March Air Reserve Base has a long history of hosting Hollywood superstars such as Bob Hope, Sinbad and Chuck Norris. However dated, a new wave of entertainment is surfacing and you do not have to search far to find them — try the 452d Force Support Squadron, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center. Michael Brown, recreation aid and bass guitar player, music producer, promises to take his music to the next level along with his service to the men and women of March Field.
Mike has military in his blood, being the son of an Air Force member. He was born in Japan, which is where his mother is from and traveled around the continental U.S. until his father retired here, at March Field. During his early years, he toyed around with drums and eventually transitioned to the bass guitar.
“A buddy of mine had a set of drums, so I would go over to his house and practice,” said Brown. “After some time, it was noted by friends and family that I had a rhythm that flowed with little effort on my part — they said I was a natural and it was my calling. I then began to branch out and learn other instruments such as the keyboard and bass guitar.”
He began touring at age 17 with Ultimate Funk, a local band that frequented local circuit. After graduating high school, Mike picked up a side job at the March Main Exchange, but continued to practice his art.
Brown’s inspiration was fueled by the likes of artists such as Jodeci, Karen White and Ronny Wells. This, however, is very ironic because his current management company also handles KC & JoJo, former lead singers of Jodeci.
“When I found out that my management company also had KC and JoJo on their billet, I immediately began trying to come up with ways to match my style of play to the type of music they are known for,” said Brown. “I remember being on the same ticket with them at a show in Reno, Nev. We joined them during a sound check — they were just regular guys, but with mega-talent. Hopefully they liked our sound and will consider working with us on a future piece — I will keep at it until it happens.”
Balancing commitment to his craft, along with his duties at March has been challenging at times. On most occasions, Brown would tour the local circuit, which mainly comprised mid and southern Calif. He would play late evenings or weekends, which would cause little to no interference with his duties at March, but on occasions, out-of-state tour opportunities would arise and have to be passed by because they would cut into his MWR work schedule.
“Now, I am able to pick up local gigs that don’t interfere with my day job, because this is most important right now, but hopefully in the future, I can find a way to incorporate the two,” said Brown. “It would be great to play at one of the base events or at some of the base-sponsored service facilities, but as of now, nothing has been negotiated—hint, hint.”
Brown and Lee Nelson, acoustic guitarist and childhood friend, are working on their second CD. Their roots go back to the funk era, which is the preferred genre of the duo.
“I consider myself a funkster, but can do rock, soft rock, country, or Top 40’s,” said Brown. “Music has changed since I first began. Nowadays, all you get is a DJ with turntables that put out beats. I come from old school, so we use instruments, which give our product heart.”
Brown is careful not criticize today’s artist, because eventually, he will have to merge with them if he is to compete in today’s music industry. From his perspective, strings and horns trump synthesizers on all occasions. “I will have to adapt to today’s way of presenting music, without losing any of my personal funk,” said Brown.
Working at the recreation center allows Brown to meet with members from all walks of life, with a unique tie, that is March Field. He provides a much-appreciated service to March members and on occasions, it is paid forward.
“ I am a social type of guy, so I am always talking to our customers and sometimes, have lucked up and met a fellow musicians stationed here at March,” said Brown. “I remember an instance where I was helping a customer assigned to the 452d Maintenance Squadron, arrange rented items in his car and the topic of spare time came up. I told him I was a musician in my off time and I play the local circuit. He immediately replied that he also played and if interested, could meet up at lunch times to jam-out — a bond was formed and a possible future collaboration was in the making.” Brown also mentioned meeting a U.S. Marine, stationed at Camp Pendleton, who is a well-known DJ throughout the Oceanside community. They exchanged contacts and spoke of future possibilities and all of this, while getting his table and chairs, he said.
Brown left this advice for up and coming performers in the March community:
“You have to first have a dream and when you get it, lock onto it and never let it go. For those with other commitments, such as military commitment, try to find balance; it may be difficult and may not always flow, but seize the opportunities when they come. The reserve commitment is only a weekend per month and two weeks a year — just make sure you plan ahead!”
Brown and Lee are now touring with an up and coming star, Autumn Carter.