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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Local blues player’s love of performing music spans 59 years

Nov 07, 2023 08:54AM ● By Linda Steele

Michael Ricks plays at a house concert. (Linda Steele/City Journals)

Local blues musician Michael Ricks has a long history of playing music. Ricks got interested at the age of 4 when heard a song on his dad’s record player that doubled as a radio. He heard a banjo cut of the song “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and realized then that he wanted to become a musician. 

“As I got older I noticed when people were listening to music or dancing, or watching any creative presentation, it would put a smile on their face and they became much happier,” Ricks said.

Ricks started lessons on the guitar between fifth and sixth grade. He got picked to go to a guitar competition in San Diego. He took lessons for a year and a half. Then his teacher decided to go on a mission and transferred his students to another teacher. At this point Ricks wasn’t interested in taking lessons any more. So he researched guitar on his own. He took lessons from a few different teachers here and there. 

When he was in seventh grade he started his first band named Salt and Pepper. They played for school assemblies and teen clubs. In high school Ricks joined a five-piece band called the Determined. They played at Lagoon Patio Gardens in the summertime and they opened up for Paul Revere & the Raiders. They also opened up for Canned Heat in Salt Lake City. 

“The more that I exposed myself to playing music the greater the want turned into a need to progress,” Ricks said.

The Determined played together through high school. At the end of high school the band broke up, but Ricks continued on with his music. Then a couple of the guys from the Determined wanted to play again and eventually they grew musically as they practiced together. They went from playing for original bands to cover bands because there was more work. The Determined lasted about four years. “However, now we all get together every year for the last five years, mostly just for fun,” Ricks said.

Ricks wanted to take the career route of a musician rather than a part-time musician. When Ricks was old enough he started playing clubs because there was steady work and work wasn’t hard to come by.  

The highlight of Ricks music career was when he got selected to play with Chuck Berry when he came to Deer Valley in the mid 1990s. He also played with Bo Diddley in Salt Lake City. 

Ricks began playing with the band Tempo Timers. Things were happening fast with this band as they were asked to play live on a local community radio station every month and to back up the frontman of a national blues artist. 

Playing with the Tempo Timers lasted 14 years from the mid 1980s until the early 2000s. During this time Ricks also started working with other musical organizations. One of the groups he worked with was approached by the Utah Arts Council to play shows in Utah. “This was major fun for about two or three years,” Ricks said. 

While Ricks was playing with the Tempo Timers he also started playing music with Back Alley Blues Band and Blues On First. Interestingly enough one of the most prominent dance companies in Salt Lake City, Ririe-Woodbury, choreographed the whole album “Long Time Coming” for a show that ran at their theater with the band playing live for the performance.

“This has been a dream come true for me even though I didn't reach stardom. I wasn't looking to be a big star. I just wanted to play music and get lucky to play music on a local and regional level. It all started out by listening to ‘Davy Crockett’ when I was 4 years old,” Ricks said. 

In a music playing career that spans 59 years from 1964 to the summer of 2023, Ricks said he’ll continue on.   

“As long as people want to come hear us play, I will continue to play.” λ