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He’s Mystro, with just to be different, and don’t bother asking for another name.
“You don’t understand that,” he said firmly. “I had a sound company and did a lot of outdoor festivals and people knew me as Mystro. I actually got checks. [made out to Mystro] of the city of Cleveland. I had a hard time getting them through. “
Since 2001 he has worked his magic behind the soundboard at the Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack in Little Rock, controlling the sound while the bands perform on stage. From rock and funk to rap and country and blues to folk and beyond, from garage punks and local heroes to international legends, Mystro has seen them all.
He shows musicians where to park their vans or buses, helps them charge, oversees the scales, shapes the way their music goes through the club’s speakers during their sets, turns on the stage lights, and then helps them out. charge at the end of the evening.
“I’m probably the only real building engineer in the state,” he says.
“Mystro is always ahead,” says Chris King who, along with his wife Suzon, owns Stickyz and Rev Room, which is a few blocks west on President Clinton Avenue. “It is here from [before bands arrive] and then he watches them walk away. “
About four years ago, Mystro started having health problems. He’s on dialysis now, and there are other ailments.
“I almost died several times,” he says.
On a recent weekend, Tragikly White, Bad Habit and deFrance, featuring Texas blues guitarist Wes Jeans, took to the stage at Rev Room for the Mystro Show, a fundraiser to help offset the costs of care. longtime sound man and fixture of the Little Rock music scene. .
Sam Bennett is the 18-year-old drummer for Bad Habit.
“We’re a pretty young group and we’ve been playing Stickyz for four or five years now,” Bennett said. “I think Mystro was sort of intrigued by us when we first started playing there. He can be a tough crowd if you will, so if he likes you that’s a really good thing. anything he can to help you. “
In the spirit of helping, Sam’s brother, Bad Habit singer-guitarist Jack Bennett, came up with the idea for the Mystro Show.
“We just wanted to have a rock ‘n’ roll night where people can hear three great bands and all the proceeds go to help Mystro,” said Sam Bennett.
“We’re really good friends. I have so much respect for this guy,” says deFrance guitarist, singer and namesake Drew deFrance. “He’s directing the sound for Aretha Franklin… he’s absolutely legendary.”
It’s a Friday afternoon in late October, and Stickyz is nearly empty as Mystro sits at a table with King. In a few hours, he’ll help country singer Bri Bagwell prepare for her show. Right now he’s talking about his life in music.
Originally from Ohio, Mystro was a drummer, working in session at a Beachwood, Ohio studio called Recording Connection, where some of the clients included the Dazz Band and Gladys Knight and the Pips. There are also courses in studio production and engineering.
“They were called Midnight Connection because classes started at midnight,” he says. “It worked for me because I was doing concerts, whether it was working on the sound or playing the drums.”
He had his own 14-piece band – “I love horns,” he smiles – for about 15 years and also spent time on the road with the O’Jays and the Ohio Players. However, he still loves the drums.
“If my health wasn’t bad I would still play the drums,” he says. “I was a hard-hitting drummer.”
For a while, he ran The Mad Hatter, a nightclub in Akron, Ohio. He had a sound company with locations in Cleveland and Akron, worked as a DJ and managed bands including a heavy metal band called Shadow Play and Cleveland R&B band The Rude Boys, which were signed to Atlantic Records from 1989 to 1993.
The Rude Boys were on tour when Mystro left for Little Rock to work under contract as a sound engineer at Smitty’s.
DISEMBARK IN STICKYZ
Stickyz opened in 2000 and needed a man of sound in late 2001. Mystro recalls dipping into Midtown Billiards to buy a burger one night and talking to Stickyz bartender, Jon Butcher.
“He said, ‘Dude, we’ve been looking everywhere for you’,” recalls Mystro.
“Mystro and I had a reunion around November 1, 2001,” King said, realizing in the late October interview that a birthday was on the horizon. “It will literally be 20 years old next week. Apart from his health [issues] he’s been to every show. His record is impeccable. I can’t tell you how many of our touring artists have expressed an interest in taking it on the road with them. “
DeFrance has a story about Mystro’s reputation.
“I was doing a gig in Gateshead, England. I was playing with Steve Earle and the Dukes band and Brandi Carlile was there too. I knew these guys in Austin. I was talking to them – the members of the Dukes and The Brandi Carlile band – – and they were like, “Oh, yeah, Little Rock, that’s it. How’s Mystro? “It happens everywhere. Everyone who’s ever played Stickyz, Mystro has made them sound at some point in their careers.”
As mentioned by Sam Bennett, Mystro runs a tight ship. It tells the story of a musician from Fayetteville who complained about the way Mystro spoke to him before a concert. The musician’s wife let him know that Mystro was just telling him what he needed to hear.
Mystro will not accept half measures when it comes to performance.
“It’s a business,” says Mystro. “People pay dearly to come here.”
Illnesses sent him back to hospital in September and forced him to miss shows.
“I am a fighter,” he says. “I said, ‘This is not happening’. I tell you, lying in this hospital bed, I felt very bad. Lying down in bed will kill you. I have nurses to help me walk down the hall.
He now keeps an oxygen tank near his sound booth, even though he hasn’t had to use it yet, and has a larger tank at home.
“I feel good,” he says of his health. “I’m just a little short of breath.”
How long does he expect to continue working?
“As long as I can stand up and my health allows me to function,” he says. “I’m not going to stop. That’s when you fall.”