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Warm Weather Cruise

Skipper Michael Drake sets sail

May. 21, 2008
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  Long as anyone remembers, the Iroquois made its way along the MilwaukeeRiver every summer, saluted by raised drawbridges on its way to the harbor. The pleasure boat Iroquois has carried generations of sightseers onto the water during the warm months. What better entertainment for the Iroquois’ first cruise of the season than a shipboard show by the No Tan Lines Band, purveying what bandleader Michael Drake calls “island music.”

  Drake, a trumpet player, is no slouch on his instrument. The onetime spokesman for Getzen trumpets became known as early as the ’70s for his proficiency in a variety of Latin and fusion settings. Since then, he’s become a prolific recording artist and songwriter, releasing no less than eight CDs. He has also cultivated an easy shtick as an entertainer, a trouper determined to raise a smile from audiences that raise their plastic cups of beer in return. Drake has become an outdoor festival and private summer party monster, his sunny disposition as warm as the season’s weather.

  Drake’s island music is a splash of Jamaica, a jigger of Trinidad, a pinch of Brazil with a slice of Cuba shaken and stirred. He serves it along with hula-hoop and sing-along contests to maintain the party ambience. “I love those rhythms, so wild and varied,” he says of the music. “I combine all these influences. I’ll go with happy, upbeat music from anywhere the weather is warm.”

  Until recently, Drake spent the winter months working the resorts of the Caribbean from Cancun through the Florida Keys. “It was a great time but it got a little old. I wanted to be back here and be with my family. But I’m the island guy in town. It makes sense to book me on a boat tour,” he says.

  Along with the don’t worry, be happy sound of the No Tan Lines Band, Drake plays straight jazz on other occasions, conducts music clinics and workshops and is developing an exercise DVD to the beat of his music. He’s even begun writing children’s books in cleverly wrought verse. “Creativity—the destination is always around the corner. I’m always hungry for something else,” he says.

  The No Tan Lines Band performs 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday, May 24, on the Iroquois. Tickets are $22. For more information, call (414) 294-9450 or info@mkeboat.com.


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