Lehighton's Mike Stanley will receive a Veteran Honoree Award at the Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association's Music Awards on March 9 at the Musikfest Café at the SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
Stanley, 52, owner of the Royal Jam Conservatory of Music in Lehighton, has been involved in nearly every aspect of music since he was 8 years old. He plays guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and sings, as well as rigs lighting and sound, produces concerts and recordings, and teaches.
At the age of 6, after seeing the Doors perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, Stanley begged his dad to get him an electric guitar. His dad nixed the amplifier, instead buying him an acoustic guitar.
Rather than take lessons, he enjoyed setting up a mirror and imitating Elvis as he strummed his guitar, gyrated and jumped on his bed. Soon a misstep had him hurling off the bed guitar first, landing on top of it smashing it. "Two years later Pete Townsend would be throwing his guitar," Stanley joked. "Hey, I did that first."
Again, he begged his dad for a guitar, but this time he agreed to take lessons for six months. His dad had him study with a classically trained teacher. "I was learning Malaguena and my friends were playing Elvis and the Beatles," he said. "Nobody wanted to listen to me."
At eight, Stanley began hanging out in the community laundry room of the apartment building where his family lived. Three older boys were forming a band and practicing as their moms washed clothes. They had a lead guitar player, a drummer, and a bass player.
"The bass player showed up for one practice, left his equipment and never returned," Stanley said. "The guitar player and the drummer kept practicing religiously nearly every day. I was always out there hanging out and watching them."
Stanley would sit there with his guitar trying to noodle along-clueless as to what they were doing. One day the guitar player asked, 'You know where F is?" Stanley showed him. "How about a B flat?"
"He moved my finger to B flat and said, 'play that.'"
"I started to play along. The women in the laundry thought how cool it was that an eight-year-old who couldn't even reach the far fret on the bass guitar was playing with the band. So cool, that they arranged for the band's first gig, to play atop a flatbed at an elementary school carnival."
"I got paid $50, bought a bicycle and decided music was what I wanted to do," Stanley said.
After the summer, when school started, the band broke up. But music had become Stanley's life goal. In high school, he took every music course offered and played in every band.
In 1989, Mike married and moved to Lehighton.
Over the years, he's been playing and teaching all over northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2009, he served as music director of the Upper Bucks County Alliance for Creative Expression, and continues to consult for the organization.
In Lehighton, he formed Royal Jam Music as a production company. Over the years, it has served as a catalog house when he publishes music, a music school, and a recording studio.
Stanley has recently completed two pilots for a television series, The Royal Jam Sessions.
"We take musicians who have never met and bring them together in a room, and ask them to create five original songs, and we record it," he said.
He is currently shopping the pilots, looking for a network.
For more information about Mike Stanley, see: www.royaljammusic.com.