By Bill Thomas
Veteran Broadcaster-Telecaster moves to solo entertainment
In 1966, Mike Chamberlin, then 18 years old, moved to San Clemente with his parents to enjoy a first sunny summer of surfing and music. When he entered San Clemente High School, the Rolling Stones were at the top of the hit parade and war was raging in Asia. And, among his new acquaintances, he met Fred Swegles, now a veteran reporter for the City’s Sun Post newspaper. They also played together in a popular local band, and Fred taught Mike how to play the guitar. In addition, Mike later married Fred’s sister, Barbara. While in high school, Mike played tennis captaining the team. He dropped out of college to pursue a career as a rock and roll musician. Seeking record contracts and fans, he instead received a brown envelope in his mailbox, which read – “Dear Mr. Chamberlin, you have been drafted into the U.S. Army.” That letter introduced Mike into a tour of duty in Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division.
Upon his return to the States, still hopeful for a career in music, he enrolled in a Hollywood broadcasting school preparing him for his 40-year career in media. He was a broadcaster or Telecaster in Monterey, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles before landing in Arizona where he primarily served as a microphone man for sports, including 10 years with ESPN as a water sports analyst. He queried himself: “Who would have thought my years of surfing San Clemente beaches would eventually pay off by traveling the world reporting on body surfing, windsurfing, board surfing, and jet skiing?” Besides water sports, he also covered numerous National Basketball tournaments, the World Series, countless Super Bowls, and other popular sporting events. He gained an enormous audience throughout Arizona, having become a popular broad and Telecaster. However, music was still a hobby and he played with a trio which entertained all over the state. Mike recalled: “ My claim to fame is that I got into the business when they needed broadcasters and got out when they didn’t.”
Retiring to his beloved San Clemente had always been a family plan with wife Barbara also having been raised and schooled here. “San Clemente was the only coastal California city that never sold out, We adored the place,” Mike recalled. Besides, in 2008, he had traded a broadcast microphone for a music microphone and began his renewed career by booking musical rock and roll and popular tune performances honoring veterans throughout Southern California. He primarily performed in senior centers, favoring love songs from World War Two. “The only way I could honor these heroes was through music. Some of the most beautiful songs of all time came out of the early 1940’s and the country’s calls to arms,” Mike declared.
Perhaps his most memorable show was in October 2016, when he performed at a WWII reunion aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. “There must have been close to a thousand people gathered in the ship’s main ballroom to honor WW vets,” Mike lamented. “As I looked over the crowd, I saw a lot of hand-holding and a lot tears. I think I hit a special place in their hearts that night.” In commemorating Pearl Harbor, Mike has created a compact disc of 1940 love songs. A beneficiary is the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). He has also prepared another cd entitled “Music from the Movies – Oscar Winning Songs,” which has also proven very popular. With the success of the recent movie “La La Land,” the continuous movie theater showings of such musically-inclined films as “Beauty and the Beast” as well as other “oldies,” and Mike’s intermingling of his singing with stories about the singers or the film’s subject; his personal interaction with audience members is rare and appealing. After performing at Hollywood’s Motion Picture Retirement Home last year, he was immediately signed up for four more performances. Since re-entering his musical entertainment career, Mike has performed over 2,500 musicals, primarily for Senior Citizen Retirement Centers, veteran groups, and mobile park homes. Last year alone, he headlined over 300 shows.
Mike reported, “At the end of the day, I’m on my deck in San Clemente, staring at Catalina with my guitar in hand, forever working on a new song I can weave into the next show. I’m blessed to have lived my teenage years and my retirement years here.” He then added, “See you at Fisherman’s.”
Mike Chamberlain can be contacted at SingingTVGuy.com