Very rare are the singular moments that change your life forever.
It was a lonely road underneath Michael’s outstretched
arm, his thumb pointing south. Being abandoned by his college
buddies 100 miles outside Bowling Green Ohio turned out to
be the best thing that ever happened to him. It was getting
dark and very cold, and he was still 300 miles from his bed
at Indiana U when a truck finally pulled over to give him
“You look familiar,” declared the driver. It was
Gary Burton, premier vibraphonist, the man Michael had traveled
so far to see and who just happened to live 3 miles from Michael’s
dorm. This was Michael’s hero, and to spend five hours
asking him all the questions he’d been harboring and
gobbling up the wisdom that returned was pure bliss. Gary
had heard Michael play at his workshops, and seeing the hunger
in the young man’s eyes, invited him to Berklee College
of Music. The next semester Michael entered Nirvana.
Studying vibes, flute and vocals, Michael jammed and studied
next to the likes of Pat Matheny, Mike Stern, Steve Vai, and
Vinny Colaiuta. It was an easy step from school onto the road,
touring with Jay Azzolina and Steve Cantor, and eventually
landing a job back at Berklee teaching vocal improvisation,
small band, ear training and theory.
After Berklee, Michael moved to California, and while he was
plugging in a new answering machine the phone rang. It was
Rick Vandivier calling with a vibraphone gig. Michael took
it as a good sign and made the Golden State his home for the
next 28 years. He played with Frank Macchia’s Booga-Booga.
“He called it cartoon fusion, stuff in 15/16, 13/8.
We had the strangest concerts. I’ve never played anything
so difficult since.” He donned a strap-on keyboard for
his 80’s hair band Runnerz, and doled out fusion with
The Ensemble. “My sub was Walter Afanasieff, Whitney
Houston’s producer. Go figure!”
In 1988 Bud E. Luv was born. Michael and his cohorts, Robert
Vickers and Marc Baum, built a show around Robert’s
alter ego Bud E. Luv, a lounge singer who wrote every hit
you can think of and taught Frank, Dino and Sammy their shticks.
Starting as an alternate to the Dino’s at San Francisco’s
Paradise Lounge, the quirky and hilarious show became a hit
on its own right and soon gained national recognition. The
show appeared on MTV, VH-1 and the Today Show. Ozzy Osborne
even asked them perform lounge versions of his songs at his
re-nuptials. More than 30 years later, The Fabulous Bud E.
Luv Show is still going strong
Michael is one of the handiest, most versatile musicians
in the Bay Area. He leads several bands ranging from a jazz
trio to big band, from electronica to country. He teaches
vocal improvisation, music theory, and the business of music.
He co-owns and runs Hatfield & Walker, a sound, lighting,
and backline business and finds time to cultivate a sweet
life with his wife, Valerie, and three kids. “At any
moment, you are never more than a half step away from a right
note.” That’s his point, and for him it’s