It’s time to give the drummer some. The third member of the MIKE WHEELER BAND to be featured in these pages is get-down-on-it artist CLEO COLE. To many a blues performer in the Windy City, Cleo is the man. Just ask Doug McDonald, Alvin Cash, Floyd Taylor, Zora Young, Maurice John Vaughn, Shirley King, Big James, Nellie Travis, Peaches Staten, Sam Cockrell and Pistol Pete. 

Bandmate and virtouoso bassist Larry Williams exclaims, “Money in the Pocket is the best way to describe Mr. Cleo Cole. His timing is impeccable, precise, incredibly great and smooth. But above all else, he’s a great person and his playing reflects all of this!!!!”  A fellow musician and comrade can sing no higher praise.  

The signature characteristic of the Mike Wheeler Band is exuberance which Cole has in abundance. “When the band is firing on all cylinders, it’s unstoppable,” he exudes. “There’s a segment in our gigs where I never stop, where I go for 10 minutes or more when Mike calls out ‘We’re going to do 20 songs’ and we blaze through a medley of them. I live for that.” On the year long layoff, Cleo mused, “It was tough during the pandemic. I continued to practice but there’s nothing like playing on stage. That’s the only place that you can really get that feeling withfeedback from the people.” 

Cole keeps in shape for the rigors of drumming by running, eating well and playing basketball. “Everything I do relates to my job as a drummer. Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome on both hands! Doctor said I could quit playing drums or have surgery. Without skipping a beat, I said, ‘Surgery!’ I thank God it was successful and, with the right conditioning, I’ve been back at it strong ever since.”       

You can catch Cleo Cole with the high energy blues Mike Wheeler Band band this Friday @ Blue Chicago w/Demetria Taylor and @ Kingston Mines this Saturday.


Mike Wheeler Band: ON FACEBOOK

Delmark Records: WWW.DELMARK.COM

Photo taken at Rosa’s Lounge, Aug 7, 2020  WWW.ROSASLOUNGE.COM
Mike Wheeler Band @ Rosa’s Video: WATCH IT HERE.

-Peter M. Hurley

Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with the Chess Studios’ sound of Bo Diddley which led to Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and so on. It continues to this day.