By Dawn George
There was a heavy rainfall the morning Beans and I met to work on an article that began with an interview we had the Fourth of July weekend. We couldn’t meet at Mary Scholl’s Garden in the rain, so we talked at my kitchen table. No Matter how long its been, Michael Gardner- better known as Beans, is always good for a song, a story and a good time had by all! This year Beans returned during the 4th of July holiday even blowing his Conch atop the Beanmobile in the parade.
He remembers everyone from way back when in the 70’s, and the music of the sixties - when we thought we could save the world with music! He always has something new you’ve never heard before as well as old favorites. I wondered about calling this piece “Music, Friends and the meaning of life according to Beans” or asking his top five most important things in life. But it came down to what’s really on his mind on a daily basis while he’s gigging, traveling and just getting on with life.
It’s a trip living the life of a traveling musician—But that’s not all folks, let’s hear it from the man. What’s most important to Beans? Can music change the world, probably not but it’s a start- it opens doors to awareness and then change can happen…For him, once that change did happen, he followed his calling
Back in 2008, when he was recognized by the International Rotarians organization for humanitarian work, he received the Paul Harris Fellowship award. It goes to international humanitarian efforts to those who reach outside the box, go out in the field- and get their hands dirty, to do something for those less fortunate. At that time, he realized he did have the power to change lives through music and involvement in humanitarian efforts in Haiti.
As a campsite cowboy, Beans was a small space entertainer and cut his “musical teeth” around the campfires at the St. James campground right here on Beaver Island in the 70’s. Early on he knew music and words have the power to change things “but people have to have an open spirit to receive it and then do their part- take action.” When the great wars had ended all these hippies came along and said war doesn’t solve our problems- and money became more important than life to many…
To Beans, the meaning of success has nothing to do with money (it helps, sure) but as we know it’s really family, love and friends.
Everyone is out there working, but when the working hustle gets in the way of spiritual development that’s where music comes in because people need a break, to dance, have fun and not think. From very early on, watching his parents and relatives play in a family “jug band”, wanting to play music was very important Beans, because “whatever we have been designed to come here and do, music just makes it better. “
Michael, who in his leisure time canoes and fishes the streams of our great state, is an avid trout fisherman- an outdoorsman to the Bone! He takes semi-annual trips to the U.P. as well as being a diver, treasure hunter, and boat owner. During the winter months he lives aboard his boat, playing the resort at Leverick Bay in the British Virgin Islands.
Back in 1972 Rocky DeVogel his cousin brought him to the Island and when he walked into the Beachcomber he heard Ed Palmer, playing the piano and harmonica simultaneously! He wanted IN.
He was extremely inspired by Ed Palmer and the Danny’s.
Between Ed and the Danny’s, they kept the old songs alive. When he was living out camping with a backpack and guitar, he decided it was the life he wanted. People said you can’t do that. But if you’re ready for change it will happen. Most people he knew were falling into the money trap, but he thought, what do you really need? “Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.” Luke 12:27. If you want a way into people’s hearts, stay with the arts, if you stay with it and realize you’ll never please everybody, you can create from whatever your talent is. If you hold on to your dream, and you’re true to it, it will happen.
When he was playing in the British Virgin Islands for years, he didn’t think anyone was paying attention, until he received the earlier mentioned Paul Harris Fellowship award- related to the school he founded there. Being on tour was not what he really wanted; he wanted the soul food of entertaining- which is giving back. This brings us to the work of writing his book “Hidden Treasure” which he couldn’t finish because he was “called”. Most memorable of all was when he recently arrived at the school - hearing singing as the children made an arch to welcome him each child pinned, wearing their uniforms. They sang a song and read a letter thanking him for the opportunity to get an education.
It was then he realized he had found his treasure, and it wasn’t on the reefs, as he had anticipated, but instead in the hearts of the people around it.
He Co-founded the school with a young Haitian man- Jean Felix Joseph, whose dream was to bring education to children not sponsored by a church group. Islanders called it the miracle school.
It’s there because he feels he talked to the universe and when it answered he was ready. “Nothing happens just sitting and thinking about it, you have to get out and make it happen- the universe is listening…” It’s amazing to think, all the stuff, changes lived through, the school, the long path to now started at the Township campground all those years ago.
It will be included in his book to be released hopefully by Christmas. He’s been saying this for 47 years- But according to Beans what with ADHD and dyslexia we’ll see.
Talking about the power to change things! One night at a show when some folks were holding letters up that spelled MAGIC, it occurred to him that the power to change lives is also MAGIC= Michael A. Gardener in Concert. (tongue in cheek, of course!) People love to be entertained and participation is golden.
His new album titled “The Calling” is a country rock solo album, making the song “Full Circle” a reality. “Here we are again my friend the circle is complete, it’s as though we never parted every time we meet, somewhere in the good old days this song will begin, changing with the seasons it never has an end…”
It started in Grand Haven Michigan and has come full circle sine the new album will be on vinyl. Vinyl is where he started moving on to 8track, cassette, to CD and now back to vinyl. And looking at the world from this perspective Beans said: “Everyone is looking for treasure, but they seem to look outside themselves when the greatest treasure is within.” Materialism, not so much. Well, Beans will be busy with his boat (there's always something to do or fix!)
He is a firm believer in following your desire to go somewhere because if you go,
something is waiting for you there, and spontaneity is precious. Music is his life and making people happy is where it’s at.
If you’d like to help Beans change the world, please go to:
and see what they're doing to help the under-privileged children of Haiti get an education. Photos on this page by Cynthia Hector Johnson