Mike Mangan’s path to becoming a musician, and specifically a Hammond Organist, was unpredictable, yet in hindsight, seemingly inevitable. His mother first enrolled him in piano lessons in 2nd grade with the Nun who played Pipe Organ in church at St. Mary’s (the Catholic grade school he attended in Waukesha, WI.) Mike continued private instruction until the age of 13. However, throughout much of this time, and all the way through his late teens, Mike’s life also diverted into intensive athletic pursuits. Nevertheless Mike always continued to play piano. He was heavily influenced by his parent’s love of jazz and his older siblings’ love of rock music, in particular his older brother Paul, who is also a musician, keyboardist, guitarist, singer and songwriter. Paul introduced Mike to several bands early on (such as Dire Straits and Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and also taught Mike several piano techniques. Due to some life changing events, a 19 year old Mike began to refocus on his passion for piano full time. During this period he discovered George Winston’s variations on the Pachelbel Canon, and Mike was inspired to learn the whole piece by ear. His life would never be the same.
Mike was also introduced to The Allman Brothers and Santana by a friend and was immediately captivated by the powerful and unorthodox sounds emanating from the King of Keyboards, the Hammond Organ. Mike had to have one. Not an imitation or a more portable synthesizer, but the REAL one. He purchased a 1959 Hammond B3 Organ and 1973 Leslie from Bob Kames Music in Milwaukee, WI. It’s the same rig he still plays today when travel permits. (Interestingly Bob Kames was a popular Organist in the polka and folk genres and played with artists such as Lawrence Welk. He is credited with developing and popularizing the famed “Chicken Dance”).
Then the floodgates opened, and Mangan studied the Hammond Organ styles of everyone from Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Booker T. Jones, Jimmy McGriff and Groove Holmes to Keith Emerson, Jon Lord, Gregg Rolie and Rick Wakeman. Other big influences included jazz pianists such as Gene Harris, Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock and pianist/keyboardist Chuck Leavell. At the same time, however, Mangan also developed a passion for the guitar stylings of Jim Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Page (which would heavily influence his playing and approach to the Hammond Organ.) At this point Mike decided he needed to forge his own unique sound on the B3 Organ, and the best place to do that would be Los Angeles, CA.
He drove his Hammond and Leslie out to LA in a conversion van. Almost immediately he found his way into a band called The Kinship, in which he was the Hammond Organist/Keyboardist. He contributed several songs as a writer to the band’s self titled debut album. During Mike’s tenure with The Kinship is when he had his Hammond modified with an effects loop so he could use guitar pedals on the organ. It was at this early stage that Mike began to more deeply experiment with unconventional approaches to the Hammond.
He then formed The Voyd with singer Nico Costanzo, with whom he co-wrote and produced an 11 song album. In addition to playing organ and keys in The Voyd, Mangan sang backup vocals and collaborated on lyrics and vocal melodies.
After a series of tour runs and personnel issues with The Voyd, Mike struck out on his own. He formed a rock quartet heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine, with the B3 replacing the role of the guitar. Continuing his search for new tones on the organ that combined the power of electric guitar with the classic keyboard, he further experimented with envelope filters, wah wahs, and natural overdrive. He released an EP with this band, which he named Drawbar. On this recording, which was tracked on 2 inch tape, Mangan achieved some monstrously unique tones on the B3 via his method of tonal manipulation.
Due to personal issues, the band broke up and Mike created Big Organ Trio, an instrumental power trio consisting of simply bass, drums, and Hammond Organ. In this setting Mike was free to further explore uncharted sonic territory on the Hammond with no restrictions. The band released 2 full length albums. After the independent release of their first album, BOT was signed to Japanese label P-Vine Records. A tour of Japan followed and a Japanese reprint of their first album was produced and released in Japan (which included a bonus live track.) Big Organ Trio also recorded a cover of Jimmy McGriff’s “Groove Grease” for a P-Vine compilation CD. Big Organ Trio toured nationally and internationally and shared the stage with musicians such as Robbie Krieger (The Doors), Leo Nocentelli (The Meters), and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
Fueled by Mangan’s unorthodox, high energy live performances (where Mike would even play the organ backwards) as well the unique tones he conjured from the Hammond, BOT garnered a loyal fanbase and caught the attention of prominent musicians such as Keith Emerson. Emerson subsequently played with Mike on several occasions during BOT shows, trading riffs with Mike on his Hammond. Big Organ Trio also had guest musicians on their second album which included Marc Ford (Black Crowes), Munyungo Jackson (Stevie Wonder), Leon Mobley (John Mayer) and Skerik (Primus).
After several personnel changes to Big Organ Trio, Mangan put the band on temporary hiatus, but his creative juices were leading him towards forming yet another band that was developing in his mind’s eye: REBEL HOUSE RADIO. He formed RHR with guitarist Mike Blumberg. Mangan focused his writing on lyrics and vocal melodies and assumed the lion’s share of lead vocals en route to releasing a 14 song album entitled “One More Day”. Mangan also played harmonica and left hand key bass on on the album. RHR’s music video for the song “Can’t Say No” won Best Music Video at the LA Movie Awards.
As a sideman, Mangan has also been hired for his organ skills by bands such as Kings Of Chaos (which consists Guns N’ Roses members Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan and Gilby Clarke, and a revolving door of All Stars that include Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme). Mangan has also composed and recorded several quasi-classical pieces, as well as other genres, for Film and TV.
After a run of shows that combined BOT and RHR, Mangan was contacted by Heaven & Earth to man the Hammond Organ and Keys in the lead up to the release of the H & E album “Hard
To Kill”. In addition, Mangan also sings backup vocals in the band. A mutual love and respect for the Hammond Organ and its vast capabilities made this a perfect fit and, with the support of Quarto Valley Records, is poised to be something special.
Sponsors & Endorsements