Mike McKenna

Mike McKenna

Mike McKenna is a professional Canadian rock / blues guitarist and legendary for his electric slide guitar playing. He is currently headlines the Mike McKenna Band.


Known largely as a premiere slide guitar player, Mike McKenna (born on April 15, 1946 in Toronto, Canada) began playing professionally in the early 1960s in Yorkville where he formed the group Luke & The Apostles. McKenna was one of the first Toronto rock guitar players to play a Gibson Les Paul hollow body while most rock musicians were still playing solid bodies (for example Stratocasters and Telecasters). McKenna got a particularly rich sound by playing through 200 watt Marshall Plexi stacks and using banjo strings on the high end to make note bending easier (a trick he learned through Robie Robertson - then playing with The Hawks and backing Ronnie Hawkins). Luke and the Apostles were asked to open for Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead by Bill Graham (of Filmore East / Filmore West fame) for a week long stint at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre in 1967. Jerry Garcia apparently liked the sound of McKenna's Les Paul so much he bought it (reportedly it's the black Les Paul Garcia once posed with when he was being photgraphed for Rolling Stone magazine). An invitation to visit New York to open with the Dead followed and the Apostles recorded a single for Elektra Records (produced by The Doors' Paul Rothchild). Unfortunately inconclusive contract negotiations and conflicting priorities saw the band returning to Canada and eventually disbanding. (Paul Rothchild reportedly said the Luke and The Apostles material was the "greatest album he never made").

Back in Canada and a couple of years later, a newspaper ad put Mike in touch with Joe Mendelson, leading to the formation of the McKenna Mendelson Mainline (later known simply as Mainline), recording the album "McKenna Mendelson Blues" - a demo recorded in Canada but unreleased till after the band had gone to England (at John Lee Hookers suggestion) and had great success with the landmark (and seminal McKenna mendelson Mainline) album "Stink" (recorded in 1969 in the UK). "Stink" garnered considerable success in England and throughout Europe and the band returned to Canada to critical and popular acclaim. However for various reasons MMM disbanded in the early 70's . There were a couple of posthumus reunions as "Mainline", including two very successful tours of Australia, and the notorious "Bump and Grind Review" which yielded a live album "The Mainline Bump and Grind Review Live at the Victory" (recorded at Toronto's famous Victory Burlesque Theatre) in 1972. A final album with Joe Mendelson entitled "No Substitutes" was released in 1973 after which McKenna and Mendelson never played together again.

McKenna has been with a number of notable groups throughout the years since Mainline called it quits, including tenure with Downchild Blues Band (one of actor / comedian Dan Aykroyd's favourite bands), the legendary Diamondback band, and The Guess Who (replacing Domenic Troiano on guitar). After a hiatus of some years, he formed Slidewinder with saxophonist Ronnie Jacobs ( a Mainline alumnus and a founding member of the Downchild Blues Band) in the early - mid 90's and released a self-titled CD "Mike McKenna and Slidewinder" in 1997.

When Toronto's internationally known El Mocambo Tavern closed its doors for the last time in early November of 2001, McKenna and the alumni Mainline members were invited to perform (sans Joe Mendelson but with Tony Nolasco (drums, vocals)Ted Purdy (acoustic guitar, vocals) Mike Harrison (bass) and Bob Adams (harp) and entered Toronto's rock history as the last band to grace the El Mo's famous upstairs stage. Ironically, neither McKenna Mendelson Mainline or Mainline ever performed at the El Mo while they were together in the late 60's - early 70's.

In later years, McKenna reformed with Luke Gibson (of Luke and the Apostles) as part of The Luke Gibson Band - the house band for the Blues on Belair Club in Toronto in the late 1990's. Some excellent live recordings exist but have never been released.

McKenna is currently rehearsing and recording with the original members of Diamondback. There are plans to release the Diamondback album originally recorded in 1974 (but never released) as a re-mastered CD in the summer / fall of 2008. Mike also continues to play regularly headlining The Mike McKenna Band, and appearing as "the special guest artist" with many local bands in the central / southern Ontario club circuit. He is also working on material for a new CD (reportedly an all-acoustic mix of original material and blues standards).

[http://www.mikemckenna.ca Official Mike McKenna website]


1967 Been Burnt c/w Don’t Know Why (Bounty 45105)
1967 Been Burnt c/w Don’t Know Why (Elektra 45105)
1970 You Make Me High c/w Not Far Off (TN 101)
1970 You Make Me High c/w You Make Me High (TN 102)

Better Watch Out/ She's Alright (Liberty/United Artists - UK)
1969 Don't Give Me No Goose For Christmas/Beltmaker (Liberty/United Artists - UK)

1971 Get Down To/Pedalictus Rag (GRT)

1969 Stink (Liberty/United Artists)
1969 McKenna Mendelson Mainline Blues (Paragon/Allied)
1996 McKenna Mendelson Mainline Blues [CD re-issue] (Pacemaker)

1971 Canada Our Home & Native Land (GRT)
1972 The Mainline Bump 'n' Grind Revue
1973 No Substitute
1994 Stink (Capitol-EMI / re-issue)
2002 Last Show @ The Elmo (Bullseye)

1996 Mike McKenna and Slidewinder (Pacemaker Records)
2007 Mike Mckenna Band "Live Bootleg"- Indie

Original cd (recorded 1974) for upcoming release (Pacemaker Records)

1987 It's Been So Long (Stony Plain)

1998 North Of Watford Volume 3: 24 RARE POP &
SOUL CLASSICS 1966 - 1992 (KRL) - track - "She's Alright"
197-? Steps ... From Anywhere (LIBERTY) - track - "Better Watch Out"

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