Michael Snow

Biography by William Ruhlmann

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Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Michael Snow has had a long and varied career, first in the mid-'60s British rock scene, then in Nashville. He was born to Irish immigrant parents in Liverpool,…
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Artist Biography by William Ruhlmann

Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Michael Snow has had a long and varied career, first in the mid-'60s British rock scene, then in Nashville. He was born to Irish immigrant parents in Liverpool, England, and raised there, participating in the Merseybeat movement headed by the Beatles in the early '60s. In 1962, he joined a local group called the Barons, who got a contract with Parlophone Records, the Beatles' label. In 1964, he moved to London and joined West Five, which signed to HMV Records and released as its first single a cover of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' Rolling Stones song "Congratulations." After it and two subsequent singles failed to chart, the group disbanded.

Snow moved on to a show band, the Blue Aces, which also recorded for HMV, playing with them for six months and then working freelance as a pianist and musical director for visiting American R&B performers such as Ben E. King, Edwin Starr, and Doris Troy. He also worked with the British group the Checkmates, which, with other former members of West Five, turned into the Ferris Wheel, a soul-pop band that issued two albums, Can't Break the Habit (1967) on Pye Records and Ferris Wheel (1970) on Polydor (Uni in the U.S.). Although he appeared on the second album, by the time it was released, he had left the group. He next joined with Billy Kinsley, formerly of the Merseybeats, and Liverpool singer Jimmy Campbell to form Rockin' Horse, which released the 1970 album Yes It Is on Philips Records in the U.K.

When that band did not succeed further, he turned to other areas of the music business, taking a job as a music publishing manager for the Robert Stigwood Organization (RSO) while also pursuing songwriting and working as a session musician. As a songwriter, his biggest hit came in the spring of 1971 with "Rosetta," recorded by Georgie Fame and Alan Price, which hit number 11 in the U.K. and won him the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for songwriting. As a session musician, he played on records by Badfinger, Lulu, and Dusty Springfield, and he renewed his connection with the Beatles by playing on the Doris Troy album Doris Troy, produced by George Harrison and released on Apple, and serving as one of the 45 voices in the choir that sang along on John Lennon's hit "Power to the People." He next undertook a 60-date tour as pianist for Chuck Berry, then served as pianist and orchestra conductor on the debut solo tour of former Zombies singer Colin Blunstone, this association leading to his involvement in Blunstone's 1972 album Ennismore.

In 1973, Snow moved to the U.S. and settled in Nashville, where he worked in various capacities in the music business including songwriting, producing, and music publishing. His songs were recorded by such artists as Julie Andrews, Earl Scruggs, and Ray Stevens; he produced a string of performers including Chain of Command, the Hots, Orsa Lia, and the Smashers; and he managed the publishing company for songwriter Bobby Russell. In 1986, he founded a commercial jingle company, the clients for which included McDonald's. The same year, he began working with Dennis Locorriere of Dr. Hook and founded his own music publishing company, Irish Eyes Music. In 1990, he co-wrote and co-produced guitarist Ray Flacke's instrumental solo album Untitled Island, released on Intersound.

In the 1990s, Snow, recalling his Irish heritage, turned more to Celtic music. He led a contemporary Celtic band called Ceolta Nua and played bodhran, accordion, and banjo on recordings by Michael Card, Cathryn Craig, Adie Grey, Robert Earl Keen, Jr., Gloria Loring, and Lesley Schatz. He also wrote songs used on the albums Black and White by Brian Willoughby of the Strawbs, Turn the Page by Gloria Loring, and Love Songs by Dr. Hook. In 2000, on his own Irish Eye Records, Snow finally released his debut solo album, Here Comes the Skelly, the first disc of a trilogy looking back on his experiences growing up as a child of the Irish in Liverpool. The Rats and the Rosary followed in 2001, and the trilogy was completed with Never Say No to a Jar in 2003.