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Mike McKenna Biography

“Mike McKenna is a GREAT guitar player. What stands out is when you hear his electrifying style you can say without a doubt, that's McKenna ... simply great.”

- Donnie (Mr. Downchild) Walsh

" If it weren't for Mike McKenna, there'd have been no MAINLINE and no album called STINK. Though we had little in common except the music, it was the music that created that beautiful throbbing electric energy! MAINLINE was Mike McKenna, Mike Harrison, Tony Nolasco and me. Health remains the greatest wealth."

- M. JOE, March 15, 2009 (the Ides of March)

Luke and the Apostles. The Ugly Ducklings. McKenna Mendelson Mainline. Diamondback. Downchild.  All legendary Canadian bands and all with one thing in common – the equally legendary slide guitar player, Mike McKenna. 

Mike McKenna has been a fixture of the Toronto rock music scene since its dawn in the early 1960s. He was born in Toronto in 1946 and began playing guitar at age 11. His first name band was Whitey and the Roulettes, which eventually evolved into The Mandala. Mike then formed Mike’s Trio in 1963; playing at several Yorkville clubs during the area’s formative stage. Mike’s Trio evolved into Luke and the Apostles after singer/guitarist Luke Gibson and keyboardist Peter Jermyn joined the band, and this is where Mike’s status as a local guitar hero emerged. A recording session in New York yielded a sole 45, but the band impressed Electra Producer Paul Rothchild sufficiently to prompt him to call the session the “greatest album I never got to make.” There was a brief stint in The Ugly Ducklings in 1967, replacing Roger Mayne. However, it was his next band that forever cemented his status as a legend on the Toronto music scene.

In early 1968 Mike placed a newspaper ad looking for like-minded musicians. The ad attracted the attention of local folkie Joe Mendelson and drummer Tony Nolasco, leading to the formation of McKenna Mendelson Mainline (later shortened to simply Mainline). The band went off to London late 1968, where the landmark Stink LP was recorded in one day during June 1969. They immediately returned home and were received as conquering heroes, headlining a July 12 show at the Rock Pile. The band also toured internationally and released two more successful LPs – Homeand Native Land, and Bump N Grind Revue. There was a reunion with Mendelson in 1975 that produced Accept No Substitute, and another in 2001, with Mainline alumni Tony Nolasco, Mike Harrison and Ted Purdy, plus harmonica player Bob Adams. A live show closing the El Mocambo tavern in 2001 was released on CD.

Over the years, there were various versions of the Mike McKenna Band that included musicians such as singer Bobby Blake and the Apostles’ Pat Little on drums. He was also a member of the mythical Diamondback along with Scott Cushnie, Peter McGraw and Richard Love. An LP was recorded and pressed, but was never released. Luckily plans are in place to release this in 2008 as well as a freshly recorded CD that also includes Mike Fonfara. Mike also appears on Murray McLaughlan’s LP “Sweeping the Spotlight Away”. In the late 1970s Mike hooked up with Guess Who bass player Jim Kale in a band called MBRB (McKenna, Bernardi, Russell and Kale). They recorded an LP entitled Now and Not Then; released in 1981, it was attributed to The Guess Who. Later, Mike accepted an invitation from Donnie Walsh to join the Downchild Blues Band; appearing on the 1987 release, It’s Been So Long.

In the late 1990s Mike formed Slidewinder with Mainline alumni Denny Gerrard and Ron “Jake” Jacobs, releasing a self-titled CD in 1997. After taking some time off from the music scene, Mike is now active again and playing better than ever. The Mike McKenna Band consists of Mike on guitar and vocals, Rocky Verwheel on keyboards, vocals and trumpet, Gary Latimer on bass and Dan Haugh on drums. They recently had a very successful trip to Kitchener, Ontario for the local blues festival, playing to a packed house.

Mike lives in the Beaches and remains very active in Toronto’s music scene. (Mike currently plays a black Stratocaster with a rosewood neck thru a Marshall 50 watt amp combo).

- Mike would like to thank John Johnston for the bio notes and ongoing support "above and beyond the call of duty" -






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