What a Wonderful Ride...
The Story Starts Here
A native of New Orleans, Michael Ragland spent his early years soaking up sounds from Treme, Congo Square, and the French Quarter, all of which were only a few blocks from his neighborhood. Years later, his mother moved them to her home state of Oklahoma where he was in the high school marching and concert bands, earning numerous awards, all while practicing drums to his mother's Motown and Staxx 45 records. And then he heard...The Beatles.
Summers were spent in Memphis with his father's family. As soon as he could drive, he began a pilgrimage to Beale Street where he talked someone (who will remain nameless, LOL) into allowing him in a side door of the Rum Boogie Cafe where he could listen to and interact with world class Blues drummers night after night.
At an education conference in Nashville his sophomore year of college, he was talked into joining a group of students headed for a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Even though he had never really listened to Country Music, he agreed.
This is how he recounts the evening - " I was sitting in the audience thinking of a dozen other things that I probably would have rather been doing. Then, after Minnie Pearl, Little Jimmie Dickens, and Roy Acuff , Marty Robbins and his "Singing Cowboys" stepped to the stage and sang Tumbling Tumbleweeds and El Paso. I felt like I had been hit by lightning. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood straight up. I may or may not have even gone speechless and momentarily blind. I heard the Blues. I heard Swing. I heard Rhythm and Blues - all rolled into one genuine and sincere form of music - coming from that stage. That was IT! I had seen the Light!"
Very shortly after that musical spiritual reckoning , he had the sheer good fortune to join up and coming Country artist Don Hayes (Blue Jean Bandits, Oklahoma Twister), with whom he spent four years touring and recording, opening for and sharing the stage with Jack Greene and Jeanie Seely, Jodi Miller, Moe Bandy, Boxcar Willie, The Hagar Twins, and many others. To this day, Mike credits the mentorship of Don and the band for setting great examples of professionalism and dedication without compromising values and for not indulging in the temptations that derail so many.
Graduating from college with a minor in music and after a short stint as a high school teacher, Michael moved to Nashville where he became involved in the Gospel Music scene, producing demos and playing in church worship bands. Upon returning to Oklahoma in the late 80s, he continued to record and play for various Rock, Country, R&B, and Gospel artists. In 1991, he became the drummer for SonRise, a popular Canadian Christian Rock group and spent the next 2 ½ years with them, touring and recording across Canada and the U.S.
One of Mike’s drummer friends from Austin, Texas describes him as, “A combination of New Orleans Funk and Swing mixed with Country and Red Dirt Soul”.
That's probably a pretty accurate description of listening to Mike on the drums.
He decided early on to make the necessary investments in education and training to become a successful musician and business person.
As a result, he has taken drum lessons from Ed Shaughnessy, of Tonight Show fame, the late Dom Famularo, Global Drumming Ambassador and Educator, and Stanton Moore, a fellow New Orleanian and noted educator as well as the drummer for Galactic.
Mike also holds a BA in Marketing and a BS in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma, including Graduate work from Vanderbilt University, and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Mid America Christian University.
Presently, Mike is playing for Jake Gill on Jake's Small Town Boy Tour. He is also behind the drums for Jesse Alan and R&R Railroad. From 2013 to 2020, Mike played and recorded with Moonlight Ford. Along the way, he has played with The Legendary Miss Blues, Killin' Time Band, Jared Deck, The Beatsmacks, Guardians of the Groove , and High Speed Boom. From 2013-2015, he played in the house band for Leon Russell’s birthday celebrations alongside Leon’s longtime guitarist, Chris Simmons. He also logs considerable studio time with various Red Dirt, Country, Americana, and Rock artists.
If you ever corner Mike and press him to tell you what he is most proud of, he is likely to say it was the 23 years he spent as drummer/percussionist for his dear friend, the late Pawnee Music Evangelist Ellis Horsechief, who never failed to introduce Mike as, “the best drummer in the world!”
Mike Ragland plays Ludwig drums, Zildjian cymbals, Evans drumheads, and Bopworks Drumsticks.
He has also been known to break out his 1952 Slingerland Radio King and 1967 Ludwig Super Classic drum kits for special occasions.
A Louisiana Creole, he is a Gumbo enthusiast, and he likes Tabasco on…well, everything.