Mike McCracken

Lived in Tuscaloosa, AL

Blues Guitar Johnny Shines, Kokomo Blues Band

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Mike McCracken


I was interested in photography at an early age. In high school I worked for the school newspaper, literary magazine, and yearbook. After high school went to hike the Appalachian Trail in Maine. I ended up staying there for a year or so. I came back home and went to school and majored in Photography at UNA. I worked for the Florence Times-Tri Cities Daily full-time as a photographer for two years while going to school. I transferred to the University of Alabama and took photography courses with Gay Burke and some graphic design courses with Richard Brough. I also worked as a photographer for the Tuscaloosa news for several years.

I started a band called the Kokomo Blues band which lasted around 20 years and played a lot around the state and the Southeast. I met bluesman Johnny Shines who suggested that we do some music together.I spent a lot of time working with Johnny to help him overcome the stroke which made it hard for him to play as well as he had in the past. We played together as an acoustic duo, and also in electric form. The Kokomo blues Band backed him for 9 years. We played with Johnny at the Chukker when he played the last gig he ever did. I loved to go fishing with him and listen to his stories about traveling with Robert Johnson and his adventures during the great depression. He always spoke of the need for a place for some of the older blues people to be able to come and retire. A "Blues Heaven" where there was a stage, and homes, and a fishing lake for them etc.

Johnny wanted me to travel with him and play around the country at festivals and such. I had a job which would not allow the time to travel so I told him I would find someone who could do it with him. Several months later I happened to be in Egan's club in Tuscaloosa and saw a guy playing who I thought could work well with Johnny, I took his name and number and gave it to Johnny. That name was Kent DuChaine. The two became a duo and played many major festivals around the country.

After Johnny's death I became the President of the Alabama Blues Society. One of our proudest moments was raising the money to put a stone on Johnny Shines' unmarked grave.

I had the idea for Alabama Blues Project and am the co-founder of it. As its first major project, I helped organize a two month tour of Europe for my old friends Little Whitt and Big Bo McGee and the three of us played across Europe. I produced their first CD, entitled "Moody Swamp Blues." It was chosen as the best blues CD of the year by Britain's largest blues magazine, BLUEPRINT. I continued to play with Little Whitt and Big Bo at such places as The House of Blues (during the Atlanta Olympics). I also toured with Wille King, playing bass for him at the Chicago Blues Festival etc and produced and played bass on his first SOLO CD, "I am the Blues."

As a photographer, I've assisted National Geographic on five assignments and worked with some of the greatest photographers in the world. Hope some rubbed off on me.

Source: Mike McCracken (21)


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