MICK STANHOPE (Nickname "Slick") - Lead Vocals, Lyricist, Percussion and Drummer in the 3 piece "White Lightning".
Mick Stanhope was born Michael Lee Stanhope on August 11, 1949 in Joliet, Illinois. The only child of Gerald and Thelma Stanhope, Mick grew up in a musical family. His father had a wonderful singing voice and filled the house with song. Two of his mom's brothers were musicians and they became more like Mick's brothers than his uncles. His Uncle Eddy became a High School Band Director and encouraged Mick's parents to start him out with drum lessons. Singing since he was 6 years old, Mick, now at age 8, was learning to play the instrument which would eventually lead him to much success
Mick grew up listening to the early Rock and Roll music of Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson and Elvis. He knew the lyrics to every one of their songs but his biggest influence would come in the mid 1960's, first with the "Beatles" and then, more importantly, "The Rolling Stones".
Joining the school band in sixth grade, Mickey won many medals for his drumming ability and at the young age of 13 he was offered a professional drumming job with a local band. As the new drummer for the "Tre K's", Mick became the youngest member of the Chicago Musicians Union. After playing in a surf band in 1963, Mick and a friend, Skip Griparis, formed a new group called "The Aristocats", in order to play "Beatle" style music. They also covered "Beach Boys" hits in addition to writing some original material.
Changing the group's name to "The Counts", named after Mick's love of his favorite Dracula, Christopher Lee, the group went into the RCA studios in Chicago to record a couple of original tunes, The A Side was a Beatlesque style tune called Stop Cheatin' On Me. Pleased with the results, the band took the record to Jim Golden of Allstate Records. Jim liked the song and agreed to have it released on U.S.A. Records the same label that carried his other group "The New Colony Six".
"The Counts" began playing the Chicago area club circuit promoting both themselves and their record. Appearing at such venues as "The Cellar" they gigged with "The Shadows of Knight" and later "The Ides of March". Unfortunately the record never got released. Dutch Winslow was handling the group's A&R for a recording session to redo the song but a falling out between Dutch and Jim Golden threw a monkey wrench in the works and squashed the deal for "The Counts".
Disappointment for Mick was immediately followed by a new element of excitement as he was approached by the High School Choir Director, Roy Johnson, in regard to joining the choir and trying out for the annual musical "The Mikado". Mick quit the High School Band in 1965 and went on to play the lead role of KoKo in "The Mikado", Riff in "West Side Story" and Stewpot in "South Pacific" while continuing to gig with local bands on the weekends. His roles in these school musicals were inspiring and fueled an interest in acting that would resurface later.
About this time, in the mid '60's, Mickey was approached by one of the areas hottest bands, "The Knight's". They offered him a job as their drummer and he jumped at the chance. Illinois' answer to the "Rolling Stones", "The Knights" went on to enter the Dick Clark battle of the bands which was being held at McCormick Place, the sight of a recent "Rolling Stones" concert. The group took 52nd place out of 300 bands and continued to play other battles in the Chicago area. On occasion they would share the bill with another popular area group "The Troys" who just happened to have a unique Lead Vocalist named Mark Gallagher. Mickey and Mark Gallagher forged a friendship that lasts to this day. Little did either of them know at the time how often their careers would interact in the years to come.
Leaving "The Knights" in 1967 to form a new group where he would have the chance to showcase his talents as a front man, Mickey brought in a young admirer of his to play the drums. His name was Bernie Pershey. Calling themselves "The State Prism" the band only played for a short time before Mick was seen and courted by producer Michael Degatono to join his band "The Faded Blue". This was a chance for Mick to get back to the Chicago Rush Street circuit. Because he had recently seen "Faded Blue" (opening for "The Byrds" at the Aragon Ballroom) and was impressed by them he accepted immediately.
It was now Fall of 1968 and Mickey had been singing and playing drums for "Faded Blue" in Rush Street clubs for quite a while when he ran into "The Litter". While staying at the hotel Delaware Towers, he got to know Ronn Roberts who was working for "The Litter" as a road manager. After riding the hotel elevator with Ronn and various members of "The Litter" more than once, Ronn decided to catch Mick in action. It wasn't much later that Ronn contacted Mickey in Chicago to see if he was interested in joining a newly formed 3-piece act as the drummer and vocalist. This, of course, was "White Lightning".
Put together by "Zippy" Caplan and Ronn's friend Woody Woodrich, Mick was to be the final ingredient of the formula.
Mickey had just survived the riots caused by the 1968 Democratic Convention and was anxious to leave the Chicago area. Since he knew of "The Litter" and "Zip's" reputation as a guitarist, he accepted. Almost immediately he packed up his drums, jumped on a plane and headed off into the unknown.
After some quick rehearsals, the band went into the studio and recorded Of Paupers and Poets, a Warren Kendrick song, and William the first original "White Lightning" tune.
Mick continued to play drums and handle the Lead Vocal chores until midway through 1969 when the band decided to expand to a 5 piece act (also dropping the "White" off the name) and added Ronn Roberts on guitar and Mickey's old friend from Joliet, Bernie Pershey on drums. This change allowed Mick to get up front as the Lead Vocalist for "Lightning" where he felt not only could he do more justice to the show, but he would be able to concentrate entirely on his great vocal abilities.
As the 60's wore on Mick became a big admirer of Jim Morrison and "The Doors". The rougher vocal styling of both Jagger and Morrison became most noticeable in Mick's later years with the group.
Many tours, concerts and one album later, Mick moved to Los Angeles in 1971 with "Zip" Caplan and "Lightning" manager Pat Rains. Doing a lot of studio work in L.A. eventually led Mick and "Zip" to their appearance on the Sherman Hayes album "Catman" (Barnaby Records). It was shortly after this that Mick moved back to Minneapolis.
Over the remainder of the 70's Mick continued to front bands on the local Minneapolis scene, including a short lived group aptly titled "CCLC" as the members included "Zip" Caplan, guitar ("Litter", "Lightning") Dennis Craswell, drums, ("Castaways"), Dick Weigand, guitar ("Crow"), Wayne Cafarella, bass, ("Copperhead", later known as "Minnesoda") and Jerry McGee, ("Cain") on keyboards.
Mick was reunited with original "Lightning" members for a reunion tour, which not only included all the original members, but members from other well known groups ("Crow" and "Castaways" among others) filling in when one or more of the originals couldn't appear. He also can be heard playing Tippany on the 5 piece plus horns version of William Tell Overture recorded by "Lightning" in 1975 and engineered by the future "Prince" engineer David Z.
Eventually moving back to L.A. in the 80's, Mick found himself working in a screening room where he met such Super Stars as Dustin Hoffman and Sam Peckinpah. From there he found a growing interest in the movie industry would lead him into bit parts in movies like "Dragnet", "Naked Gun 2 ½" "Breaking Point" and "Die Hard 2" to name but a few. He also appeared on "Star Trek-The Next Generation" and "L.A. Law". In recent years he's appeared in bit parts in "Con-Air" and "Vegas Vacation" and has speaking parts in "Solar Crisis" and the TV movie "Honor Thy Mother".
Mickey took an active part in the 90's reunion of "The Litter". Not only does he share writing credits on many of the new songs on the "Re-Emerge" album, but he can be heard singing harmony on Slipaway, Climbing To The Top, Love Is Just A Word and Action Woman. He also sang lead vocals on many of these tracks for the original demos (Soon to be heard for the first time on the new CD release of Re-Emerge coming in Sept. 1998) and appeared live with the group in 1992.
Still married to Deborah, his wife of 22 years, he now resides in Las Vegas where he continues to work in the film industry.