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Mike Mika'ele McClellan

A brief bio

Written by Ross Altman and included in
Advanced Workbook for the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar.(1992)

Mika'ele McClellan is the third generation of McClellans that have made their home in Hawai'i. In 1908 his grandfather first visited Honolulu as a Marine officer with Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet that sailed around the world. Edwin North McClellan was later stationed in the Territory. He retired there, edited the magazine Paradise of the Pacific, and was newscaster on radio station KGU. Mika'ele's father Richard attended Punahou School.

Later, in the 1950's, Mika'ele (on the mainland, AKA "Mike") attended Leilehua and Roosevelt schools. Before that, he'd been born in Missouri and raised in Pennsylvania and Virginia. He fell in love with music at an early age, and had been trying to play jazz, hillbilly, blues, and folk music before he came to the Territory.

Mika'ele In Leilehua Mika'ele started playing slack key. In Roosevelt he started performing. He played string bass in "The Classics," the high school big dance band. He played guitar (including slack key), banjo, and other instruments in coffeehouses in Honolulu. He graduated Roosevelt in 1961 and went with high hopes to California to make his living working in music.

Mike McClellan did indeed become a working musician. He has worked as a car wash attendant, a bath wall installer, a synchrotron scanner, a math teacher, and a forest ranger in California; a deckhand and a geophone emplacer in Louisiana, a ranch hand in Texas, a gas station attendant in Florida, a warehouseman in Boston, a farm hand in Ohio, and an ecologist and a graduate assistant in Hawai'i. Since 1985 he has worked as an Industrial Waste Inspector for the Department of Sanitation in the City of Los Angeles. (One of his mentors, Gabby Pahinui, worked for the Honolulu City and County Road Crew. See where slack key can take you?)

Mike has had lots of tour experience. He has hitchhiked through most of the United States and parts of Mexico and Canada. It has been reported that Mike has slept under every important highway bridge between Los Angeles, California, and Eunice, Louisiana. Along the way he managed to earn a BA in General Ecology and an MA in American Studies from the University of Hawaii, and a Certificate in Hazardous Waste Control and Management from UCLA.

Mika'ele has continued his music. He knows how to play more than thirty different instruments and sings in four languages. He has played for hula, Mexican, square, contra, and barroom dancers; with Hawaiian groups, mariachis, Huastecan trios, conjuntos jarochos, conjuntos nortenos, Puerto Rican jibaro ensembles, jazz trios, traditional New Orleans bands, bluegrass and Country groups, Cajun and Down East outfits, and even solo. He has played from Mexican street corners to churches, from smoky bars ('til two in the morning) to wholesome folk festivals. He has even earned some of his living as a musician and a music teacher, and is a member of the A.F.M.

At his present age he has lost some of his illusions about the life of a musician. However, he has not lost his early passion for music, and in particular slack key guitar. To his native-born talent and early grass-roots exposure to the music he has added two years of Hawaiian language study and an overall knowledge of music theory, transcription, and folk music in general. His contribution to the art is invaluable as a teacher, scholar, and performer.

Ross Altman

To this Mika'ele adds:

1) No, I'm not Hawaiian, though there are part-Hawaiian McClellans;

2) No, I haven't really been around the world. That was written by an Aim publicist, not me. However, Los Angeles has people from all over the world. My fellow workers and friends represent every continent.

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