Forgotten Songs Bring New Life to Local Band
by Caitlin Switzer
Sep 17, 2010 | 2001 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MIDNIGHT MESA – (Left to right) Kurt Isgreen, Tom Chamberlain, Nick McMahill and Glenn Patterson. (Courtesy photo)
MIDNIGHT MESA – (Left to right) Kurt Isgreen, Tom Chamberlain, Nick McMahill and Glenn Patterson. (Courtesy photo)
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MONTROSE – It was the early 1970s, and Nick McMahill was living on the banks of the Crystal River in Redstone.

“I was 24 or 25, and so happy!” recalled McMahill, a professional musician for 30 years. “At the time I was writing for two or three bands in the Roaring Fork Valley, and I wrote a bunch of songs – about all kinds of things. About love, hippie stuff¬ ¬– you name it.”

A native of Grand Junction, McMahill eventually moved to Montrose, where he resides today. He became involved with the popular local band Midnight Mesa, a group of friends known for playing smooth, acoustic sets that earned them a loyal following around town.

Busy with music, family and a full life, today’s father (and grandfather) rarely looked back upon the tunes he penned all those years ago in Redstone.

Fate intervened, however, and the musician’s life changed forever.

“In 2006, I had a stroke,” he said. “It put an end to Midnight Mesa, and it almost put an end to me.”

As he struggled to recover, McMahill, now 63, received some CDs in the mail from an old friend—with the songs he had recorded during his Crystal River days.

“I didn’t even recognize them,” he said quietly.

After listening, however, McMahill approached his former Midnight Mesa band mates about recording the long-forgotten tunes.

“I like having a music project going,” he said, “and they said OK.”

“They are awesome songs,” said Midnight Mesa Percussionist Tom Chamberlain, who is recording the pieces with band members Glenn Patterson (guitar and vocals), Kurt Isgreen (guitar), Bob Becker (bass), Tony Kovacik (Dobro and vocals) and Howard Berkman (guitar).

The sessions are demanding, but rewarding, McMahill said.

“I am the writer and director,” he said. “They won’t even let me play a a tambourine! But I love just being with my friends, and making music.”

The original recordings were just McMahill and his guitar, Isgreen noted, so the band has been adding layers of sound. The new digital recordings will eventually be compiled on a CD, and possibly released to a grateful public. Although the band’s original lineup did not include Howard Berkman, a popular local musician in his own right and a friend of McMahill’s, Berkman’s playing has made the band even better, the members agree.

“We’re doing this for Nick,” Isgreen said.

“We just get together and play,” said Chamberlain, the baby of the band at 47. “It’s fun! And these guys are so good, they give me hope.”

“It still takes me seven minutes to get through a two-minute song,” McMahill said. “My goal is five minutes! But I am really, really lucky. These guys are my good friends, and they agreed to do this.”
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