GALLEON ... Making Music Great Again!
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GALLEON ... Making Music Great Again!

Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1994 | SELF

Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1994
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"Ship shape For Elliott Michaels, the "Professor' of Little Five Points, a life in music"

By Roni Sarig Thursday January 22, 2004 12:04 am EST

New Year's Eve was fast approaching. Most years, Elliott Michaels wouldn't have expected to spend the last night of the year performing. After all, Dec. 31 is generally reserved for the big names, and Michaels' bands have never garnered much of a following. His current five-piece band, Galleon, is no exception.

But New Year's Eve 2003 was different. It would be exactly 30 years since Elliott Michaels played his first professional gig: New Year's Eve 1973, at a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., not far from where he was born. The gig, featuring the 17-year-old Michaels and his band, Time of Survival, "was a disaster," he recalls.

But, good or bad, an anniversary is an anniversary. So Michaels picked up the phone and called Ted Lathangue, who runs 9 Lives Saloon in Little Five Points.

Ted first met Elliott years back, when Lathangue worked at Clark Music on Ponce de Leon Avenue and spied an odd Benjamin Franklin-looking guy with a guitar case in hand, waiting at a bus stop outside. When Lathangue started booking 9 Lives, Michaels volunteered to play. While the pudgy, fortysomething Michaels isn't your typical 9 Lives fare, Lathangue gave him a shot. Soon, Lathangue was inviting Michaels on stage to sing Rolling Stones and Foreigner covers with his own band, Bitch, who've long held a Wednesday night residency at the club. At one point, Michaels became the centerpiece of Bitch theme nights — called "Professor Elliott and Bitch's School of Rock and Roll."

When Lathangue heard about his friend's impending 30th anniversary milestone, he booked Galleon to open 9 Lives' New Year's celebration.

The gig, it turns out, went fairly well. Galleon probably took the stage a little early in the night to draw a big crowd. But it felt good to be up there playing. Performing always feels good to Michaels, but this time was particularly good. Because it was his 30th anniversary, and because Galleon feels like it's beginning to pick up momentum.

"I think 2004," Michaels says with no hint of doubt, "is going to be a very good year for us."

A week after New Year's, Michaels sits outside the two-room apartment he has rented in the Old Fourth Ward for the past four years. Inside it's a mess: Newspapers and plastic grocery bags are strewn everywhere, like what you might expect from someone who has always lived alone and never cared much for the trappings of domesticity.

But outside on a plain wooden chair, Michaels is the model of decorum. He's postured upright, hands resting on his lap. And when he leans forward to talk, he speaks with the absolutely clear articulation of an Ivy League orator.

"I'm 47," he says. "Or to put it in layman's terms, I'm old enough to know better and young enough not to give a damn.

"I've been doing jobs in the secretarial and clerical area for quite some time," he says, though he's been out of work since last spring. "But I don't consider it who and what I am."

Who and what Michaels is: a person who makes music. Not, mind you, a person with overwhelmingly apparent musical talent, or someone who has ever come close to making a living from playing music. And he's not a person bound for stardom — though, after 30 years, it still remains among the possibilities Michaels imagines for himself.

He's a person who makes music, and that's all. It's his passion, and he does what he's passionate about. Because, in Michaels' cosmology, what else is there?

If you've spent any amount of time at 9 Lives in recent years, or across the street at the Star Bar, there's a good chance you've seen Elliott. Amid all the tattoos, piercings and leather, he stands out: He's the middle-aged guy wearing a cardigan or collared shirt and slacks — looking far more like, say, Dick Cheney than your typical L5P scenester.

If he's on stage with Galleon, he's the guy singing no-frills classic-style rock — songs of inspiration ("Open Up Your Soul") and love ("Options") — interspersed with dramatic exhortations to the audience: "Sit back and get ready for the ride of your life, for this is rock 'n' roll at its high watermark." If he's not on stage, he's the guy rocking out in the audience, enjoying the band — whatever band — more than you are.

"He comes out and supports everyone, whether it's a hard rock band, a nu metal band, a stoner band, a girl group, whatever," 9 Lives' Lathangue says.

Lathangue considers Michaels a friend. But he's not going to lie, the dude is weird — even Michaels himself will cop to that. Mostly, Michaels' weirdness is a function of his looking so out of place in the place he most chooses to be. But there's also a deeper incongruence. His demeanor, his articulation — it suggests someone transported through time from an earlier, more formal and chivalrous era. He's been known to kiss women on the hand.

