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All the Right Notes

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Although work kept him from taking his driving test this summer, blues guitarist “Monster” Mike Welch still seems to be cruising in overdrive. At 17, the Lexington, Mass., high school senior has already shared concert stages with blues greats like Junior Wells and Hubert Sumlin, cowritten and cut his first CD (These Blues Are Mine,) and spent eight weeks fronting his four-man group, the “Monster” Mike Welch Band, on a 37-city tour through Europe and the U.S.

How He Got That Name: Hired to play opening night at the House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass., the then 13-year-old Welch was heard complaining about his original nickname (Little Mikey) by co-owner Dan Aykroyd, who immediately redubbed him Monster Mike.

Vitals: Youngest of two children; father is a data-communications planner for NYNEX, mother edits scientific journals (and is also his band manager); began playing at 8 when a cousin gave him his first guitar.

First Person: “Being an adolescent is more than enough blues for anyone to handle,” says Welch to critics who say he hasn’t lived enough to know the blues.

Second Opinion: “He’s an historian,” says George Lewis, 48, the band’s second guitarist. “He knows people that played in ’43, where they played and what they played.”

Heroes: Ray Charles (“my favorite musician in the world”) and B.B. King (“a brilliant player”).

Home Turf: Lives with parents; bedroom has a poster of bluesman Robert Johnson taped to the door; recordings by Etta James, the Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Blake; a picture of Otis Rush over the bed.

Athletic Ability: None. “I know how to move my fingers—that’s about it.”

Next Up: Graduation from high school in January; a new CD, tentatively titled Ax to Grind, early next year; getting a driver’s license.