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Norrie Cox Remembers Mike Carrell
By Norrie Cox

born November 1, 1931 in Anson, Wisconsin
died April 20, 2004 in New Orleans, Louisiana

I first met and played with Mike Carrell some 25 years ago when he filled in for the regular Riverboat Ramblers banjoist and have played with him many times since. I didn’t know him as a close friend but as a musical colleague, where he was tops. Reliable, affable and and a talented musician who was able to fit into any traditional jazz group. I knew him best as a solid ensemble player in my New Orleans Stompers but in different circumstances he became an entertaining banjo and guitar soloist and was able to add his vocal talents to the general joie de vivre!

Mike was born in Jim Falls, Wisconsin, studied piano as a youngster and at age fourteen switched to guitar. His interest in jazz developed from listening to late night radio and on moving to Madison in 1955 he began playing banjo and was with the Royal Jazzmen for several years before forming the Brass Bell Jazz Band which he led, upto it’s demise, for twelve years. He has since that time been in constant demand as a substitute in traditional jazz bands all over the Midwest. In 1990 he became the regular banjoist with the Stompers and around the same time he helped Brad Pregeant form the group that has been at the Crown Plaza in Madison every Friday night for thirteen years.

He told me, and more than once at that, that one of his fondest musical memories was of sharing the stage with “Kid” Thomas Valentine and Louis Nelson and in recent times he has made a yearly trip to New Orleans during the French Quarter Jazz Festival and this year was no exception. He had been fighting cancer for at least a couple of years but had been well enough to play the regular Friday night gig and his doctor gave him the OK to make the trip. I talked to him just before he left and he said he felt fine and was “eating like a horse.” He played every day while in the Crescent City and on his last day there, April 20th, had a cerebral attack, lapsed into a coma and died a few hours later. Luckily he can still be heard on several recordings including three, with the Stompers, on the Delmark label.

Mike was in his seventy second year and our sympathies go out to his wife Loretta, herself a cancer survivor of some ten years, and their six children and to all the band leaders who will no longer be able to benefit from his considerable talents. Goodbye Mike and, as I am wont to say, “We’ll all be the same in a hundred years!”

Norrie Cox - April 30, 2004

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