A new band recently formed in Key West. Glass Cats has been playing their experimental jam-based, funky soul-filled grooves around town for the past couple of months. The four-piece band consists of Myles Mancuso on guitar and vocals, Mark King on bass and vocals, Michael Wingate on keys and vocals, and Evan Valentine on drums and vocals.
Mancuso has been performing around Key West for several years. Originally from Westchester, New York, he started playing drums when he was 4. He picked up bass, guitar and keyboards around age 8. When Mancuso’s father introduced him to the film “The Last Waltz,” the iconic final concert for The Band, “I knew (even as a young boy) that being a musician was what I wanted to do with my life,” recalls Mancuso.
His first money-making gigs came at 13 in New York and he first visited the Keys as a young teen. Mancuso’s father, a drummer, had a friend Bob Jaeger, who played bass in Marathon.
At 19, he came to Key West, then tried Nashville and Atlanta, but eventually settled here permanently in 2019 to make music his career. He started playing with local artists Andy Westcott, Claire Finley and The Happy Dog.
Mancuso, who cites Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, Sonny Landreth and others as major influences, has been dazzling Key West music fans with his guitar ever since. But he had yet to find the perfect fit until now.
Enter Mark King, who was raised in Massachusetts and began playing bass at 12.
“I picked the bass because Mark Hoppus, the bassist for Blink-182, was the nice guy of the band,” King says. “I wanted to be like him.”
King played around Massachusetts with a band called Last Call when he was 17. A few years later, he was touring nationally as a bassist with a reggae band. Eventually, he met Wingate and Valentine, who played in separate bands around the same music scene.
Key West musician Joe Sambo invited King down to play. He came down to Key West about a year ago and started playing with Sambo and Turner Harrison, and eventually met Mancuso.
Mancuso and King wanted to put together a project, but they needed a few other musicians. King convinced Wingate and Valentine to join the band.
Wingate, from Rochester, New Hampshire began playing trumpet at age 4. He later learned guitar, harmonica, bass and keyboards.
“My parents encouraged all of us to experience as much art as possible,” Wingate fondly remembers. “They really pushed us to be involved in music, culture, art and sports.”
As a freshman in high school, Wingate would have lunch in the high school chorus room, where he taught himself to play piano. At 15, he began playing professionally with a group of school friends. Wingate spent three years as a theater major at University of Massachusetts before dropping out to pursue a career in theater and music.
“I grew tired of the politics of theater and decided to focus on music,” says Wingate. “You can definitely feel the theater background in my stage performance.”
Valentine was born in Sacramento, California. At 9, his family moved to Massachusetts, where there was a drum kit in the basement of their new home.
“I was always that kid that was banging on pot and pans and anything that made noise,” recalls Valentine. “So, I used the drum kit to my advantage and learned how to play.”
Valentine played in his high school marching and jazz bands. With high school friends, he formed the Good Trees River Band, which still exists today.
Valentine had met King and Wingate around 2016. When he visited Key West in May 2021, King asked him about joining Mancuso, Wingate and himself to form a band. After playing a gig on New Year’s Eve 2021 in Massachusetts, Valentine went home, packed and came south.
Glass Cats formed in January of this year. It is a remarkable thing to have four musicians, who have all had success in other projects, come together and mesh so well.
”In my entire life, I have never enjoyed making art as much as I do with Glass Cats,” says Wingate. “It’s truly something special.”
“This is the perfect storm of bands for us,” agrees King.
“It’s incredible to play with Glass Cats.” says Valentine. “We mesh so well. It was instant chemistry, so satisfying.”
“I truly believe Glass Cats was meant to be,” says Mancuso.
I have been fortunate to be involved in helping this exceptional band as a booking agent and promoter. Glass Cats is a fantastic band and so much fun. But do not take my word for it. Get out and see them for yourselves.
Glass Cats make their Green Parrot debut on Sunday, March 20 for the sound check set from 5:30 to 7 p.m. You can catch them this Thursday through Sunday nights at Hog’s Breath starting at 9 p.m. You can catch them every week at Hank’s Hair of the Dog on both Friday and Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. Follow Glass Cats on Facebook.