Michael Lee Firkins was born in Omaha, Neb., in 1967. His father was a lap steel guitarist and his mother was a pianist; Firkins took up guitar at age 8 and absorbed the music of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Sabbath.
He played in local bands and did church gigs through age 18, and started touring the country in cover bands in 1985. When the cover band circuit wore thin, Firkins returned to Omaha and taught guitar while expanding his own musical horizons, listening to Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Albert Lee, Danny Gatton and others. A five-song demo sent to Guitar Player magazine columnist Mike Varney resulted in Firkins immediately signing with Varney’s Shrapnel records label.
Firkins’ eponymous debut album was released in 1990 and served as a showcase for his dexterous rock sound, combined with elements of country, blues and jazz. The record sold more than 100,000 copies and earned Firkins a slew of prestigious accolades, including a “best new talent” nod from a readers’ poll in Guitar magazine, which simultaneously hailed him as “one of the most influential guitarists of the next ten years.” Guitar Player’s own readers’ poll at the time gave Firkins the “best new talent” runner-up spot.
Firkins recorded three more albums for Shrapnel; The Howling Iguanas (1994), Chapter Eleven (1995) and Cactus Cruz (1996). Subsequent albums include Decomposition (1999), Black Light Sonatas (2007) and Since 1967 (2008).