"Elliott is quite the Renaissance gentleman," Lathangue says. "I could see him in a powdered wig, hanging with Louis XVI. He's upper crust, baby. Sometimes it makes me feel positively uncouth around him, I feel so peasant-like."

And that quirkiness is what Lathangue and other pillars of L5P — from Star Bar owners/musicians Dave Parker and Gary Yoxen to rock-scene veteran Susanne Gibboney (Lust, Vendettas) — like about him.

"We sort of took him under our wing, or enjoyed the fact that he was so eccentric," Gibboney says.

"To see a man that looks like him — his age, stature, whatever — does catch [people] off guard," says Lathangue. "People are curious to see what he's all about. But it can also have him easily dismissed as a crackpot."

There are times, his friends admit, when he seems a little crackpot-ish, even to them. Like when he couldn't understand why "American Idol" wouldn't want him, or why people would rather go see 'N Sync than himself, when 'N Sync doesn't even write its own songs.

"He does have that delusional aspect about him," Lathangue says. "But you know what? I don't want to shit in his Easter basket. Who am I to say? He's still out there doing it. He still believes and still pursues it. Is it idealism or is it having convictions about your God-given talents? So I'm just like, 'More power to you.'"

When Elliott Michaels was in school, he didn't have many friends. "People thought I had emotional problems," he says. "But I never really had a problem with my emotions — a lot of times other people had a problem with my emotions, but it was their problem, not mine. This is a bitter point in my childhood, but I can't tell you how angry and hurt I was at so many people calling me a retard."

Michaels' interest in music began to emerge at an early age. He had a teacher named Mrs. Bromberg who noticed, during a fifth-grade assembly, that Elliott had a strong voice. She suggested he try out for district chorus. "Things slowly blossomed from there," he says.

He started his first band, Time of Survival, and when it broke up, he went on to play in a string of bands — some doing originals, some covers — including a band called Firefly around 1976. Two Firefly songs, "Tapiola" and "Preacher," remain part of Michaels' repertoire today. In 1981, Michaels moved to L.A. He'd heard the city was more receptive to his type of pop-oriented music.

"It didn't turn out quite the way I expected," Michaels says. He sent a tape of his songs to Capitol Records. "Shortly after, the tape was sent back with a very terse comment: 'Mr. Michaels: It is extremely difficult to judge the quality of your singing on the basis of such a poorly recorded tape. As for your material, it definitely needs work.'

"That was my first reality check," Michaels says. "It was discouraging at first. But then I thought: Wait a minute. He's not saying, 'Stop,' he's saying, 'It needs work.' So I needed to work on it. And I've been doing that ever since."

In L.A., Michaels played in groups including Blue Dress and the Heatseekers. To pay the bills, Michaels had always worked wherever he could — as a cafeteria dishwasher, as a Wall Street foot messenger. But in L.A., Michaels learned word processing and paid his bills as an office worker.

He also made two solo records in the '80s, the five-song EP Split Personality, and the full-length Change of Address. He once played his songs for someone in the music publishing business. Michaels recalls, "He said, 'Elliott, you seem to know a good song, but you don't seem to know a hit.' And it took me awhile to understand his point. In a perfect world, only the best songs would become hits. But we don't live in a perfect world."

Deciding L.A. was "entertainment spoiled" and having heard about job opportunities in Atlanta leading up to the Olympics, Michaels moved to Georgia in late 1992. Though he knew no one in town, he eventually met singer/songwriter John Grant and formed a duo called Dos Hombres. For three and a half years, they played wherever they could, mainly coffeehouses, often outside the Perimeter. Then Grant moved to Arizona.

After a false start with a band he named Galleon (from a song he co-wrote in 1977 and still performs), Michaels hooked up with a guitarist named Jon Farr. They played as a duo called Michaels Goes Farr, but they gradually added members until his current band, Galleon, was fully afloat.

In the fall of 2000, Michaels needed to spend three months on and off in the hospital for a bad pancreas. While there, burglars broke into his house and stole most of his musical equipment. When the folks in Little Five Points found out, they organized a benefit for him. Lathangue went around collecting donations. Gibboney gave an electric guitar she had intended to sell. They also rounded up a new acoustic guitar and an amp, which they delivered to Michaels at a Christmas-time benefit concert. Elliott was overwhelmed by the show of friendship.

