Mike Settle was born in Tulsa, OK on March 20, 1941. His first step into the musical waters came when he was in seventh or eighth grade and bought that magical four-stringed instrument popularized in…
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Mike Settle Biography

by Joe Viglione

Mike Settle was born in Tulsa, OK on March 20, 1941. His first step into the musical waters came when he was in seventh or eighth grade and bought that magical four-stringed instrument popularized in Hawaii, an eight dollar and some odd change ukulele. The songwriter/singer told AMG "that was a lot of money to a kid at the time", funds that Settle had earned caddying for his dad and the senior Mr. Settle's golfing buddies. Michael learned how to play the instrument out of a book, but had been singing in front of relatives and people at school when he was in first and second grade. He honed his craft in the late '50s during three or four years with the Tulsa Boys Singers choir of Tulsa, OK, an organization which still exists today. It's also where he learned to sight read watching the notes as he sang with the choir. With positive feedback from his teachers in the eighth grade, he continued his musical efforts, the pivotal moment coming when his high school choral director, Tom Hayden of Muskogee High School in Muskogee, OK, encouraged the aspiring musician. His next big influence happened when he met a fellow musical student at Oklahoma City University, Mason Williams, a future comedy writer for The Smothers Brothers and composer/performer of the big 1968 hit "Classical Gas." Williams formed a folk trio in college and this introduced Mike Settle to the coffeehouse scene. He dropped out of college to tour with John Stewart's group, the Cumberland Three, and though Settle is not on any of their albums, he did one or two singles with the group. When John Stewart joined the Kingston Trio, Settle formed a duo with Mason Williams until Williams was drafted into the Navy. Bob Gibson got him a job as an opening act at The Bitter End in New York City, and Settle drove to the Big Apple to perfect his craft there. As a folk singer he stayed in New York five to six years and played the clubs on and off, managed for a time by The Bitter End's owner Fred Weintraub. He tried to put a band together in New York, which didn't gel, but was told by his publisher, The Richmond Organization, about an opening in California with the New Christy Minstrels. After meeting people from the Richmond Organization with John Stewart, Settle remembered how nice those folks were to a 19-year-old kid in New York City. They treated him like they were from Oklahoma, so when he wrote a few songs with Mason Williams, and some on his own, he mailed them to the Richmond Organization and got a publishing deal. As that company got "But You Know I Love You," they still have a relationship with the composer to this day.

Brought to the West Coast by George Greif and Sid Garris of Greif/Garris Management, Settle was made musical director of the New Christy Minstrels. They then asked him to audition Kenny Rogers, an audition held over the telephone. Settle kept asking the future country superstar to sing louder into the phone -- to Rogers' embarrassment -- he was in a hotel lobby! Settle heard a "great range and a great sound" in Rogers' voice. "I was rubber stamping what George & Sid decided to do," Settle told AMG October 28, 2002 during an interview, "Mike, Kenny, Thelma Camacho, and Terry Williams left the New Christy Minstrels to form the First Edition, and they hit on Reprise with the psychedelic classic "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." Managed by Ken Kragen and Ken Fritz, the group appeared on all sorts of television programs, Ruth Lyons' show in Cincinnati, The Mike Douglas Show, The Smothers Brothers (also managed by Kragen & Fritz), The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. Upon the release of the single "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," the band name became Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. Settle left the group to be with his family before the band got their own TV show. But of his experience in the First Edition he says "It was a great time; the economics of making a record were not nearly what they are today".

He remembers being on FM radio in Denver and perhaps a half-a-dozen other cities when FM was a baby, and the DJ would play their full album on the air along with interviewing the group. He cut a solo album for Uni Records entitled Mike Settle in 1971 and wrote three songs for the film soundtrack Vanishing Point that same year. Settle performed on TV for a folk music special with Alex Hassilev, and Dave Guard in 1974 -- the trio doing a few club gigs after that program. He joined Glenn Yarbrough and the Limelighters toward the end of the late '70s/early '80s becoming musical director for them as well. The official BMI site has 127 original Mike Settle tunes posted, including the BMI Award-Winning Song "But You Know I Love You," which has been recorded by the First Edition, Kenny Rogers solo, Dolly Parton, with a new version released in 2002 by Alison Krauss. His songs have been covered by Glen Campbell, Judy Collins, Bobby Goldsboro, Barbara Lewis, the Springfields featuring Dusty Springfield, Wayne Newton, and many many others. The producer/songwriter/journalist lives in Nashville penning new songs as well as writing a plethora of reviews of current recordings for Jeff Craig's radio program.

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