McMinamins—A True Rock and Roll Family
Chris Manson April
19, 2007 Issue
started out being a piece about bluesician Hans McMinamin’s
School of Rock—makes sense, considering they show the Richard
Linklater film of the same name on TNT every other night. But
when I get to Hans’ place round the back and upstairs at
the Shores Shopping Center, I notice three articles from previous
issues of The Beachcomber that featured McMinamin in some form
or other. Not that I don’t appreciate seeing my articles
posted around town — see also Blue Orleans, my absolute
favorite restaurant on Earth.
But Hans really wants
to draw my attention to his wife Susan’s recording career.
A singer of considerable force and a first-rate interpreter, Susan
McMinamin has often been overshadowed by the men in her life —
like onetime Rolling Stones guitarist and ex-husband Mick Taylor.
It was through Taylor that Hans first met his partner in music
and life. Susan was six months pregnant with her daughter Emma—“big
as a house and touring with Mick’s band.” During a
stop along the border of Germany and the Netherlands, Hans and
his blues mentor Ziggy Christmann approached Susan. The two men
had driven a long way hoping for an audience with the man who
played all those great guitar parts on Let It Bleed, Exile on
Main Street, and, er, Goats Head Soup.
“Mick said he
didn’t want to see them. He told me to tell them he had
gas or something,” Susan says. Later, Susan got Hans and
Christmann backstage passes. The rest, I suppose, is history.
Hans gave up a 23-year gig with his German blues band to be with
Susan and Emma in the United States. Emma joins her mother on
the CD on a duet of Rademes Song from Elton John’s Aida.
“Emma can pick up anything,” Susan says. “She’s
got that raw talent thing.”
father Taylor contributes some slide guitar to Another Place in
Time, a collection of seven originals and a half dozen very interesting
cover choices. Other guest musicians include Guitar Crusher —
a frequent visitor to this area — Rick Derringer, Alvin
Lee, and the Tower of Power horn section. Hans played most of
the guitar, bass and piano on the recording.
“We were playing
in Berlin with Crusher on New Year’s Eve 2006,” Susan
recalls. “Willie Jackson, a former Motown producer was there,
and he knew a lot of the old blues guys. He said to me, ‘I
have a feeling you’ve spent your whole career supporting
men.’” Jackson offered to finance a Susan McMinamin
album. Hans produced, directed and coordinated the whole thing
after Jackson failed to come through on the money end. “(Jackson)
was a catalyst, and everyone’s excited about the finished
product, so we’re not complaining,” Susan says.
Adds Hans: “The
album was a very quick thing. We had the worst situation at the
time. By the time we had the studio scheduled, Susan’s mom
was very ill.” Nonetheless, they managed to lay down some
terrific tracks. “It goes back and forth with different
styles—heavy rock, Led Zeppelin kind of stuff. I worked
to see if I could transcribe I’m Not That Girl (from the
musical Wicked) from orchestra to guitar. I’m not a big
fan of musicals, but I like albums where you go from one song
to the next and say, ‘Wow! They can do that, too!’
Commercially, it might not be a success…”
“But who cares?”
Susan interrupts. The entire project was recorded in about a week.
The McMinamins hope to put a band together to support the album
next year. They are currently shopping the disc to some of the
European blues labels. Susan also plans to teach vocals at the
School of Rock. Hans currently provides instruction on guitar,
keyboards, bass and harmonica to students ranging in age from
six to 80.
Susan was drawn into
the worlds of theater and music when she joined a government-supported
youth theater group in Orlando. “It was part of a program
for the arts that supported underprivileged kids. One of the other
people in the group was Wesley Snipes. We wrote our own shows
and musicals.” The group performed at the opening of the
Orlando International Airport, appeared at Disney World, and “anywhere
else that would take us.” The Reagan administration pretty
much did away with funding for the arts, and soon the young performers
went their separate ways.
“I was 16 when
I lied my way into a rock band,” Susan says. “I’d
overheard this group saying they needed a singer that night, and
I got the gig.” In addition to her love of musical theater,
she got good exposure to rock through secret late-night viewings
of Wolfman Jack’s Midnight Special television program with
her brother. Susan once told a teacher she intended to marry Alice
Cooper. She loved Styx and still has a great admiration for Ann
and Nancy Wilson of Heart. “They’re the only girls
that can rock out and be feminine. They always seemed to have
a sweet, gentle D.W. Griffith starlet quality, but they wrote
some pretty intricate stuff.”
She toured with an
Orlando band called Trimaris that opened for acts like Molly Hatchet,
Pat Travers, and the Outlaws. “I was only 17, but they were
all wonderful to me,” Susan says.
Hans still plays at
least four nights a week, mostly at Pandora’s in Grayton
Beach and the Old Florida Fish House in Seagrove Beach. Of course,
Susan often joins him on stage. “The goal between us is
she’s a great singer and I’m a decent guitarist, so
let’s do something,” Hans says.
Chris Recommends (Jazz
Appreciation Month Edition):
Dexter Gordon: Go.
Louis Armstrong: The Hot Fives and Hot Sevens
Miles Davis: Jack Johnson
Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus
John Coltrane: Blue Train
to Musician Profiles