By Nick Moss
Portrait Photos by Ted Beranis
If you saw him perform live, you know why it is such an absolutely devastating loss for the Blues. If you didn’t get the chance to, you missed something truly amazing.
Mike Ledbetter was a force of nature, a powerhouse vocalist, a magnetic and natural performer, and my brother and friend.
Mike started out in life — as he put it — “singing since before he could talk.” Growing up in Elgin, Illinois, he was raised on his parents musical tastes, mostly R&B, soul and blues. He sang in vocal groups while in high school, which led to a period of time in which Mike immersed himself into classical and opera music. After high school Mike found his way back to singing blues and soul tunes. He had an opportunity to play in a local blues band, The Q Balls, which built his confidence and gave him a training ground for being part of a band.
I met Mike in 2010. My wife Kate had seen him
perform with friends, the Kilborn Alley Blues Band, and afterwards, invited him out to my upcoming show at
the time. I was completely floored when he opened his mouth and sang the first song, which happened to be one of my songs! We quickly became friends, and I ended up utilizing his talent in the studio for some back-up vocals. Everything that he sang was so good I had to put him on the road in my band! He was such a quick
learner and proved to be the star he was meant to be, eventually taking over almost all the vocal duties in the band. We toured the world, and Mike’s undeniable talent was recognized by all who witnessed our performances. His legend had started to grow.
In October 2016 Mike officially put in his notice that he was starting a band with Mike Welch. He
wanted to be free to do his own thing, and boy did he! Their first CD “Right Place, Right Time” won a BMA
for “Best traditional blues album” in 2018! The “Welch Ledbetter Connection” toured the globe and played some of the most prestigious blues festivals in the world. Poised for greater things, and widely regarded as an up-and-coming bright light in the blues, sadly Mike’s life was cutshort. On January 21, 2019, Michael passed away in his home from complications of an epileptic seizure at the young age of 33.
Michael leaves behind two beautiful children, a fiancé, a mother, a father, a sister, and countless friends
around the world. He will be missed, but he will never be forgotten. I encourage everyone to look him up: watch his YouTube performances and grab some of his recordings – his incredible talent will live on through his music.
We will be holding a tribute concert and benefit at Legends on Sunday, April 14 to celebrate Mike’s life. It will be quite the show, with Chicago’s finest, as well as some very special out of town musical guests. Save the date, and we’ll see you there.
Michael Ledbetter Discography
Nick Moss Band, Here I Am (2011)
Nick Moss Band, Time Ain’t Free (2014)
Nick Moss Band, Live and Luscious in Eutin Germany (2015)
Nick Moss Band, From The Root to The Fruit (2016)
Monster Mike Welch & Mike Ledbetter, Right Place, Right Time (2017)