Mike Cochrane was born in Culver City, California into a musical family. His grandfather and uncles had a quartet called “The Four Hobos.” They played vaudeville circuits and during the Depression became street musicians panhandling for money. When Mike was 8 years old, his family started noticing his gift for music. While his grandfather was at work Mike used to sneak out his banjo’s and mandolins, and amazingly found he could pluck out some tunes.
In 1963, when the Beatles made their famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Mike knew he wanted to be a musician. His first instrument of choice was the drums. Manufactured out of a set of bongos, a cardboard box, and a platter from a turntable, his make-shift drum set got him by — for awhile. While shopping at a thrift store, he happened upon a beat up box guitar for $2.35, and since that was within his price range at the time, he decided to shift his interest to the guitar.
His mom and grandfather saw Mike struggling along on this old guitar and, although very poor, managed to scrape up $24.75 for an electric guitar at the Pic ‘N Save. It didn’t take long for Mike to figure out how to play this guitar and soon he began covering popular rock tunes.
“The Night Shift” was Mike’s first band. Comprised of all teen musicians, the band rehearsed and got very good in a short period of time. It wasn’t long before they were picking up gigs: private parties, battle of the bands, and a steady gig at POP (Pacific Ocean Park) in Santa Monica. They decided to call themselves “Surrealistic Light” and continued to hone their skills, while playing local gigs around the Los Angeles area.
At 15, Mike answered an ad for a guitar player with an ABC Dunhill recording group called “Shango.” The band had had a huge success with a novelty song “Day After Day,” and was working on their next album for the label. During his conversation with band member Richie Hernandez, he developed a good rapport and was asked to audition. Although only 15 years old (the band members were in their early to late 20s) he surprised “Shango” with his amazing musicianship and was hired on the spot. Unfortunately, after about a year the label decided to pull the plug on the whole project to dedicate their time and money on their more lucrative acts like “Steppenwolf” and “Three Dog Night.”
Itching to play, Mike got a few of his friends together and formed a cover band. He called the band “Train” (simply because it was short enough to fit on the marquee) and wound up becoming the house band at Gazzarri’s in Hollywood. Playing six nights a week allowed Mike to hone his skills and build stamina, while learning new songs and meeting other musicians. They even worked alongside the then unknown band, Van Halen.
It was also during this time the band met singer-songwriter Dave Lewis and began recording with him in the studio. This was the band’s first venture into a recording studio, and they took to it like it was second nature. Eventually, Train broke up.
Mike began working with a keyboard player Mark McKinniss for his band Kronos. During rehearsals he met recording artist Barbara Keith and became a hired player for her Warner Brothers release.
While recording at the Brothers Studios (The Beach Boy’s studio), they were often visited by Dennis Wilson, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love. Dennis liked Mike’s guitar playing so much, he asked if he would record some of his stuff. Who wouldn’t want to work with a Beach Boy? Sadly, Dennis was found dead on the beach in Santa Monica.
Having garnered a reputation for himself as a monster guitaristist, Mike was soon courted by Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge) . Tim was reforming “Beck, Bogert & Appice” and since Jeff Beck wasn’t available, he asked Mike if he could fill his shoes. Those were some big shoes to fill, but Mike was more than willing to give it a try. Even before the first rehearsal, Carmine Appice got picked up for the Rod Stewart Tour and was replaced with Mickey McMeel, former drummer for Three Dog Night. They rehearsed for two months and everything was working out great. But as luck would have it Tim’s other project “Pipe Dreams” got signed and the project was dropped.
During the mid-70s, Mike put together another version of his earlier band “Train”, this time with original material and a female vocalist. After about a year, Mike gave up that idea and got the original members of “Train” back together one more time, but shortly thereafter, the bass player disappeared and the group disbanded.
In the late 70’s, Mike met Harry “The Hipster” Gibson. Harry had a hit in 1947 called “Who Put The Benzedrine In Misses Murphy’s Ovalteen”. Harry was different than anyone Mike had ever met. Harry introduced Mike to a completely different kind of music than he had ever played before. (Boogie Woogie) In return, Mike showed harry harder edged Rock ‘n’ Roll. They got along so well, Harry asked mike to put together a Rock band for him to play with. Mike contacted Bob Hopkins, (Mikes drummer from Train) and Bob Gross, (A Bass player mike had done several studio sessions with) and the Rock Boogie Blues Jammers were born. Mike Harry and the band played around town for a year or two. They were even on the Dr. Demento show as in studio guests to promote their upcoming shows. One of their shows at the Ice House in Pasadena was even recorded, and six of the songs can be heard on the 1991 Re-Release of “Who Put The Benzedrine In Misses Murphy’s Ovalteen”.
In 1985 Mike went into the studio with Michael Fennelly’s newest project. (Fennelly had some success in the early 70’s, including a hit record “Go Back” with Crabby Appleton). They recorded 9 songs in 11 hours and produced a tape of solid rock songs. The band showcased around LA and entered discussions with a number of record labels, but the deal they sought never materialized. This musical project proved to be Michael Fennelly’s last. In 1989 he retired from a 20 year music career and sought a new career fundraising for non-profit social service organizations in Oregon. The two Mikes still keep in touch, and folks who possess the rare tapes of that group still scratch their heads at the bands lack of succes. Still, the music is and allways has been what Mike is all about – and that music holds it’s place in his extensive repertoire. Indeed, Fennelly, who’s worked with fine musicians ranging from Steely Dan to Jeff Beck considers some of Mike’s solos on those tapes to be among some of the best work of his numerous colaborators.
The rest of the 80s Mike played in a variety of cover and original projects, from Blues to New Wave, doing the LA Club circuit: Roxy, Whisky, Madame Wongs, FM Station and others. In 1989, Mike played with Spencer Davis for a benefit concert. He even filled in on keyboards for a few songs.
Mike is currently playing with a variety of cover bands, as well as lending his talent in the studio whenever possible. He is in the process of putting together a recording of his own material and hopes to be back on the road very soon!