Whenever I introduce Michael on stage I like to mention the full name of his hometown: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula. Otherwise known as LA.
As we say in Southern California, that’s so Michael—a lot beneath the surface, playful, cool, and deeply rooted. He grew up the youngest of five siblings (including a twin brother) in a musical and artistic family in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and began playing the resonator guitar at the age of fourteen. Influenced by the many styles of music he heard at home, he was soon playing with father Dennis and brother Gabe (who currently plays in the Punch Brothers) in the legendary SoCal-based bluegrass band The Witcher Brothers.
Now a much-in-demand session player in LA and Nashville, Michael has worked with such artists as Dwight Yoakam, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler, Peter Rowan, Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Laurie Lewis, John Paul Jones (bassist of Led Zeppelin), Joan Osborn, The Gibson Brothers, Willie Watson (Old Crow Medicine Show), and Fernando Ortega among others. He has played the Grand Ole Opry and Prairie Home Companion many times and you can hear him on hundreds of records, sound tracks, commercials and tv shows.
Michael is a gifted and caring teacher. Over the last 15 years he has developed an effective method of teaching the resonator guitar, one that allows the student to integrate complex concepts quickly into his or her playing. I’ve heard from those students about how valuable and fun his classes are. He has written two instructional books (Resonator Guitar— Tunes Techniques and Practice Skills, which has become a standard, and the recently released Resonator Guitar—20 Bluegrass Jam Favorites), and teaches at the top acoustic music camps around the world, including Rob Ickes’ Reso Summit.
But what sets Michael apart (and why he has such an impressive resume) is his sound. He has achingly gorgeous tone, dead-on intonation, and ideas and breaks that make you feel that thing deep in your gut when the music is just right. Every time I hear Michael play I hear something new, jaw-droppingly creative and tasteful. He is, simply put, one of the best resonator guitar players in the world.
So, get to know him: take a lesson, get one of his instruction books, listen to a recording, go see a band he’s playing with at a festival. A membership available on his website is the best and easiest way to do this. The reso world of Michael Witcher is a world worth hanging out in.
—Chris Stuart, 2009 IBMA Song of the Year co-writer and 2008 IBMA Print Media Person of the Year
Photo By: Margie Witcher