A Mike McKendrick by any other name would probably have been helpful, at least to discographers. This musical dynasty of the Chicago jazz scene, consisting of multi-instrumentalist father Gilbert McKendrick, Sr. and his five sons, took one of the strangest approaches to recording credits in the history of any style of music. Perhaps to nullify any sense of competition amongst the brothers, all of them were identified as Mike McKendrick whenever they were documented for posterity at recording sessions. Hard to believe as it is, these credits were not just pulled out of a hat -- all five brothers were given the same nickname, Mike, so all five had legitimate claim on the name, a right to be a Mike, so to speak.
The average discographer would have the perfect right to go hide in the attic or basement, wherever the record collection is not kept, when faced with such a situation. Nonetheless, the real problem involves the Mikes who played the same set of instruments, that being a combination of banjo, guitar, and sometimes dobro. While the other McKendrick brothers fancied violin, piano, and trombone, the pair of pickers needed to become further identified as "Big" Mike McKendrick and "Little" Mike McKendrick. The difference had to do with age rather than size, the former McKendrick having been born only two years before his little brother. In terms of actual bulk, the men apparently weighed pretty much the same, but the question of contrasting sizes can also be applied to their respective discographies, providing someone has the courage to enter this
Mike-crocosmos and sort it out.
"Big" Mike McKendrick's relationship with the great Louis Armstrong -- he was among the Satchmo sidemen who were also given the responsibility of managing the Armstrong band itself -- is responsible for a pile of sides large enough for several people named Mike to hide behind, big or little. This McKendrick's professional career began in the '20s with groups such as Edgar Hayes' Eight Black Pirates. Through the late '20s McKendrick performed with Bernie Young, Tiny Parham, and Dave Peyton. The following decade began with him working with an orchestra under the direction of Jerome Carrington, but he quickly became involved with Armstrong as well as leading a combo of his own.
Other collaborators in the '30s included drummer Zutty Singleton and violinist and bandleader Erskine Tate. McKendrick also had a successful duo with partner Ikey Robinson, who also played banjo and guitar as well as piano. In the '50s and '60s McKendrick was involved in both jazz and blues on the busy Chicago scene, dropping in and out of Franz Jackson's trad jazz band and performing and recording with Little Brother Montgomery respectively. He was also in the house band at the Jazz Limited venue until health problems developed in the mid-'60s. His other musical siblings were Richard McKendrick, Daniel McKendrick, and James McKendrick, at least when they weren't calling themselves Mike.