A native of West Virginia, Mike “Lightnin'” Wells grew up in Goldsboro where he started playing music in local bands as a teenager. He has lived just of outside of Fountain, in rural Edgecombe County, for a decade, from where he travels to gigs across the U.S. and Europe.
Best known as a bluesman, Wells also performs from a variety of traditions and styles. Lightnin’s shows are always fun and always include songs that are new to him, which means they were originally recorded sometime in the early twentieth century.
He performs Piedmont and Delta blues, early vaudeville and hokum, country, early 20th century pop, gospel, and old-time songs. He was recently featured at the Mill Towns and the Birth of American Music Conference sponsored by the Blue Ridge Music Center, and his busy summer schedule included teaching and performing residencies at the Roots of American Music Week at Mars Hill; Blues and Swing Week at Elkins, WV, and the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival at Port Townsend, WA.
Wells plays at Fountain twice a year, shows he enjoys not just for the crowds and the old brick-and-wood building’s acoustic resonance. “This is one of the few places where he can bring nearly all of his instruments,” said Albright, “and he’s an excellent performer on them all.” A typical Wells performance will find him playing acoustic and resonator guitars, three kinds of ukuleles, banjo, mandolin, and harmonica.
Wells shows are really variety shows: expect a full evening’s entertainment.
Lightnin’ Wells has released seven CDs of original productions of vintage songs, including his most recent, “O Lightnin’ Where Art Thou?” which was recorded on the German label Blind Lemon Records.