Mike Williamson at The Butterfly in Beloit with a couple of 1940s/’50s music fans…Devon Betts, left, and pal Ian Isley enjoy the music.

Many long time area residents will remember or know of local singer and entertainer Mike Williamson. Lovers of more “vintage” music, such as hits from the mid-1900s, on into the ‘60s, ‘70s and ’80s are very appreciative of his talent.

He prefers singing older songs, such as hits by Dean Martin, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, Steve Lawrence and Mel Torme. For instance, Williamson does a beautiful rendition of “Moon River,” made popular by Andy Willliams in the early 1960s.

1940s “Swing Music” is also part of his repertoire. He notes that today’s music is a big change from those days and melody is not always present in comparison.

Currently, Williamson, who is a well-known producer and performer, appears on stage weekends at The Butterfly Club, 5198 E. County Road S, Beloit, Fridays and Saturdays, 7 to 11 p.m., excluding the last Friday of the month. He also performs at the Stockholm Inn and The Pomodoro Rockford.

Williamson was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, in the southern section of the state, to Lee and Sally Williamson. Mike’s mother died when Mike was 14 years old and his father remarried to Gladys (now 98 years old), and Mike gained a step-brother, the late Rick VanNess.

“I always had a love of music,” Williamson notes, “and when I was young really enjoyed listening on the radio. My dad sang (or tried to sing) and played the guitar, my mother loved country music, and a cousin, Perry, played the accordion. I play some piano and a bit of acoustic guitar.”

When still in high school, Mike had a photography hobby and took pictures for the school newspaper. But he was definitely born with a love of music in him.

Mike’s father was eventually transferred to the Rockford area in the early 1970s and that is where Mike’s career began to materialize. He recalled, “I first heard the Lettermen on the radio and eventually met them when I was attending Rock Valley (then a junior college).” Mike sang with the group many times as a guest. They usually had me singing Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”

In that time period, the Rockford area supported a number of venues that provided live music. As Williamson recalls, this would include the Plantation on Kilburn St., Rockford, Saddle & Cycle, the Coachman Inn, Cypress Lounge, Henrici’s, Piccadilly Pub, and Shakey’s Pizza, to name a few.

Bands and singers included Mike Pizzuto, the Brent Valentine Trio, Julian DeLuna, and Ron Pedersen Trio (who taught me to sing Frank Sinatra songs)…” loads of great talent” Mike says.

One endeavor that Mike was involved with had to do with the “Proud Americans,” and needing a baritone brought Williamson into the group.

In the 1980s, Williams, along with friends Bob and Joy Dummer “put together a benefit/show called ‘Magic Monday,” that benefited the American Cancer Society. It ran for 17 consecutive years through 1997 and featured local talent.

Mike has a frame that holds a place of honor on his office wall that contains a letter from President Ronald Reagan dated Feb. 8, 1987 that reads, “I warmly commend all those participating in the American Cancer Society’s Sixth Annual Magic Monday program.

“Performers and entertainers from the Rockford community are coming together to demonstrate their talents and their determination to support a most worthy cause—the American Cancer Society and its relentless fight against a dreaded disease.

“So many have contributed their time and efforts to make this event an annual tradition. You have been doing this for many years, and I know you will continue to hold your “Magic Monday for many more years to come.

“Nancy joins me in extending our best wishes, and a special ‘thank you’ from the bottom of our hearts on behalf of all those you have helped.”

“God bless you, Ronald Reagan”

Some differences in today’s music, compared to what he great up listening to, according to a book, “Rockford Area Music History Part I” by Todd Houston, notes that singers no longer need to be “in tune” to record, explaining, “It seems like anybody with a computer can record an album and ‘auto-tune’ their voice to make it perfect.

Williamson explained, “Computers today are now a major part of the recording process everywhere…and I can’t complain about that. It’s been a way for me to compose and to arrange music using my ear, and that’s been a lot of fun. I have been writing many tunes with keyboardist Bruce Warden lately, and we’ve gotten some excellent response to some of them!

Nowadays, Williamson has quite a lot on his plate and is involved in a number of endeavors…information is on his website, which is www.MikeWilliamsonMusic.com.

It lists headings/links that include; “Schedule, Mike’s Band, Tour groups, Corporate Events, Radio Show, Rockford Packages, Gallery, CDs, and YouTube Videos.”

Williamson is the recipient of several RAMI (Rockford Area Music Industry) Awards.

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