Reflections On Mike: Susan L. Sullivan

Mike Mills Adds Salsa To The Burritos

Every Tuesday night, I drive the 200 mile round trip from Greenville, SC, to Athens to enjoy the “Hot Burritos” at the High Hat Blues Bar. The Burritos, Barry Sell and William Tonks, always throw a great party. I’ve seen them alone as well as with the assorted “guest stars” that often appear.

Tuesday night I was late and missed Ben Reynolds (unfortunately), but was thrilled to see the musician for whom I have the most respect and admiration in the world, Mike Mills, standing at the bar. From the top of his shaggy long hair to the tips of his black and white high top Converse tennis shoes, Mike was a picture of comfortable bohemianism. His little round glasses, a striped tunic and jeans and an assortment of silver jewelry only added to the effect.

I was thrilled to see Mike take the stage with Barry and William and pal Richard Grant. With William on dobro, Barry on mandolin, Richard on drums and Mike on acoustic guitar, the quartet rolled through a varied assortment of covers; everything from CCR’s “Lodi” to Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muscogee.” The highlight of the show for this fan was Mike’s version of “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” -a real credit to both his songwriting and his singing abilities.

After the show, I was fortunate enough to get to do something few fans get a chance to; I was able to sit around and just chat with Mike, William, Barry and various pals. I was struck once again by just how unpretentious and genuinely nice musicians are in this town. Barry and William are always friendly and fun to talk to, and Mike turned out to be one of those rare finds; a famous musician who really is mature and confident enough just to be a regular guy. He is articulate, friendly and very easy to talk to.

I didn’t attempt to interview Mike at all, even though I understand interviews with him can be a bit rare to come by. I really just wanted to get to know him outside the R.E.M. atmosphere, and I wasn’t disappointed. We chatted about various subjects, from working to life in general, and the only R.E.M. question that came up was how Bill was doing. (Fine, thanks).

Even though he didn’t know me before that night (and I acted a bit like the fan I am), he treated me with respect, courtesy and a healthy dose of humor. Before meeting him, I liked him for all the obvious musical and viewpoint reasons; now I like him most for just being a wonderful, normal guy.

Thanks, Mike, for being everything I always believed you were and wanted you to be.

Originally published on 12 April 1995 by Flagpole Magazine
Source: R.E.M. Collectors Guide

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