Toledo rockers helping Corky Laing move the Mountain

From left, Corky Laing, Mark Mikel, and Chris Shutters inside Mikel's studio.


BG Independent News

Corky Laing will celebrate his birthday at Howard’s Club H Saturday night.

Corky Laing

The rock drummer known for his decades with Mountain, is turning turn 70.  That’s not how he looks at it though. “I’m 22 with 50 years of experience,” Laing said a few days before the gig. The show starts Saturday at 9 p.m. at the club at 210 N. Main St.

That youthful feeling has much to do with his current bandmates, guitarist and vocalist Chris Shutters and multi-instrumentalist and producer Mark Mikel, on bass.

They’ve convened at the un-rock hour of 10 a.m. at Mikel’s Maumee studio to put some work in on the Mountain songs as well as a couple originals they’re writing together.

This is more than a one-off pick up band. The trio plans to head out on the road in 2018. The Howard’s show will be recorded for a CD and DVD release.

Though booked as Corky Laing Plays Mountain, the veteran drummer sees this as a new beginning, maybe even with a new band name. “This is the genesis,” he said. This new venture is rooted in Toledo, where Mikel and Shutters cut their teeth and are still based.

Laing likened his time in Mikel’s studio with how he felt when he first joined Mountain back in 1969. “I’m getting a lot of flashbacks.”

Chris Shutters

Shutters is his link to Toledo. Laing heard the guitarist playing in New York with fellow drummer Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience band.

“I was blown away by Chris’ playing and his voice,” Laing said. He offered him a job on his tour of Canada and the United States early last year. It was 25 shows in 30 days. Shutters proved his mettle on the grueling run. The repertoire is very guitar-centered, Laing said, and Shutters excelled.

“I thought maybe we should take it somewhere else,” Laing said. “Let’s move it along.”

Shutters recommended Mikel to fill out the group.

Later this year, Laing decided he wanted to visit the guitarist’s neighborhood. They ended up jamming at the Durty Bird in Toledo and then at Howard’s Club H.

“I was fuckin’ blown away,” Laing said about his introduction to the local scene. “I didn’t expect it. I was semi shocked. This was a big fuckin’ wow. Who knew Toledo would be the rock mecca of the world?” With Cleveland to the east and Detroit to the north, “this is the rock belt,” he said.

The ages in the group span a couple generations, Mikel is 56, and Shutters is 31.

Mikel said Mountain was big when he was a kid, a jovial dig at the drummer’s age. Shutters knew the band from his father’s record collection. Both started playing at early ages.

Shutters said his parents have a video of him at 2 singing “I Heard It through the Grapevine” using a hair brush as a microphone.

Mark Mikel

Mikel said at 13 he played a drum solo at St. Pat’s in Toledo. “I got a standing ovation, and I was hooked for life.”

Both have stayed in Toledo, but they’ve ventured out of the city to perform. Besides working with Baker, Shutters hit road eight years ago with Nathan Osmond, a country-singing younger member of the Osmond clan.

Mikel played with the local band Marikesh and then went on to be a founding member of the national touring and recording act the Pillbugs from 1996-2008. He said there’s a reunion recording of the band in the works.

Laing said Mikel and Shutters are “brilliant,” and two of the best musicians he’s worked with. “I think these guys are going to move the Mountain.”

He was also impressed with the music scene. His first week here he visited four or five clubs and heard great music in all of them.

Shutters said that of all the places he’s visited, he thinks Toledo has more talent per capita than any.

A lot of that talent may leave, Mikel said, but some sticks around.

Those musicians, Shutters said, are willing to mentor younger musicians.

Howard’s stands out for them as a venue. It’s the rare club where music is at the forefront. It’s a place as a musician he can call home, Shutters said.

Having venues like that is important, Laing said. “The paradigm has changed a million times over the last 50 years. But it’s always about the performance.”

While the trio’s versions of Mountain tunes will be the heart of the show, the band will also debut a couple new originals. “Some of this music is going to around 50 years,” Laing said. “This is some really good repertoire.”

He added: “I’m going to die after this band. I just need about 20 more years.”