Mike "Hollywood Fats" Mann

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Just like William Blake and Vincent Van Gogh, Fats died before being recognized for his earth-shattering talent. Bandmate Larry Taylor, with over 40 years of studio work and association with Canned Heat,…
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Just like William Blake and Vincent Van Gogh, Fats died before being recognized for his earth-shattering talent. Bandmate Larry Taylor, with over 40 years of studio work and association with Canned Heat, boldly acknowledged Fats as the greatest blues guitarist. These accolades are echoed by fellow bandmates Al Blake and Fred Kaplan, and those lucky to experience Hollywood Fats Band. Regretfully, the height of Hollywood Fats Band was during a lull in blues appreciation.

Hollywood Fats Band
At ten he started playing guitar, performing the pop tunes of the day. Once discovering blues, his mother drove the young 13-year-old to clubs in South Central Los Angeles, where he was apprenticed and taken in by Shakey Jake Harris, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, and Junior Wells, of which the last two gave him his nickname. After working with John Lee Hooker, J.B. Hutto, and Albert King (who forced Fats to quit after being jealous of the attention he was getting), he joined Muddy Waters. While backstage at a Freddy King show, Blake met Fats, who proceeded to floor Blake with a dead-on, acoustic rendition, not unlike that of Lightin' Hopkins. Blake invited Fats to sit in with Kaplan and him whenever Fats was off the road from Waters. Fats felt the Waters band lacked challenge and threw his lot to join forces full-time with Blake and Kaplan, forming the Hollywood Fats Band. Because of Rod Piazza's hospitalization, Kaplan garnered part of Piazza's band of Jerry Smith and Richard Innes, with Taylor later replacing Smith. Their only album, Hollywood Fats Band, later reissued by Blacktop as Rock This House, was a groundbreaking milestone for modern blues. Sadly, with having achieved only a cult following at that period, as Kaplan said, "We couldn't even get arrested anywhere for playing."

After the breakup of the band, Fats spent several years with the James Harman Band, and his work is featured on Harman's Extra Napkins and Mo' Napkins. Fats went on to replace Dave Alvin in the Blasters. Despite receiving glowing attention, Fats yearned to return to playing the blues. Hollywood Fats Band played their last gig at a blues society's Christmas party. The strong pathos within the band had never gone and all mutually agreed to reunite. After the gig, Fats went to celebrate with friends, and in the wee hours, was cut down by heart arrest from heroin at 32.

Even after 20 years of the release of their only album, his presence is still felt, and critics acknowledge this fallen blues hero's genius. It is hoped that someday, more material from Fats will surface.