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Mike Merritt’s career as a bassist includes 25 years playing in the house band on all of Conan O’ Brien’s TV talk shows, starting in New York with “ Late Night” then moving to Los Angeles for “The Tonight Show” and TBS’s “Conan”. This gave Mike opportunities to perform with many guest artists over the years, including Cheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, The Staple Singers, B.B. King, Slash, Tony Bennett, Steve Miller, Isaac Hayes, Chet Atkins, Pete Townshend, Robert Palmer, Bruce Springsteen and scores of others. Mike still performs on occasional live concert versions of Conan’s wildly popular podcast, “Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend”.
Mike got his start on the road touring and recording with Grammy-winning bluesman Johnny Copeland, which led to more of the same with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Johnnie Johnson (of Chuck Berry fame) and was an original member of Grammy-winner Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band. Other artists Mike has either recorded, toured or performed with include Joe Bonamassa, Shemekia Copeland, Billy Gibbons, Larkin Poe, Hubert Sumlin, Son Seals, Jimmy Vivino, Al Kooper, Odetta, Catherine Russell, Beth Hart, Southside Johnny, Jimmie Vaughan and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Mike has been touring recently with The Popa Chubby Band.
Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Mike was influenced and guided by his father, legendary jazz bassist and composer Jymie Merritt (of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers).
Mike has recorded one album as a co-leader with vocalist sibling Mharlyn Merritt, Alone Together, and has collaborated on original recording projects including The Coalition with Scott Healy, Glenn Alexander and Shawn Pelton; Rock Candy Funk Party with Tal Bergman, Joe Bonamassa, Renato Neto and Ron DeJesus and The Love Trio with Paul Tillotson and James Wormworth. He’s also played at the Las Vegas Big Blues Bender as a member of the 2021 and 2022 Bender Brass Band, and has played with The Jimmy Carpenter Band, a staple of the Las Vegas blues scene.
Activities related to Mike’s appreciation of films and filmmaking include being a Guest Programmer on Turner Classic Movies with Ben Mankiewicz, and a guest lecturer at the Harvard Westlake School’s Cinema Sundays series. Mike also appears occasionally on the classicmoviemusts podcast, discussing classic films with host Max K. Baril.
Other activities include being on the NARAS Board of Governors, NY Chapter 2002-2003, as well as membership in the AFM, RMALA, SAG-AFTRA and The Blues Foundation. Mike is also a member of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, representing the American Federation of Musicians.
Photo by Marilyn Stringer
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