"That was kind of like a turning point," Lathangue says. "He realized that people did care about him, did appreciate him and went beyond the usual, 'Oh, that's quirky Elliott over in the corner.'"

All things considered, Michaels has done pretty well for himself in his chosen pursuit. There's still a chance for stardom, but Michaels says, "In all honesty, that hasn't happened and I don't know whether it will."

He'd still like it to happen, though. "But that really isn't what it's all about for me anymore. There are two reasons I stick with music: One, I think it's what I was put on this earth to do. And the other is the feeling I get when things really go right. When I'm up there singing and the band is playing solid and strong with me, and there's a good crowd at the club, and they're really picking up on what we're putting down — that's when a feeling comes over me that is very hard to describe.

"And when I get that feeling, I feel like a real superstar. Even though we all know I'm just another local musician, playing in a local band at a local club."

roni.sarig@creativeloafing.com -


Discography

INTRODUCING GALLEON, ATLANTA'S UNKNOWN SUPERGROUP!

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Bio

Galleon is an Atlanta-based musical group which steadfastly believes life is much too short to settle for ordinary music. Now comprised of Elliott & June Michaels, William Easterling, Mike Shea, Martin Alvarez, and John Patka, this electric outfit plays a variety of rock, folk-rock, and modern country music; blending tastefully melodic, well-crafted original songs with choice deep-cut cover tunes, and performing it all with a very high level of professionalism and their own unique and special style. Thus, the band makes music that sails above and beyond all the rest!

Galleon's music is a fusion of the best elements of jazz, country, blues, gospel, folk, and African and Latin musical styles - the very same elements which were fused together to forge rock music in the first place. So it's still rock & roll to Galleon!

Galleon founder and skipper ELLIOTT MICHAELS (guitar, lead vocals, songwriting) is a seasoned veteran of the music scenes in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. The Brooklyn-born Michaels founded Galleon in 1994 and has been maintaining and improving it ever since. Michaels' impeccable vocal styling and right-on-the-mark songwriting are the foundation on which was built the Galleon!  As for his guitar playing, well ... Elliott's a terrific singer and don't you forget it!

Galleon's current lineup also features WILLIAM EASTERLING (polyphonic synthesizer, organ, electric piano, harmony vocals, songwriting), a classically-trained musician with an eclectic pop sensibility; MIKE SHEA (kit drums, percussion), a sensational musician whose fierce but tasteful attack belies his mild-mannered behavior; MARTIN ALVAREZ (lead & bass guitar), a talented Florida transplant with plenty of tropical heat and a deep fondness for K*I*S*S; JOHN PATKA (lead & bass guitar, harmony vocals), a well-seasoned rocker and devoted family man with vast and varied influences; and Elliott's lovely wife JUNE ELISE MICHAELS (weapons of hand percussion, harmony vocals, lyrics, administrative support), a long-time new-music devotee with lots of get-up-and-go. The spirit, enthusiasm, and professionalism of these musicians helps ensure smooth sailing for Galleon!

The chemistry and camaraderie among musical partners Patka, Alvarez, Shea, Easterling, and Mr. & Mrs. Michaels is most evident in Galleon's cohesive and assertive sound, imposing stage presence, and commanding performance. The group has appeared often at Atlanta-area nightclubs and concert events, and they look forward to growing and progressing as they play their special brand of music throughout the Southeastern United States in the coming months. Bookings, auditions, and additional information regarding Galleon are handled as follows:

GALLEON! 
803 Cimarron Parkway, Sandy Springs, GA 30350 
Telephone: (404) 552-2763 or (404) 374-0100 
E-Mail: galleonmaster@yahoo.com 
BandCamp Web Page:  https://galleonrocks.bandcamp.com
ReverbNation Web Page: https://reverbnation.com/galleonrocks 
Our Stage Web Page:  https://ourstage.com/galleonsailsahead

Number One Music Web Page:  https://numberonemusic.com/galleonrocks

Facebook Web Page: https://facebook.com/galleonrocks 
MySpace Web Page: https://myspace.com/galleonrocks 
IAC Music Web Page: https://indiemusicpeople.com/galleonrocks 
Amazing Radio Web Page:  https://amazingradio.us/profile/galleonrocks

Don't you miss the boat ... welcome aboard GALLEON!

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