He’s sort of a camp counselor gone pro: a squeaky-clean high school frosh who croons sing-along ditties to little kids. With his second album, Side by Side, 14-year-old Mike Summers is forging the most unusual of musical careers — as a young singer who sings for people even younger than he is. Side is a soft-rock combination of six classic tunes picked out by his parents — from ”Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah” to ”Yellow Submarine” — and four original songs.
”Kids like my music because they know I’m a kid as well,” he says. Even so, he claims no particular affinity with children and has yet to meet one of his fans.
Why does he do this, then? His father, Hollywood composer Bob Summers (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, Night of the Comet), is the one to ask. ”Mike was always singing and hanging around (while I worked),” says Bob, who launched his son’s career when he asked 7-year-old Mike if he would like to record Christmas carols in the home sound studio. Bob played the Christmas tape for a collaborator, children’s artist Hap Palmer, who asked Mike to join the chorus on Palmer’s albums. Four years later, Mike recorded his first solo album, Through the Eyes of a Child, with his father. Rhino Records heard the debut and approached the album’s producers about making Side by Side.
”I’d like to be a pop singer when I grow up,” says Mike. ”Kids are a pretty good audience, so it’s preparing me for adults. And adults like my kids’ albums.” Between recordings, the young Southern Californian is perfectly content playing video games with his friends (some of whom sing background on his albums), bouncing on his trampoline, and hanging out with his dogs, Chocolate and Candy. A fan of ”Weird Al” Yankovic, he still looks to his father for musical inspiration. Bob insists, ”I want Mike to do whatever makes him happy.” But if the past is any indication, Summers could keep on dancing (and singing) to his father’s tune.