artists by major record companies is almost nil. Radio
play is unheard of outside of non-profit community
stations. To expose their music, these artists are
adapting the DIY philosophy of the punks from the
mid-70's. Both Felten and Frank own their own record
labels. They both have websites and do their own
promotion. Frank has found a nitch market at folk
festivals while Felten's left-leaning political tunes
have found an audience in Belgium, Northern France,
and among striking Opel workers in Germany.
When it comes right down to it, though, mass
acceptance is not a motivating factor. Life can make
you a realist and Felten knows the odds of having a
hit record are slim, even to those signed to a major
label. He doesn't want to be a rock 'n' roll star. His
motivations are more humble than that.
"I'm not trying to impress the girls and make them
sorry they spurned me. I've spent enough nights in
motels. In the mid 1980's when we were relatively at
peace, a woman by the name of Jan Maara got up and
sang Steve Goodman's anti-war song 'Penny Evans' at a
festival in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Some of the
musicians that were there, said that they wished to be
entertained and not preached to. Twenty odd years
later we are in
the same quagmire. I wonder if we all sang 'Penny
Evans' as much as we sang 'God Bless The USA' for the
past twenty years, if we'd been in the same situation.
We should all stand in place and sing about who we are
and what things should be. Stardom or fame is just
another devil that has to be confronted."
"Pete Seeger entitled his autobiography, 'How Can I
Keep From Singing?' _Expression is not a choice but a
necessity. Music is the novel for the short attention
span. At the very least, my grandchildren will be able
to listen to my stuff and know who I was."
There is a sense of mortality in that final sentence
that comes with age. It's a sense that is instinctive
in most all of us that are nearer to the end of our
lives than the beginning of it. There is an urgency to
strip away the bullshit and find the things in our
lives that are the most important and to pass that
knowledge on to future generations.
Felten explains his opening line to "Ghost in the
House" this way: "The verse is about the bad decisions
we make in our youth and ignorance where we sometimes
reject the pure hand and heart."
The myth is that James Dean's jacket in "Rebel Without
A Cause" was red to signify anger. The truth of the
matter is that Dean bought the jacket after he learned
the movie was going to be in color so he would stand
What Felten is leaving his grandchildren is a lesson
on how to cut through the crap. And that's a valuable
lesson to learn at any age.
Mike Felten - Landfill 2003
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Mike Felten could be John Prine's sadder and funnier brother. A record store owner by trade, Felten ...Mike Felten could be John Prine's sadder and funnier brother. A record store owner by trade, Felten will have you weeping one minute ("Save Her Old Man") and in stitches the next ("You Could Have Had This"). And his songs work best when they mix both tragedy and humor, such as on "Talkin' 66 Summer School Blues" which invokes both Columbine and Eddie Cochran ("Mama Papa told me, Son, you got to make some money if you want to use a gun or go shooting next Sunday. Well, I called my Congressman and he said, quote, 'Fuck off you little bastard, you're too young to vote.") Somewhere on the twilight side of 50, Felten has written a set of songs that speak more about survival than great expectations. And anyone who can make a living as an indie record shop owner for over 20 years is most certainly a survivor. So, kid, if you wanna get by in this mean, old world, you better get a sense of humor.
Mike Felten - Landfill
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"Felten specializes in crossing up expectations: Is this an angry John Prine? Lynyrd Skynyrd folk-ro..."Felten specializes in crossing up expectations: Is this an angry John Prine? Lynyrd Skynyrd folk-rock? Roots rock with occasional cowbell? The songs are smart, funny and sound full even when all that's going on is a couple of guitars and a little percussion."
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"I've reached 1..2..3.. and it's quittin' time. Besides Landfill just came on the changer and left m..."I've reached 1..2..3.. and it's quittin' time. Besides Landfill just came on the changer and left me with the same question, as always: I didn't know Kris had learned to sing this well..."-
Originals from the two albums, the third one in production and the cutting room floor. Revisiting extensive covers list for specific locations. See sample below.
1. Statue of Liberty
2. Ghost in The House
3. Save Her Old Man
4. Road & Rye
5. Paul Powell (Steve Goodman)
6. I Ain't Goin Away
7. Finntown Hearse
8. Cold Hard Morning
9. Hockey Games In French
10. Red Shirt
11. You Could've Had This
13. Talkin 66 Summer School Blues/
14. Solidarity Forever (Traditional Union)
15. Trail of Tears
16. Blue Umbrella (John Prine)
17. Three Legged Man (Shel Silverstein)
18. Goin' Back To Texas (Shel Silverstein)
19. Ol Kentucky Home (Randy Newman)
20. Tossin' It Away
21. Mean Mother Trucker
22. How'd I Get Here
23. Abortion in Chinatown
24. Life Goes To Hell
25. Margie Got A Boyfriend
27. Cold Wind On The Mountain
28. Ol Slewfoot
29. Take A Walk With Jesus
30. Brand New Song
31. Salesman of Paradise
32. I Voted for Frank
33. Came Through On A Train
34. Local 27
35. Fort Worth
36. Shut Out the Light
37. Goin' To New York Christmas Day
38. T for Texas (Rodgers)
39. Penny Evans (Steve Goodman)
40. How Many Wars?
41. This Land Is Your Land (Guthrie)
42. 1913 Massacre (Guthrie)
43. Roof For The Rain
44. I Remember I Sold Chryslers
45. A Shot of Whiskey (Bob & Mary's)
46. Selling Hammers In The Dark
47. A Cup Of America
48. That Boy Is Trouble
49. Workingman's Paradise
50. Here I Am In Dallas
51. Tittabawassee Jane
52. Links On A Chain
53. It's All Over Now Baby Blue (Dylan)
54. American Cars
55. All in All
56. Lady of Angels
57. Far From Me (Prine)
58 Buildings They Tore Down
59. She Don't Like Me Much
Additional Cover List
City of New Orleans
Here I Am In Dallas
Three Legged Man
Lying Blue Eyes
Do You Wanna Dance
Hit The Road Jack
Angel From Montgomery
There are no upcoming dates at this time.