Aug 25, 2011 6:44 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
There are lots of great local bands on the central and south coast, but when one in particular plays at one of our community events, you'll likely notice the crowds get bigger.
Monte Mills and The Lucky Horseshoe Band have been entertaining us all for 35 years now, and offering more proof, there's no place like home!
Most people who have lived on the central coast for any amount of time have seen Monte Mills in action. Which is exactly why there's usually a good crowd when he takes the stage. You know the music's going to be good, and atmosphere fun and the man behind the microphone entertaining.
The Mills magic started on the central coast at Poly Royal 1976. "We started playing at McLintocks on Thursday nights." remembers Mills. It wasn't long until the Monte and the band's presence at the downtown San Luis Obispo Saloon would prompt lines around the block. "I remember you being there on Thursday nights!" he teases me. He's telling the truth. I was a regular back then.
The antics sure to go on inside made it well worth the wait for generations of Poly students, their parents, friends and visitors. "There was something about the chemistry of the place. I don't know. I can't explain it. That place, our band...it just kind of clicked. And then we started picking up a lot of extra gigs on weekends." explains Mills.
For next few decades, The Lucky Horseshoe band would play 50 or so weddings, graduation parties and other special events a year. Now, 35 years later, he's taking a little time to take it all in.
A horse-shoer by trade, He likely inherited his love of music from his granddad, who traveled with a band when Monte was just a toddler. "I remember at 5 years old. The first song I learned was 'This Old House', an old Stuart Hamblen song."
He played a little in the military, won a contest at the Palimino Club in Hollywood that led to his first of record. His repertoire is wide-ranging today, but he will always expose the crowds to a little classic country western. "You kind of case your audience and see what's appropriate. And if people want to dance, you better play some kind of old time rock and roll beat!" Mills laughs.
He is always observing, and always engaging the audience. Even when we sent a camera to a recent performance without a heads up ahead of time, it didn't take a couple of seconds for Monte to take notice, and make it part of the program. "Well hello you good looking thing! Do I watch KSBY, yes I do!" says to reporter Danielle Lerner before continuing on with his song. "I've always had kind of the concept, if you can get people involved, they can entertain themselves better than you can entertain them. So if you can incorporate that into program somehow, you're on easy street."
His goofy smile can draw people in like kids to candy. From stage, he's hooked couples up for life, headed-off bar fights, drawn wallflowers to the dance floor and in the old McLintocks days, convinced countless women to disrobe behind a shower curtain and model the Lucky Horseshoe logo. "Well we'll just hold a shower curtain up" Mills recalls when tryingn to figure out how they'd get the ladies to wear the t-shirts. "And it ended up, things got pitched over the antlers above."
It does sound a bit crazy, but if you hung around McLintocks during that time, it was sort of a right of passage to get a Monte Mills t-shirt. And judging by the pictures he has of ladies wearing them, there are more than a few of us who have one of those shirts tucked away somewhere.
The audience-involved antics have mellowed a bit over the years, but not the overall entertainment factor. "It feels like we just got started!" Mills laughs. And while he's played with some of the best, and entertained offers to head to bigger markets, there's never been anything enticing enough to draw him away for good. "It's been a fun run, but you know, you can always come home and sleep in your own bed."
Lucky for us, the leader of the Lucky Horseshoe band has figured out there's no place like home, and we have reaped the benefits of that wisdom. "If you get the music right, and you hit a groove and it's feeling right, there's not anything better." says Mills. "Especially if you have a happy crowd smiling back at you. It doesn't get any better than that."
For more information on Monte's upcoming 35-year reunion barn dance, click here.
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