broken leg

Michael Radtke was born in Hackensack, New Jersey on July 28, 1951. After being slapped on his butt by the delivery doctor, he sang a rendition of Al Jolson's Mammy. Both of his parents played piano, although with five children, their opportunities to do so were few and far between. His mother's piano style favored Claude Debussy, while his father's tended towards boogie-woogie. Thus, Michael's ear developed as debussy-woosy.

For the preschool pageant, he was selected to play sand-blocks, a percussion instrument similar to an emery board on steroids. However, on the day of the pageant, he was promoted to conductor when the former maestro developed a case of chicken pox. With no previous rehearsal, Mike directed the preschool orchestra with a masterful baton. The Kindergarten Korner wrote: " if it weren't for naptime, he'd still be going..."

At the age of six, Michael started to play piano, teaching himself by a John Hammond's Primer from his older sister's piano lessons. Two years later, his parents were enticed by Tully Camerini to buy an accordion and enroll him for formal lessons. He quickly bypassed the small 24 bass/chord training model to the professional 120 button version. Forgoing Lady of Spain, his performing favorites were Claire De Lune and Wacky Polka. In 1962, he was awarded the Accordion Pin, given for his unblemished attendance record at the Camerini Studios. That same year, he also competed as part of an all accordian band against similar bands in the New Jersey region. This was his Renaisance of compositional parts.

Mike with 1950's Electric guitar

Michael's song-writing talent can be traced back to his mother. Often, while at breakfast, when the five kids were squabbling and being kids, his mother would institute the command, "Sing the Box". With that, the child was directed to make up a song using the words on the cereal box, milk bottle, or whatever else was on the table.

High School 1967

As the British Invasion in the early sixties transformed popular music, Mike grew disenchanted with the accordion. He began to play a Sears acoustic guitar, teaching himself chords. A while later, a neighbor who was sent to Vietnam, loaned him an electric guitar This captured his imagination and he began to write songs. (Previously his creativity had confined itself to piano etudes.) His first song was The Men of Thunder, the title taken from a book of the same name about race car drivers. It had one verse and one chorus; and the chorus consisted of the song title sung three times. He became a professional with his second song,Beverly, for which he received fifty cents from his brother Steve, Beverly's boy friend.

High school brought about further instrumentation as he joined the school band. Matching Michael's lips, jaw, and body-size to a wall chart, the music director gave him a baritone horn, the euphonium, to learn to play. During the ensuing years, he played this with the marching band as well as the orchestra. At his junior year's spring orchestral performance, the first baritone horn called in sick ( kindergarten de ja vu? ) and Mike switched from second to first for all performance numbers (soloing on Brigadoon).

Mike at the Radtke family upright

Rock music was not out of his venue during this time, however. Along with three other teens, Mike formed High Society, playing rhythm guitar. When the band actually started to get paying gigs, he was persuaded by the others to switch instruments and he bought a Farfisa DeLuxe, which he payed for by doing house painting. The band switched their name to the Magic Bullet. In 1967, they won the New Jersey Battle of the Bands (sponsored by Teaberry and Vox) and went on to compete in Atlantic City. Their set consisted of five original arrangements:Hold On I'm Comin' and Black is Black among them, (The competition was won by the California band).

College fostered the songwriting abilities in Michael. He performed weekly at coffeehouses on Montclair Univerity campus, playing original and comedic songs on the piano and guitar. It was here, he learned how to be an entertainer. Three songs from this period were Woman, Following You, and Since You Been Gone.

Also, during this period, he teamed up with several would-be combos playing covers, one featuring Dennis Dougherty, another, Tommy Jenkins. (At a gig, when introducing the band, Tommy stuttered over Mike's last name: "Rad-e-key -- ra-ti-key -- Ah, heck, Racky!" Thus was born his nickname.) While a post graduate, he met and began playing with the bassist Jeff Hays, and the two formed the nucleus of an original rock band. With the introduction of Rich Rheiner and Mike Dugan, Dugan's Boys was formed. A while later, these four, along with Spence Hiller, evolved into Mad Fables.

Mike at his 70's Wurlitzer
Mike in the Corsica sun

Mad Fables played for five years with these members. Leaving the group in 1978, Mike moved to California, leaving his musical instruments behind (but for his guitar). He rented a piano, moved to San Francisco, sold his guitar and drifted around the musical universe while practicing a career of computer programming (from which he earned yet more nick-names: mick and mracky). Dennis Alichwer, the former sound engineer of Mad Fables, and later of Fantasy Records, gave him an old Yamaha electric piano, from which Michael began to re-emerge himself into music.

In 2001, for his fiftieth birthday, he was given a Roland XP-80 synthesizer. The musical light bulb (in this case, an LED) switched on again as he attached the keyboard to a computer and began his next musical phase. Once again, he began to jam with friends. He published some of his original compositions on the net, the rock pieces under the name of Racky and the other under his full name. Several pieces have been number one in various genre charts in Austalia (mp2.com.au), Europe (vitaminic) and the U.S.(soundclick.com, dmusic.com).

A sudden change of winds in his life (retirement, divorce) stirred Mike's cauldron of musical ambitions. He started performing out in public again after a twenty-five year hiatus. He wrote a plethora of new songs, recorded two CD's, Bent Pinky and Growler, joined a band playing ethnic music of 1800 Southern Arizona, Los Gu'achi's, competed in songwriting competitions. And being a computer programmer, he also configured himself as his new performance personality, the Multiple Personality Quartet.

Racky continues to write seven days a week, takes time to drink beer with friends at night, and then works it off at the gym in the morning. And like they said so many years earlier, if it weren't for nap time, he'd still be going...

Mike on a hike at Mount Tam