ON TOPIC WITH: Michael Bailey, Musician and bagpipin' rock starFeb 15, 2023 04:27PM ● By Stephen Klein
Longtime Tallahassee resident Michael Bailey plays the bagpipes with Celtic rock band Krooked Kilts, who will perform at Tallahassee’s upcoming highland games.
A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Bailey is also a motorcycle and dirt bike enthusiast, martial artist, scuba diver (including cave diving), and collector.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your interests?
“I was born in Atlanta, and at about nine months old, my brother, sister and I were put in an orphanage, and my grandfather adopted my brother and I and brought us to Tallahassee, right where I’m living today, in 1957. I was a little over a year and a half old, and that’s where I was raised. I was always interested in the sciences. I have collected things over the years, and it turned into a collection of my childhood memories. I think I’ve got everything I’ve had since I was a kid, everything from Spiderman comic books to musical instruments. I’ve done a lot of physical stuff as well. I have six motorcycles. That’s in my blood. I did motocross racing. I was in martial arts. I started out in boxing. My grandfather was a well-known boxer in the Southeast, and he taught me to box. Then I switched over to Taekwondo early in my teens, and I did that for about 39 years. I worked for the State of Florida for about 35 years. I’ve done scuba diving, all the way to cavern certification. I’ve done a lot of cave diving; it’s like hovering over Mars. Music is the main thing I do now, and mainly Scottish bagpipes. I have a lot of interests. I always call it ‘grabbing life’”
Do you have a Scottish background?
“I do. I didn’t know I did. I found this out when my sister took my DNA and tested it. I am Scottish, English, and Scandinavian. I am a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, the first king of Scotland. The funny thing is that I am also, from a great grandfather, related to King Edward I, Edward the Longshanks [Robert the Bruce fought the English under Edward I during the First War of Scottish Independence in the early 1300s.]. It’s very strange. I also found out that I have a lot of Scandinavian, from the vikings raiding the area.”
Can you tell us about your background as a musician and your influences?
“I got my first guitar for Christmas, and I have it to this day. I played blues and rock guitar since I was 11. My number one band was the Beatles because they’re what started it all. I was into the [Rolling] Stones. I was into Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin. During the 1980s I played bluegrass banjo. In the early ‘90s I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughn, and I quit listening to the mainstream. I studied him, like a lot of people did. One now that I’m just going crazy about is Dolores O’Riordan, who sang for the Cranberries before she passed on. I just got floored by her voice.”
How did you get started playing the bagpipes?
“I backed into playing the bagpipes. There was a band called “Off Kilter,” with Jamie Holton [an earlier Celtic rock band with Holton on bagpipes] and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m hooked. I need to get together a garage band. I need to learn to play the bagpipes.’ I tried to teach myself the practice chanter [the chanter is the part of the bagpipes used to create the melody. It has holes for fingering notes, like a recorder.] I wasted two years. Then I saw the Tallahassee Pipe Band practice. I called the pipe major up the next Monday. In three years I was the pipe sergeant in the band. I started teaching people to play privately. Now I’m the pipe major.”
Tell us a little about Krooked Kilts.
“We started as “Scots on the Rock.” I met Paulo Gallo, our lead singer, around 14 years ago. We were in a cow pasture in Gilchrist County meeting for my cousin’s wedding, and I was their piper. He played acoustic guitar for the beginning, when people were coming in, and I played bagpipes at a certain point. I told him I was into Celtic rock, and I’m working on a band. Paulo said he was moving to Tallahassee, and we agreed to contact each other. His brother Julio ended up joining as our bass player. There was some drama with our original lineup, and we all ended up leaving to form Krooked Kilts. Currently, our lineup is Paulo Gallo on lead vocals, Julio Gallo on bass guitar and vocals, Ryan Henry on lead guitar, Bruce McCullough, and myself on bagpipes.”
Besides Krooked Kilts, are there any other musical projects you’re working on?
“I’m doing some things with a blues band. It’s fun playing, and I’m getting some good feedback. I’m trying to get into doing harmonies with the band. I’m also working on a project with my wife, with her on percussion.”
How do you feel about the upcoming Highland Games in Tallahassee?
“I’m excited! It’s a new thing for them. They’re going to be doing a lot of other things that you don’t normally do in highland games. They’re going to have a beard competition! It’s a beautiful sight out there. The layout is gorgeous.”
The Tallahassee Highland Games are scheduled for Saturday, February 11 and Sunday, February, 12 and will take place at Apalachee Regional Park, located at 7550 Apalachee Parkway.
Michael Bailey will perform there with both the Tallahassee Pipe Band and Krooked Kilts on both days of the event.
More information for the event can be found online at tallyhighlandgames.com