By Noe Gutierrez

In the world of music, a ghost note is a musical note that has rhythmic value, but no recognizable pitch sound when played. I can tell you that Mike Hammons (bass & vocals), Damian Lautiero (guitar & vocals), Rob Peterson (drums) and Bobby Furgo (keyboards & violin) are no apparitions. With their individual legacies intact, these four wholehearted musicians make up The Ghost Notes, a self-described “tip of the hat” to the music of The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, The Band and more…. I’m pleased to share with you that the “more” will also include original material. The spirit of the music will carry on when The Ghost Notes perform at the Big Rock Pub in Indio on Friday, January 25, 2019 for the 50th birthday of our beloved America Lugo.

This show was not necessarily part of the plan for The Ghost Notes. Having only a couple of months under their belt as a rehearsed band, their intent was to continue to hone their set for a few more months. Hammons explains how it came to be. “America and I go back to the 70’s, our parents were friends. We became friends as kids at Park Paseo in Indio where we grew up a few streets from each other. We have kept our practices low key, but somehow she found out. She called me to ask if I have something going on. She got it out of me so she asked if we would play her 50th. I ran it by the fellas and they all thought it could be fun.” Peterson concurred, “I’m super down to support America. I love that woman. I’m stoked we can be playing for her 50th. There ain’t no better reason to move my drum set around and take the time to set up and drum for somebody I love.” The only thing left was to determine the venue. Hammons didn’t have to rack his brain for too long. “I called Lisa Lynn Morgan at Big Rock Pub and she checked her calendar. Lisa was highly supportive and stoked. I feel blessed because she took me at my word. She trusted us to do the gig.” It was a no-brainer for Lisa and Big Rock Pub given the players.

Hammons is best-known as the crux of Green Eggs and Hammons, the unequaled Coachella Valley jam band of the early 90’s. Having studied the bass guitar at Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music in Hollywood, CA, Hammons is most comfortable as part of the rhythm section. Hammons shared, “I kept playing bass and have been a few hours early in the morning and a few hours late at night just before we started rehearsing.” As with Green Eggs and Hammons, he is taking a musical initiative in The Ghost Notes. “I keep it tight but loose, you can’t play traditional bass, you keep it together where you have to, it’s a loose bass, you have to land the changes and then it’s improv.” He and Lautiero are longtime fans of the “Godfathers of the Jam Band”. “What’s great is Damian and I are total ‘Dead Heads’. We know the music.”


Lautiero is the indubitable Waxy bassist, a multi-instrumentalist, and a member of bygone bands Polyphemus and Lung Cookie. Hammons goes further, “Damien is a highly sophisticated soulful field player with extensive touring experience. He has raw soul and great feel in his guitar playing.”

Lautiero is looking forward to The Ghost Notes first public appearance, “I’m really excited to finally get out and play. Mike and I have had this brewing for a long time. I think the first incarnation was around 9 years ago now, but the timing wasn’t right for it to come together. I love that we are able to debut celebrating a special event with our friend America Lugo. It really was the perfect way for us to get out and play. She shares the same love and a passion for this music that we do, so that connection will make for a pretty special evening.”

Lautiero shared about the groundwork they have laid, “The Ghost Notes, for me, is a jam band concept, rooted around the music of The Grateful Dead. We explore other artists from the genre, and put a heavy emphasis on exploring the improvisational side of rock and roll. We enjoy stretching out and seeing where the music can take us, and just really allowing ourselves to breathe as players.”

Peterson has played percussion and handled vocals in The Pedestrians, played drums in such influential bands as SunDrugGroovalopacusSort of QuartetCourtney ChambersDavid Macias and Decon to name a few. In spite of his numerous projects, Peterson is just happy to be involved. “I could summarize by just saying it’s great playing with these guys. The music is not necessarily my music, but I love playing with them and I will take pretty much any opportunity I can to be making music with them.”

Peterson is also a music scholar having studied music and percussion at Humboldt State University and California Institute for the Arts. With his significant history and education, this type of music was not commonplace for Peterson. “The project itself has brought to light some tunes that I do appreciate and has definitely developed a situation in which I can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of this era and in particular this genre of music and the people that love it, Peterson shared. Hammons has absolute appreciation for what Peterson brings to the table. “Rob is a master timekeeper and percussionist with high-level music arrangement skills.”

Furgo has performed with Leonard Cohen, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Nancy Sinatra, Lisa Lynn Morgan, Pat Boone, Love and Rockets, Kelly Derrickson, Dolly Parton, Freddy Fender and Wanda Jackson. “Bobby is sophisticated, articulate and detailed”, Hammons declared.

Hammons shared that he sees The Ghost Notes as “Americana music with a jazz philosophy.” With their extended musical improvisation over the rhythmic grooves of Hammons and Peterson and lead patterns of Furgo and Lautiero, The Ghost Notes music is destined to cross genre boundaries. Don’t miss their FREE show at Big Rock Pub on Friday, January 25, 2019 at 8 p.m.

Happy Birthday America Lugo from all of us at Coachella Valley Weekly!