It's easy to do a double-take when you're going around Sarasota listening to live music. Seems like all the bands have the same bass player: Burt Engelsman. Well, maybe not all of them, but quite a few. For example, on Tuesday nights, he plays with the Michael Kach Group at The Irish Rover; on Wednesdays, he's up on the stage with Big T and the Tornadoes at Mattison's City Grille; on Thursdays, it's The Instigators at The Irish Rover; Fridays it's the Michael Kach Group for happy hour at the Five O'Clock Club; and Mondays it's the Al Fuller Blues Jam at the 5 O'Clock Club. Assuming he's like other musicians, there are probably some private parties and once-in-awhile gigs in his schedule.
Who is this guy, and how did he get so popular? Burt Engelsman started playing bass in 1971 when he was 18 and still plays the vintage 1965 Fender Jazz bass purchased when he was 20. At age 21, he moved to Macon, GA, and played in a band called the Underground Railroad, which included Bobby Womack's horn section, drummer John Morgan and guitar player Robert Coleman from James Brown's band. Managed by Zelma Redding (Otis Redding's widow) they toured as the back up band for Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Candi Staton, and King Floyd.
From 1982 to 1983, Burt toured with the Gregg Allman Band and in Sarasota played with Eclipse from 1983 to 1986, with the Instigators from 1986 to 1989, with Twinkle during the mid 1990's (was in her music video "Can't Get Love With Money" which aired on VH1 and MTV) and several other R&B bands.
Over the years Burt had opportunities to play with James Brown, Freddie King, Dickey Betts, John Lee Hooker, Mitch Ryder (and the Detroit Wheels), Elvin Bishop, Pinetop Perkins, Archie Bell (and the Drells) and other name R&B players.
For some reason, Sarasota has become a destination and settling-down place for musicians with really impressive careers, and Burt Engelsman is surely one of them. But don't take my word for it. Stop into The Irish Rover in Gulf Gate tonight from 7 - 10PM to hear his bass and back up vocals with one of Sarasota's favorite reggae/world music/jam bands, The Instigators.