In 1995, international blues sensation Big Mike and the Booty Papas began grooving their way into the hearts of audiences the world over.
Based in Macon, Georgia, an area rich in musical heritage, Big Mike and the Booty Papas breathe new life into the genre. The two-time Grammy nominated group is comprised of Michael “Big Mike” Ventimiglia (guitar, vocals), Hal Register (guitar, vocals), Glen “Cuzz” Hutchison (bass guitar, vocals), Jerome “J.T.” Thomas (drums) and Tony Cooper (keyboards). Collectively they’ve been honing their craft for about a hundred years and as they say “the proof is in the puddin’”.
They’re loyal fans will tell you that it only takes one night with Big Mike and the Booty Papas and you’ll be feelin’ just right. These cats are all about having fun, makin’ you move your feet, a lot of laughin’ and a whole lot of lovin’.
At the core of this seasoned group of musicians is Michael Anthony Ventimiglia better known as “Big Mike”. He’s a big man with a big voice, a big heart and a great, big bunch of people who love him and his music. For over thirty years, he’s been singing and playing everything from blues and R&B to good old classic country. “Big Mike” has done it all and he’s just getting warmed up. Mike will be the first to tell you, he’s no young buck but everyone knows the finer, most beloved things in life are best seasoned with a lifetime of love, a touch of heartache, time and hard work. It doesn’t hurt to have a little swagger to go with it and there’s no shortage of that with “Big Mike” and his fellow Booty Papas.
It seems life was always preparing “Big Mike” for the touring road ahead. Growing up the son of a United States Navy seaman, he moved with his family from base to base never once finishing school in the same place. Starting out in Norfolk, Virginia then on to San Diego, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania the family would finally come full circle to settle in Petersburg, Virginia. Some would regret the inability to put down roots but Mike loved meeting new people and seeing new places. There was no time to be shy so he learned to make friends fast. He became the life of the party everywhere he went and left a lasting impression on those who would exit his life as quickly as they had entered. The nomadic lifestyle throughout his childhood was ingrained in him and he grew to love the road, a love that would serve him well in the years to come.
Along with his fondness for the road came an even deeper appreciation for music. While his father was out to sea, his mother would take her children to her parent’s home where they would spend the long months awaiting his return. “Those times with my grandparents hold some of my most treasured memories. Their influence and appreciation for music shaped me in undeniable ways. The support of my family has meant more to me than I can put into words,” says Mike. Mike’s grandmother played guitar and his mother sang with her sisters in the family band. He spent countless hours listening to The Beatles and Elvis records his father’s friends would bring by. Listening to the music that was revolutionizing pop-culture, he found a friend he could take with him no matter where he ended up.
Mike gave his first public performance as a wise man in his 5th grade Christmas pageant. He was twelve years old and he was hooked. There he realized that no matter what city or state he was in, he’d found his home…the stage. He learned to play the drums and at fifteen years old started a garage band with some of the other neighborhood musicians. He was the only one who knew all the words to the songs so he got the job as lead singer. “We didn’t know a lot of songs. In fact, at our first gig we only knew three but we still got paid so…there you go,” Mike remembers with a laugh.
Time flew and Mike continued sharpening his skills with players like Keith Horne, Barney Porter and Bob Lawler in and around the Richmond, Virginia club scene. He traveled the US with The Cosmic Cowboy Band and Roulette sharing the stage with Vern Gosdin, Terri Gibb, David Allen Coe and The Bellamy Bros. In 1985, he made the move to Macon, Georgia and there he would play with The Bare Feet Band and Randy Howard then on to Whiskey River. In Macon, “Big Mike” was in his element playing with the likes of Jamal Thomas, Otis Redding Jr., Dexter Redding and Ricky Burnett. The influence of great artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams and Elmore James became evident as the “Big Mike” sound came to life. The Old Capricorn Studios reopened and “Big Mike”, Ricky Brunette, Hal Register and Finny Hughes launched the blues band, The Vice Grips. Eventually, he made his way back to Whiskey River and the loyal fans kept following.
Throughout his career “Big Mike” penned numerous original songs reflecting his eclectic background in a variety of genres. “If you like it, it’s good. If you don’t like it, it’s bad. I can usually find something good in any kind of music. I feel the same way about what I write. It really doesn’t matter what genre it fits into as long as I hear someone say ‘I really like that song’. When the show is over that’s all that really matters to me,” says Mike. Still, when all is said and done, nothing quite moves him like the blues. It’s those blues originals that have captured the attention of fans and critics alike.
After many long night jam sessions at The Back Porch Lounge, with countless players dropping by to join in, “Big Mike” along with Glenn “Cuzz” Hutchison, Chris Crider, Greg Stewart and Ed Smith made it official and formed the blues band, Big Mike and the Booty Papas. The band soon recorded their debut album, a self-titled compilation of original songs and covers that proved to be a tremendous success. Big Mike and the Booty Papas’ fresh approach to the genre garnered critical acclaim and the album was recognized as one of WRFG’s Top 25 Blues Records. The good news kept coming with two Grammy nominations for Best New Blues Artist and Best Contemporary Blues Album. On their sophomore album RED HOT BLUES they added Walt Scott, Mike Causey, David Ragsdale, Jimmy Hall and gospel choir, The Gospel Movement and The Atlanta Horns. Once again, it was a hit, giving fans and critics more of what they love about Big Mike and the Booty Papas.
Since 1995, Big Mike and the Booty Papas have enjoyed a fast growing, loyal fan base and a steady progression of success. Along with two Grammy nods, the band has songs placed on Food Network’s, Food Nation with Bobby Flay, The Learning Channel’s, Reunions and Jubilee on Kentucky Public Television from the W.C. Handy Festival. Big Mike and the Booty Papas stay busy with 260-300 dates a year, opening for and playing with the likes of Johnny Winter, Bob Dylan, Jr. Walker, Government Mule, Warren Haynes, Steve Morse, Les Dudeck, Jimmy Hall, Ronnie Hammond & The Atlanta Rhythm Section, Wet Willie, Bonnie Bramlett and Dr. Hook among others.
2013 finds Big Mike and the Booty Papas stepping out into their greatest adventure yet as they embark upon a full scale European tour. They are sure to expand their audience as they introduce the rest of the world to the laid-back, infectious grooves and bouncing rhythms their fans know and love.
Whether you’re carrying the world on your shoulders or primed for a good time Big Mike and the Booty Papas know exactly what to do to get you up and moving. One thing is certain, you won’t leave the show the same way you came in. Chances are with Big Mike and the Booty Papas in the house you’ll be shakin’ what your moma gave you before the night is through…dancin’, laughin’ and lovin’ your worries away.
High energy…Seasoned…Soulful…Fun…Big Mike and the Booty Papas