Michael Stanley is the epitome of cool.
After four decades in the spotlight, the bearded, iconic musician of Northeast Ohio/WNCX radio personality still packs houses and has us on our feet, singing along to every word.
Hang onto your reading glasses, classic rockers — Stanley turns 64 this month and is heading to Akron to perform with his band, The Resonators, at The Tangier in March. During our interview, he opened up about his music, his life and his losses.
What is it about your music that continues to connect with your audience?
Hopefully it’s still good music, but maybe it’s a tie to their youth. A time with less responsibility, more fun, before real life intruded. It’s gratifying to take them back to a really good time in their lives. It works the same for us. We’re pretty much time-traveling when we hit the stage. I’ve also been lucky that the majority of fans have given me the freedom to not get locked into the past. Many of the songs from the albums of the last 10 years have become standards in the sets, not just the old MSB tunes. Another amazing thing is walking onto the stage and seeing those familiar faces next to a 17-year-old kid who’s also singing all the words to my song.
What song do fans still want to hear that you just don’t get?
To be honest, it’s ‘Strike Up The Band.’ It was the closer for MSB for years and I was happy they liked it, but that doesn’t mean I could figure out why.
What are your favorites to play?
‘Lover,’ ‘Let’s Get This Show On The Road’ and ‘Rosewood Bitters’
Are Akron fans different from Cleveland fans?
I see NE Ohio rock and roll fans as one — a hearty and enthusiastic breed. That’s exactly what we want at our show. There’s a real cool reciprocal thing that happens when the audience is throwing back good energy toward the stage and we know we have to get on the wave or get run over.
You’ve had a really tough few years. How are you holding up?
The last 18 months have been pretty bizarre. Between the loss of both parents, my wife and two members of my crew who were dear friends, it’s been brutal. You see how wonderful your friends and family are in times like these. I really don’t think I would’ve made it through without them. You have to find out what you’re made of and decide if you’re going to lie down and let it all roll over you or pick yourself up and go on. I know those who have departed would want me to get up and go on. The music has been a major outlet for me. My joke is: Music is far cheaper and more fun than therapy.
You could’ve gone anywhere. Why did you stay in NEO?
This is my home. I grew up here. People used to say, ‘You need to be in New York or LA,’ but this was home for everyone. I’ve always felt this is a real place. Not a lot of phoniness or posing. A place I felt good about raising my twin daughters, who are now 38. I have four grandchildren and another on the way and yes, they all still live here.
Do you ever think about shaving off your signature beard?
Every once in a while I actually do shave it. Then I quickly remember why I have it. As long as it doesn’t go ‘Kenny Rogers’ or ‘ZZ Top,’ I think it works for me.
/ Christi Nichols is the morning show cohost at 97.5 WONE and a contributing writer to akronlife. Essentially, she spends her days talking and writing notes — the very same things that got her into so much trouble as a kid.