Coconut Times - Ocean City Maryland
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Coco Nights
Written By: Brenda Golden
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Coco Nights
Guitarist extraordinaire Mike Armstrong.
Coco Nights
Lauren Glick & Mike Armstrong
Coco Nights
Wednesday at Coconuts will feature Chris Button & Joe Mama.
Coco Nights
BJ’s presents Thin Ice Friday & Saturday.
Coco Nights
Rick & Lennon La Ricci will perform Saturday at Bourbon St.
Coco Nights
It’s Wednesday fun at BJ’s with Old School
Coco Nights
Randy Lee Ashcraft & the Salt Water Cowboys will play Saturday at Johnny’s
Coco Nights
The Purple Moose rocks Friday & Saturday w/ Dead Eye Stare.
  I’m sitting here at my keyboard on this rainy windy Thursday night trying to think how to begin our weekly ‘chat.’ All I can think of is that our friend Mike Armstrong is no longer with us. He passed in the wee hours of Sunday, September 25, a day he was slated to appear with his musical partner Lauren Glick and their band The Mood Swingers. I salute Lauren for her bravery in carrying on with the show, singing through her tears, with the support of her friends and wonderful son Zach ... Mike is proud of her, I’m sure.
Their musical journey together goes back some years but I’m going to begin with our interview in 2011 when The Mood Swingers were awarded the Coconut Times Entertainer of the Year. In fact, I think I’m just going to reprint that interview in its entirety for you.
(From the Oct 21, 2011 issue of Coconut Times) –  It was an honor and a pleasure to award this year’s Entertainer of the Year to The Mood Swingers. I have personally known three of the four members for 20 years and have always been impressed with their musicianship and dedication to music as a whole. I met Mike Armstrong not long after he arrived in Ocean City. It was 1991 (I was writing for the Dispatch then) and he and his family had relocated from the Washington D.C. suburbs looking for better opportunities for his construction business and also because the music scene was pretty good here.
I spoke with Mike this week for this article and it was a fun walk down memory lane. I remember talking to him back then so this was a refresher course for me.
“I had been pretty active in the D.C. area playing in a group called North Star Band. We were pretty popular,” he tells me. “Then I was in a band called White Water, a southern rock, modern country band.” With White Water Mike says they played quite often in New York and had the pleasure of playing either before or alongside some famous country musicians such as Willie Nelson.
“But groups change,” Mike went on. “Marriages, breakups happen and eventually members move on.”
Armstrong wanted to play again and shortly after moving to Ocean City he checked out a duo playing outside at the old Ocean Club ... that happened to be John LaMere & Joe Smooth. He talked with them about the local music scene and put the word out that he was looking to play guitar. 
“I answered an ad for a group that was looking for a guitarist. Turned out to be Nolan Graves (keyboard), Richard Collins (bass) and Jim Long (drums). All they needed was a guitar and I fit the bill.” The group was called The Essentials and hearing them at the Greene Turtle was my first introduction to all these gifted musicians.
As Mike says, bandmates’ personal lives often cause change and so it was with this one. Collins was busy being a lawyer, Graves spending more time with his construction business and Long was offered a solo job at the Princess Royale (before his long run at Seacrets).
  So what came next? Lauren Glick was on the scene performing as a duo with David Adams. {Now deceased} I remember seeing them at the old Dungeon. I again met Lauren at the Fager’s Island Claim to Fame where she played keyboard and sang both covers and original material. And she was awesome!
“Lauren played bass, too, so we teamed up, brought in Bubba on drums and Joe Smooth on sax for a few years.” This band was called Chameleon and they were excellent. I would have given them the award if I had been doing that back then.
“We had a great run,” Mike continued. “But as all things change, Lauren wanted to go a different direction with her music and she joined up with Kathy Denk.” As we know that duo was called the Campfyre Girls.
“My brother Tim came in on bass to replace Lauren and we became The Mood Swingers for about seven years,” says Mike.
The pendulum of change swings again and Lauren is pregnant with twins. “When she was ready I asked her to come back with us on keyboard,” Mike recalls. As it turned out, his brother Tim decided to move on to the Austin, Texas, music scene; so for a time, Lauren was playing both bass and keyboard.
“The move to Ocean City turned out to be the best thing for myself and my family,” says Mike. “The lifestyle and quality of music and the friendships I’ve made have been more than worth it. And the way our musical community respects and supports each other is unique.”
I asked Armstrong what he sees in their future as The Mood Swingers.
“I’d like us to play some bigger venues like Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival. I’d love to go back to New York. Lauren and I have talked about doing another recording of some original music. We both have a lot of songs so that’s something we may do this winter. I think we have struck a balance of working to each other’s strong points.” Indeed, they have a wide scope of musical genres with Mike great on southern rock tunes and Lauren best on her soulful classic rock tunes. It makes the name Mood Swingers ever more appropriate. (end of interview)
As you may have noticed, Mike did not talk about his brush with death before then. On that subject, I would like to reprint in its entirety a letter he wrote to friends, family and fans in September of 2014 to bring us up to date on his health issues.
To All My Family, Friends, and Fans…
As many of you know, I had a serious struggle with renal-cell carcinoma, a.k.a kidney cancer, back in 2005.  At that time, the disease hadn’t spread outside of my left kidney, which was removed, and after several years of clean scans, I was declared “no evidence of disease” and released from the NIH protocol that saved my life.
Fast-forward 9 years….
I’ve been lucky enough to be gifted with good health, a strong & supportive family, and great musicians to share my musical experiences here on Delmarva… these 9 years have been “bonus round” for me, since I seemed to be beating the odds, as renal cancer tends to reoccur in those unfortunate enough to have made its acquaintance.  At the time of my diagnosis, I was given a 60 percent chance of 5-year survival… I’ve almost doubled that already!!!  The hell with odds…..
For 8 years in a row, my yearly checkup has been clear. This year, not so much…chest x-rays showed suspicious shadows… CT scans confirmed tumors in both lungs; the right lung one is inoperable due to size & location.  This, folks, ain’t good news…..
Fortunately for me, the past 9 years have seen many advances in the treatment of renal-cell carcinoma, and there are many more tools in the arsenal to treat recurrent disease like mine… the best one in my case is an immune-booster called IL-2, which I am receiving at the University of Maryland Medical Center, starting in a couple weeks.  
My wife Diane & I, along with our children  and extended family, appreciate all your prayers & encouragement, and are grateful for your support while we navigate these rough waters again.
With any luck, and with God’s help, I’ll be back onstage with Lauren & the band sooner than later…..
Mike Armstrong
The Mood Swingers Band
As you see from these words, directly from Mike, he faced life’s challenges with a positive spirit and with the aid of his wonderful doctors, he played and sang for us for two more summer seasons. I don’t know if most of you recognized what a gifted guitarist he was - HE WAS! But even more importantly, he had a musician’s soul - loving, compassionate and, boy, could he play the blues.
There is, of course, so much more that can be said. He and his wonderful wife Diane raised two beautiful children, both a success in their adult vocations. And he was certainly there for his friend Lauren Glick whenever she needed him. He is going to be sorely missed by us all and I hope that we all can help bolster Lauren’s strength to carry on his legacy through music. He recognized her great talent and made sure she had a platform to share her gifts with the world. I’m thinking of all the times he played when he didn’t feel that great. A true entertainer - the show must go on! And Lauren’s show must go on!
This is definitely a first for me to dedicate a column this way, but my heavy heart has led me to share with you all. As for what is happening in Ocean City this week, you can check out the Who’s Where When to plan your musical meanderings. I leave you as I always do with the sober message of caution to always party safe.
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