The Hen House Band rules a longtime area live music roost.
The blues-rock quartet of Tony Shutters (guitar, harmonica and vocals), Rob Nollin (bass, vocals), Doug Wilhelm (guitar, vocals) and Mike Hennig (drums, vocals) performs every Tuesday from 6-9pm at Griffin Hines Farm, a legendary blues live music venue in Swanton.
“We’re just there to entertain and have fun. We don’t invite people to come see us; we invite them to the party. We love the people who come out, and we like to meet new friends,” Hennig said.
A growing crowd
Hennig and his bandmates started hosting three-hour Tuesday live and open mic sets filled with blues, rock and country music covers at Griffin Hines Farm in January.
The Hen House Band brought a growing weekly crowd until COVID-19 temporarily shuttered restaurants and bars statewide from March until May. That brief hiatus allowed the band to re-evaluate their lineup and occasionally rehearse until they returned to an outdoor live stage earlier this summer at Griffin Hines Farm with socially-distanced shows.
“First and foremost, if it weren’t for Steve Coleman, we wouldn’t be in existence. I give him all the credit; we just love to play,” said Hennig, who also owns TRS Innovations/TRS Music Centers, a Toledo-based audio and lighting production services company.
Filling a vacancy
Hennig approached Coleman, current owner of Griffin Hines Farm and son of late owner Henry Griffin, about running sound for live shows at the expansive, rural venue when it reopened in 2019. While serving as the venue’s live sound engineer, Hennig offered to fill a vacant Tuesday night slot with his new band after a scheduled live act cancelled.
“Tony Shutters and I had a big New Year’s Eve party out here, and Tony said, ‘Mike, I want to start a band with you, but I want it to be the low-key blues band.’ A month went by, and I talked to Tony and said, ‘Let’s put a band together, and we’ll commit to those Tuesday nights.’ We put the band together, and we’ve been here ever since,” said Hennig, whose last name inspired the band’s moniker.
Hennig became a blues aficionado after seeing Muddy Waters open for Eric Clapton in Toledo during the late 1970s. As a drummer and guitarist, he performed and toured with several bands before opening a local music store and acquiring TRS Music Centers in the 1980s.
Part of a legend
Three decades later, Hennig and his bandmates play weekly at the historic Griffin Hines Farm, which originally opened in the late 1940s and once hosted blues icons B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Freddie King and John Lee Hooker.
Those blues icons continually inspire and influence The Hen House Band, which often performs with Shutters’ nephew, vocalist-guitarist-flautist Chris Shutters, and invites other guest musicians on stage. “These guys are rock solid, and Chris joining the band definitely set flame to the fire. We’ve been rolling with the punches for the most part, and we’re so fortunate to be playing at all. We have no long-term plans only because we don’t know, but we’re not going to miss any opportunity,” Hennig said.
Griffin Hines Farm
3950 S. Berkey Southern Road, Swanton