Flint’s longtime-running DJ 'Michael A' announces retirement

FLINT, Michigan — Flint’s longtime-running DJ Michael Absher, a.k.a. ‘Michael A,’ has announced his retirement from DJing. Absher, 56, has been a constant in the Flint broadcast and live music scenes for the past 35+ years.

The Flint native can’t remember a time when he wasn’t spinning records. “My parents passed their vinyl 45s on to me when I was very young,” he says, “mostly Beatles and Elvis records.” The self-described 'Beatles freak' says seeing the sitcom TV show, WKRP in Cincinnati, sparked his interest in the broadcast industry.

“It was the first time I really realized how those voices on the radio played the music,” said Absher. “Plus, the DJs were the most interesting people on the show. Who wouldn’t want to be as weird and cool as Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap?”

In the early 80s, Absher’s cousin John started a mobile DJ service, and when Absher got older, he worked with him briefly. Although he doesn’t consider himself a ‘professional,’ since he only took one radio broadcasting class at Mott Community College, if you frequented bars or downtown clubs, you probably heard and saw Absher in his element. 

“I was a regular at an alternative music night at a downtown club called the Hot Rock,” he says. “I used to show up with a bag of records and beg the DJ to play them. I’d be there right when the place opened. I was obsessed with music by this point.

A close-up shot of Michael A's turntable and headphones. (Photo credit: Jennifer Fields-Summer) Eventually, the DJ (Bill White, a.k.a. DJ Bill the Cat) got tired of me bugging him, and did something pretty generous. He said, ‘tell you what. Why don’t you play ‘em?’”

DJ Bill the Cat took Absher under his wing, taught him how to work the gear, and just like that, in 1986, he became an ‘opening act,’ playing The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Bauhaus. A few years later, in 1992, Absher became the first DJ at The Back Room, which then became Kelly’s Pub, and is now known as The Loft.

“Loft owner Rodney Ott was kind enough to keep me on my signature night, Groovy Tuesday, for over 20 years,” Absher says. “My joke has been that I came with the building.”

In the early 90s, Absher got a board operator job at WFBE-FM, a local public radio station owned by the Flint Board of Education. After working there for 10 years, the station was sold in 1997. 
Michael pictured with his dad in 1979.
Currently, you can hear Absher’s voice on Mixcloud, spinning live sets from 8 to 11 p.m. EST.

Although the DJ veteran admits he’s not as dialed into the Flint music scene as he used to be, he still tries to feature a variety of local music on his live stream. “Following the example of John Peel (BBC) on my WFBE show, I did my best to give opportunities to up-and-coming local bands to get in our studio and record sessions or play live,” he says.

“Frequently for some of those bands, it was the first proper recording they had. I partnered with bands downtown to put on shows at the Back Room, Metropolis, Churchills, and others.”

Some of his favorite memories included years of fun and crowd-watching at the Loft and Churchills. Spinning music, and getting people onto the dancefloor for the first time at the Hot Rock remains a fond moment. Other highlights include spinning Madonna records for a queer/LGBT crowd at Rio’s in the late ‘80s which opened up his eyes to a whole different world, and some of the best dancing he’s seen.

Due to severe psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis, Absher has made the tough decision to retire, as working in a bar is not viable any longer. He’s going to miss the people the most, and “watching their faces when the music hits them,” he says, “being accused of being psychic when I played just the right song at the right moment.”

Although the familiar face won’t be in downtown bars or clubs any longer, you can still tune in weekly online via Mixcloud. “I can never leave music behind completely,” Absher says. 

For more DJ Michael A, find and follow him on Facebook.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.