As a child growing up in Memphis, Michael didn't have to look far to find inspiration to pursue a career in music. While in high school, Michael began studying the pioneering styles of great artist like Louis Armstrong, W.C. Handy, Mamie Smith, "Jelly Roll" Morton, Joe "King" Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Sarah Vaughn. In his senior year, he earned "First Chair All-State Concert Bassoonist" and played the saxophone in the "All West" Jazz Band.
Michael received a full scholarship to the University of Memphis. There he became known as an excellent woodwind doubler, while playing the saxophone and bassoon in the concert band and orchestra. After exploring the vocal styles of artists such as Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, and Al Jarreau, Michael soon received numerous awards for his vocal and instrumental talents. Michael became more and more interested in "Instrumental Pop" music of the ‘70s (now labeled "Contemporary Jazz), and was inspired by Grover Washington, Jr.’s, and David Sanborn’s lighter, funkier, radio friendly style. His focus later turned to artist such as George Benson, Chick Corea, Patti Austin, Angela Bofill, Spyra Gyra, Chuck Mangione' and Earl Klugh.
During Michael’s college years, he freelanced on Beale Street with different bands and other musicians. He recalls the first time he was given a chance to show his talents stating with fervor, “Guitarist Preston Shannon would allow me to sit in with him on Wednesday nights at the Blues City Café on Beale Street. I would anxiously await each night, hoping he wouldn't forget to call me up. Preston always gave me a chance to perform." Michael soon got his own recognition and was asked to perform with Willie Mitchell's house band on Beale Street and backing up national artist when in Memphis.
Michael Townsend, as with some of his legendary predecessors, has truly benefited from his Memphis upbringing. Constantly rehearsing and honing his skills, and educating himself on the history of his music shows the passion and dedication that he has for his craft.
Michael Townsend has earned an outstanding reputation for being a phenomenal opening act for professional artists including Johnny Gill, The Manhattans, and Glenn Jones, who played at the Germantown Performing Arts Center (GPAC). Audiences were impressed by Michael’s vocal abilities. He consistently gives his listeners variety and diversity when integrating his musical talents. He wows, captures and holds an audience with depth and precision.
He is now living a life-long dream, captivating his listeners when he presents his best Jazz and R&B experience developed throughout his lifetime. His live performances have been deemed sensual and sensational. Music critics have said, "You'll become mesmerized by Michael's mixture of smooth jazz, R&B and pop selections, that’s his brand and signature sound.” Memphis' native son, Saxophonist and Vocalist Michael Townsend. Smooth Jazz with an R&B Flavor!