Lovin’ Spoonful drummer at home now in Red WingOther kids read comic books. Mike Arturi spent hours poring over the Ludwig Drums catalog.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
Other kids read comic books. Mike Arturi spent hours poring over the Ludwig Drums catalog.
His affinity for music has taken Arturi all over the world and hooked him up with some of the top bands of his youth.
For 18 years, he’s been the drummer for the Lovin’ Spoonful, a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll band that continues to play its hits for appreciative fans across the country and beyond.
Today, however, the longtime Chicago resident makes his home in Red Wing, in a cozy house in a quiet neighborhood where he balances his hectic days on the road with mellow times mowing the lawn and enjoying the view from a backyard gazebo.
And he’s looking at using the skills he acquired during a lifetime in the music business to start a new venture here.
Arturi’s ear has always been tuned to the beat that drives the music.
As a child listening to the radio, “I could always hear what the drummer was doing,” he said.
A relative gave Arturi the old-time set he had used when he played drums in a band during the 1930s. The snare drum from that set remains a prized possession.
When he was 8, his parents bought him his first new set of Ludwigs. “They realized I was serious about drums,” he explained.
By the time he was 13, Arturi was studying music and performing professionally at weddings and parties.
Then came Feb. 9, 1964: The Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“That night changed my life,” Arturi said. “From then on, it was rock.”
One night at a friend’s apartment, he listened to a Frank Zappa record. Hearing Aynsley Dunbar play drums brought on another revelation: “It made me realize how much I didn’t know,” Arturi said.
With his parents’ support, he entered Triton College in River Grove, Ill., where Shelly Elias taught him the play all the percussion instruments — and more.
“He taught me the music business,” Arturi said. “He taught me how to work.”
In addition to studying and practicing for 12 to 15 hours a day, Arturi alo performed in Chicago-area bands. “I started to get in the ‘A’ level groups,” he said.
He had scholarship offers, but moved to California to play in a recording band.
“Things started to take off,” he said. He never returned to school but, Arturi said, “I never stopped studying. I still study with drummers I meet on the road.”
After a couple of years Arturi opted to return to Chicago, where he worked five to seven days a week for seven years, playing with local bands including Jade’s Fifties, a top oldies band that was hired by Dick Clark to tour the Midwest with his Rock & Roll Revival show.
Arturi drummed for such groups as the Drifters and the Coasters, the Marvelettes, Freddy Cannon and Del Shannon. He also played with Chuck Berry’s tour band, and with Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows.
After years of traveling, Arturi decided it was time to get off the road. He started the band Decades, and launched First Call Entertainment. Arturi spent the next few years leading and playing with his own bands, plus booking them and other bands for casinos, clubs, festivals and other venues.
“I had always aspired to play in a national act — a big name band,” he admitted.
In 1996, he auditioned for the Lovin’ Spoonful.
“I was a fan of theirs,” he said, so he got all their records and studied them. “I learned every single beat Joe (Butler) played and went with the intention of letting them experience their music exactly as it was meant to be played.”
Band leader Steve Boone offered him the job after the second number.
“What a feeling that was,” Arturi recalled. “It was something I dreamed of. It was so amazing.”
He appreciated the “big time” perks, traveling by airplane instead of van and staying in nice hotels. “It was what it was supposed to be.”
Original 1965 members Boone and Butler (who now is a lead singer instead of the drummer) and Jerry Yester, who joined the Spoonful in 1967, revived the band in 1991 after a lull; the band was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 (www.lovinspoonful.com).
The Lovin’ Spoonful fills concert halls with the sounds of the Sixties because that’s what audiences want to hear, Arturi said — “Do You Believe in Magic?” and “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice,” “Daydream,” “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” and “Summer in the City,” and other Top 10 hits.
The band had “staggering versatility” during its heyday, he said. “I am extremely proud of my relationship with them.”
Today the Spoonful is on the road 35 to 40 dates a year, Arturi said. Upcoming concerts include July 4 at Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., a 1960s theme riverboat cruise with the Great American Steamboat Co. on the Ohio River later that month, and other dates in Georgia, New Mexico, Florida and Arizona.
“It’s really manageable,” he said, and allows him to do other things, including play with other bands. Arturi also has drummed with Gary Lewis and the Playboys and Badfinger.
Of course, that means learning the bands’ music. “It’ll take me 30 hours in my basement to internalize a 90-minute show and make it sound like I’ve been with them forever,” he said.
For Arturi, the road to Red Wing traveled through New Mexico.
Lake City native Lauri Neubert, who was part of the team that started the entertainment program at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, was working for an entertainment company that brought the Spoonful to New Mexico in 1999. They hit it off, and even though he lived in Chicago and she lived in Red Wing, the romance led to marriage.
She moved to Chicago and went to work for Best Buy. When the company offered her a chance for a good position at the Minnesota headquarters in Richfield, they decided to try Red Wing. It’s close to her family as well as her job, and only an hour to the airport.
“What a great place!” Arturi said. In addition to appearing with the Spoonful, he occasionally performs locally with the Willie B Blues Band and in the Twin Cities.
He shut down his entertainment business in Chicago when he joined the Spoonful, and instead did some work in sales. Today his inbetween jobs include part-time over-the-road driving for Knudsen Trucking.
Since making Red Wing home in December 2010, he has developed a real appreciation for the community.
“I truly believe the people here understand the value of the arts and their importance in the enrichment of our children’s development,” Arturi said.
The natural next step: teaching.
In a town that successfully blends big corporations and family-owned storefronts, he believes there’s a place for a music school where he can draw on his business and music experiences to create something new. Arturi plans to open the Universal Music Center on the campus of the Anderson Center at Tower View.
But that’s tomorrow’s gig. Today … well, today he’s coming home from Regina, Canada — daydreaming and making up his mind. Because yes, he does believe in magic.