Northern Michigan in Focus: Charlie Witthoeft

Sometimes you see or hear something and it changes the path in your life. It did for one Charlevoix man, but it gave him the blues.

Corey Adkins explains in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“Pure love and enjoyment. I just let the music take me over,” said Charlie Witthoeft, Crosscut Kings.

This story starts back in the early ‘90s when Charlie Witthoeft was taking guitar lessons, but it was another instrument that changed his life.

“The blues band was fronted by a guy named Fast Eddie. He played an amplified harmonic as well an acoustic harmonica, and I remember that moment, it was amazing the sound. And after he played a set and I went up on stage and said, ‘I need a lesson, I really want to learn the harmonica,’” explained Charlie.

Fast Eddie gave Charlie three lessons, then asked him to learn two songs, then join him onstage.

“I showed up to his gig and I’m like O.K., I’m ready, and he said ‘What did I tell you to learn?’ And he said we are not going to do those and we are going to do those instead. I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but he really put me on the spot and I was like I really need to listen and pay attention and I played a trill like this and my roommates and friends were there, and I will never forget my friends and roommates were there and everyone went nuts there,” remembered Charlie.

He’s been honing his skills ever since. 

“I can’t get enough of it, I love it!”

If you’re a blues fan in Northern Michigan, you’ve probably seen Charlie in one of his bands: Hipps ‘n’ Rico, Charlie’s Root Fusion, and who could forget Mojo and the Boogieman.

And something else unforgettable is Charlie’s passion for the music

His latest band is a duo with singer/guitar player Jim Bonney called Crosscut Kings.

“Jim is an amazing singer-song writer and we hit it off. He came over for a practice and we clicked on all cylinders and he said, ‘Do you want to join me for a whole set?’ and we have been playing all over Northern Michigan,” explained Charlie.

This weekend the Great Lakes Harmonica Retreat is happening at the Red Sky Stage in Petoskey.

You can learn from great harp players like Todd Parrot, Steve August, Ronnie Shellist and Grammy award winner Peter Madcat Ruth, but you also have a chance to learn from Northern Michigan’s very own Charlie “Hipps” Witthoeft and the Crosscut Kings.

“Just go out and support local music. Go out pick up a harmonica, it’s fun!” encouraged Charlie.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus