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Mike Henley

We have lost our long-time friend, keyboard player Mike Henley.

He was an unmistakable presence on the stage, and his Hammond M3 organ was an integral part of the band’s signature sound. One of the “old-timers” in the band, Mike brought a wealth of early rock ‘n’ roll knowledge to Claude Jones, and he would occasionally step out front to favor us with a selection from Johnny Otis or Fats Domino. He will be remembered fondly by fellow musicians and fans alike.

Mike played with numerous groups in the Washington area over a musical career that spanned half a century. He was one of the original members — along with Tom Guernsey, Joe Triplett and Bob Berberich — of the legendary Reekers, who recorded the 1965 regional Hangmen hit “What a Girl Can’t Do.” After Claude Jones, Mike had a 30-year run with the Mystery Band and an overlapping tenure with the Newports that was still going into 2020.

Michael Peter Henley died on March 1, 2021, after a long struggle with numerous health problems following a quadruple bypass surgery.

4 comments to Mike Henley

  • Neal Montgomery

    Oh, I did not know. Sorry to hear this. I bought my first “real” keyboard from him when I was about 15 years old. Farfisa double keyboard. I was the envy of my friends that only had single keyboards 🙂

  • Elizabeth Henley

    My brother died on March 1, 2021 at 11:17 pm in the Intensive Care Unit at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. I was with him much of the nearly 72 hours of that last hospitalization and when he died. While he had undergone a successful hip replacement surgery in June 2019 and a quadruple bypass in August 2020, his death was a result of multiple unresolved health issues during the last 7 months of his life. From childhood on, the best part of Michael’s life was playing music, and performing with longtime friends in various bands since his teenage years up until the time of the Coronavirus. He was eager to regain his health and return to “normal” life.

  • Jay

    I met Mike when Peter Blachly and I kidnapped him back in 1968. We were on our way to Howard’s Speaker Repair in Kensington, and we saw him hitchhiking up Connecticut Avenue, sporting a credible Garth Hudson look with the beard and hat. Naturally, we had to pick him up. As we got to talking, he revealed that he played keyboards, and we decided then and there to bring him back to Little Gray. We’d been looking for a keyboard player, so clearly it was meant to be! He was unimpressed, affecting a sort of jaded-veteran demeanor, but we would not be denied. Our irrepressible enthusiasm eventually wore him down, and he reluctantly went along with it. (I think secretly he was a little intrigued.)

    It was one of those small pivotal moments that is surprisingly consequential. Soon afterwards he brought Joe Triplett aboard, and just like that we were a real, five-piece band. The brief, strange trip that became Claude Jones was just getting started…

    Rest in peace, Pal.

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