'Gypsy's Lament' Makes Minstrel Happy
by Lee Miller Sunday Magazine

Lights go down, the show begins another night, Minstrel can you set us free tonight ...

Those words seem to aptly describe musician Michael DeGreve as he prepares to play yet an¬other night in the Hitching Post Inn Lobby; where he has performed for the past seven years on a two-week contract.

But more importantly these words may launch the musician to the fulfil¬lment of the dreams he has carried with him since 1968. The verse above is from a song written by Michael called "Gypsy's Lament" which he recently cut as a demo with recording star Graham Nash.

Mike said he went to see Nash, his friend of many years, at the singer's home in the Hawaiian Is¬lands. At a get-together of some other of Nash's friends, most of them mu¬sicians of one sort or another, Michael played his song for them during the course of the day. Nash, who was in the kitchen at the time, heard the song and liked it.

"Nash came in and said, 'What do you want to do to¬morrow, Michael, play golf or go cut your tune?' "
Given these options, golf didn't make it to the agenda the next day. Michael recorded the song, with Nash doing the back-up and harmony parts.

The day before my interview with Michael, he had just finalized a' loan for $15,000 to buy recording equipment to set up a studio at his house on his 40-acre "ranch." Don Gooch, the chief engineer for Crosby, Stills and Nash, will be flying out to help him set it up and teach him how to use it.

During the rest of the summer, Michael plans to record the songs he has written, trying to get enough material for an album.

After his part is done, DeGreve will send his recordings to Nash in Hawaii, who will add harmony. From there he hopes to be able to sell it to a record company and get into recording the record for real.

Michael admits he may not have enough "strong material" for this album he has planned, and says he hopes to write some better material this summer. "I think my best songs are ahead of me," Michael said.

The excitement of cutting the demo with Nash appears to have finally ignited a fire under Michael, who has been telling his listeners in the lobby for almost two years now that he has been working on an album.

"I'm a serious procrastiator. That's probably my most serious fault," he said.
But in high school Michael had no plans to be¬come a musician. He was one of the top basketball players in California with over 100 scholarship offers from around the country.

"I was a good student, but my main focus was basketball," the 6-foot 4 inch De Greve said.

He said he picked up the guitar for the first time his last semester in high school, for something to do while he was flying around the country looking at schools to play ball for.

He never made it to play basketball in the NCAA. An auto accident in 1966 which hurt his spine ended those plans abruptly. The clouded look which entered his normally far away looking eyes told more about the pain he still felt than words could.

Later, he went to work for the Los Angeles Times where he did some reviews of rock groups. His hitch lasted about '2 years when on June 1, 1968, he left the Times to join a band called "The Lid."

"I picked up the paper one day and saw an ad that said, 'Wanted: Someone to sit around, play music and flirt.' I said, 'I can do that,' " Michael joked.

"I really wanted to play, I had to go for it. I wanted to make my living making music," the blond-haired giant said. "It was my second choice to playing in the NBA."

Michael said he was strongly influenced by the 60s era. After he left the Times he did a "complete turn-around." It was then he started grow his hair out, became a vegetarian and started yoga. He said the whole world was' different then.

"Music was so political. It was a crazy world then, with Vietnam on TV every night and everything."

Like an entire generation, Michael was a Beatles fan, and their music influenced both his life and his music, he said.

"The Beatles changed a generation of kids," he noted.

In the early 1970s he was involved in recording two records with the likes of Daryl Dragon, the "Captain" of "Captain and Tenille"; Don Preston, currently of Frank Zappa's band; and Mickey Stevenson, a former Motown vice president.

He spent four years playing with a band by the name of “Home Grown," which he said contained "three of my best friends." If he gets the op¬portunity to tour, Michael said he wants to get the band back together.

Music wasn't the only entertainment fi.eld Mi¬chael ventured into. In 1973 he appeared on the television show "Ozzie's Girls" as the minister who married the famous tele¬vision couple, Ozzie and
Harriet. He appeared in "an Errol Flynn pirate outfit" with his ex-wife - (who is now married to Graham Nash). Who played one of two college students living with the Nelsons?

The week after Frontier Days in 1977, Michael came to Cheyenne on a two-week contract to play at the Hitch. It's been almost seven years on that contract now.

Michael said he'd never. thought about living in a small town. The smallest city he'd ever lived in was Milwaukee, but he said he really likes Cheyenne, calling it a "magical place" and noting he en¬joys the "comfortableness" here.

"I love Cheyenne; the weather is cold but the people are warm," Michael said. "It's home now. I don't consider L.A. home anymore.

"My friends in L.A. think I'm totally out of my mind. They don't know what I'm doing here," he added.
Michael seems to have laid some roots here, having bought a 4o-acre tract north of town and built a house on it "with a stereo in every room."

He's made his impact on the community as well. He plays basketball in a city league and at the health club. And he has brought his music to whoever in the community asked him to play. He's performed for various Cheyenne public schools, Cheyenne rest homes, the Montessori schools, the Head-Start Christmas party and has lectured at Career Days at St. Mary's School.

"It makes me feel part of the community," he explained.
The musician said one of the best experiences playing in the community was the time he had some 30 three-and-four-year olds singing "Puff the Magic Dragon" with him.

Cheyenne isn't the hub of the music industry, and Mike admits his detour to the city was longer than he originally planned, but he said that his house in the country was the perfect setup for a writer. The only problem he has is after five shows a week saving enough energy to be creative.

"It's hard to save enough voice and energy to write," he said.

Michael said he especially admires singer-songwriters, with Joni Mitchell being his favorite writer ..
"I admire writers with something to say," he said, citing one of Nash's song about whales as a good example.
Other performers he admires besides the Beatles include: Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, Crosby, Stills and Nash (of course) and many others.

He said nothing could quite compare to the meaning in the 60s music, though, with groups like the Moody Blues or the works of Bob Dylan, which he calls "Spiritua V'

He said he got interested in music with hard rock and roll, but he's become more acoustically inclined, as his song "Gypsy's Lament" bears out.

Michael said he probably wouldn't change much of his life up to this point.
"I'm not getting rich and famous, but I'm having a ball."

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