Michael Lee Firkins
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Michael Lee Firkins
|Born||May 19, 1967|
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
|Genres||Bluegrass, country, blues, jazz, rock|
Michael Lee Firkins (born May 19, 1967) is an electric guitar player whose sound fuses bluegrass, country, blues, and jazz elements into his distorted rock sound. He is noted amongst guitarists for his prolific use of hybrid picking at high speeds.
Firkins was born in 1967, in Omaha, Nebraska, to musician parents; his father was a lap steel guitarist and his mother a pianist. He started playing acoustic guitar at age eight. Though mostly self-taught, he also took lessons at a local Omaha music store. Learning the songs of the times, Michael was heavily influenced by the guitar stylings of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath.
By 1979, Michael had a Gibson SG and a Fender Princeton Reverb. Now wielding an electrified tone, he played in local bands and in church from the age of 12 until 18. In 1985, Michael started touring the country in cover bands. Unsatisfied with only playing other artists' songs, he eventually went back to Omaha and began teaching guitar.
For the next few years, Michael's musical influences were expanding. Virtuosos like Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Albert Lee and Danny Gatton were among the list of new favorites. As Michael continued to enhance his chops, he recorded a five-song demo [recorded at rainbow recording Studios Omaha ] of instrumental guitar tunes that showcased his guitar playing. The demo was sent to Shrapnel Records, resulting in a record contract and subsequent release of his first album.
In 1990, Michael released his self-titled debut album. This release showcased Michael's encyclopedic knowledge of bluegrass and country licks. With the strength of this album and the help of an international advertising campaign from Yamaha guitars to promote the company's Pacifica models, Michael's first release sold more than 100,000 copies. This well-received album also landed Michael the top spot in the category of “Best New Talent” in a readers' poll in Guitar Player magazine that year. He was also hailed as “One of the Most Influential Players of the Next Ten Years” by Guitar for the Practicing Musician. Michael's music was also popular in Europe, as Firkins won the Edison Award, which is the equivalent of a Grammy in the Netherlands.
Michael went on to release three more records for the Shrapnel label. His sound would go on to incorporate even more diverse music styles, specifically jazz, as shown in a cover of Duke Ellington's “The Mooche” on Firkins' third album, Chapter Eleven. Cactus Cruz was his last recording for Shrapnel in 1996.
In 1997, Firkins recorded Decomposition for Nuerra Records. An album composed of covers, Firkins pays tribute to some of his earlier influences, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Winter, and Jimi Hendrix.
In the early 2000s, Michael teamed up with fellow virtuoso guitarist Gabriel Moses for a side project titled "Dose Amigos" which has been most frequently compared to the likes of Tenacious D. Both guitarists incorporated elements of bluegrass and heavy metal at extremely high speeds, with humorous themes. The project showcased Michael and Gabriel's original technique of emulating a slide guitar with the use of the tremolo arm.
- 1990: Michael Lee Firkins
- 1994: Howling Iguanas
- 1995: Chapter Eleven
- 1996: Cactus Crüz
- 1999: Decomposition
- 2007: Black Light Sonatas
- 2013: Yep
- 2009: Mastering Lead Guitar, Michael Lee Firkins, Hot Licks Productions, Inc.
- 1992: Blues Tracks, Pat Travers, RoadRunner
- 1994: Cream of the Crop, A Tribute, RoadRunner
- 1997: Best of the Blues Plus Live, Pat Travers, Blues Bureau Int'l
- 1997: Guitar Battle, Victor Records
- 1997: The Jimi Hendrix Music Festival, Provogue
- 2001: Staring at the Sun, Neil Zaza, Melodik Records
- 2004: Take You Higher, Clinton Administration, Magna Carta
- 2008: Collection:, Jason Becker, Shrapnel
- 2009: This is Shredding, Vol. 1, Shrapnel
- 2013: The Manhattan Blues Project, Steve Hunter, Deacon Records