Dowagiac one-man band jams at festivalPublished 11:19am Monday, July 30, 2012
“I’ve been doing this 50 years,” says Al Mott, the one-man band who performed at Cass County Council on Aging’s Front Street Crossing Friday during Summer in the City. “I’m 70 and I started around ’59 when I was still in high school.”
Best known as a one-man band, Mott grew up in Decatur and though largely self-taught, learned guitar chords from his classical musician grandfather, who played violin and tuned pianos.
“I started playing in Decatur,” Mott said. “We played at a little bar where they threw money on the pool table. You’d make a couple bucks for the night. Over the years, it kind of morphed and progressed. I wasn’t worth crap back then, but if you could sing a couple of songs and sound like Elvis, you were in. Nowadays, there’s so much talent out there, it’s ridiculous. It’s a whole new ballgame. There weren’t many bands around when I was young.”
As for going from a guitar slinger to a one-man band, Mott said, “I had bands most of my life, but it was hard to keep them together. I had some fantastic bands that played at the Armory in Dowagiac, including for the Fire Department dance in the ’70s when we had like 800 people there. Packed the balcony and the floor. You’d get good guys who knew how to play, then somebody would move or have a woman problem or a drinking problem. Then you’d break up and have to go through the whole scenario again.”
“Around 1980,” Mott said, “I went to Nashville and made some masters, trying to get a record contract, which fell through. But while I was there I saw a guy playing single, like me. I told my wife, ‘With the right equipment, I could do that.’ Then I didn’t have to worry about finding replacements or hiring out for nice money and someone doesn’t show up, so I’ve stayed single all these years. Occasionally, I do play with other groups or a truck driver friend. I played years at Hook’s Saloon. For just being a local talent, I’m blessed. I don’t play a lot anymore, but I’m busy in the summer and I still enjoy it. I thank the good Lord I’ve still got a voice for it.”