Michael Anthony was born on June 20, 1954 at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, IL., and is the second of five siblings (Nancy, Michael, Steve, Robert, and Dennis). By 1966 his family had moved back and forth between Illinois and California twice before finally settling down in the sunny California city of Arcadia.
Mike got an early start in music, when at age seven, he followed in the footsteps of his father Walt and picked up the trumpet. From 1967-1969, Mike attended Dana Jr. High School and was a member of the concert band, the concert orchestra and the marching band. He was also on the track team where his event was the running long jump.
In his early teens, Mike's sister Nancy turned him onto bands like The Electric Flagg, Love and Blue Cheer. After seeing how cool Blue Cheer's bass player Dickie Peterson looked on the artwork of their album "Outsideinside" (MA - "Check it out if you can!") Mike said, "That's me!" and picked up the bass.
His first bass was actually a Fender Mustang guitar (minus the top two strings) he borrowed from his guitar player Mike Hershey. A short time later, Mike's dad sprung for a Victoria P-Bass copy and a Gibson amp with two six-inch speakers at a local swap meet. It didn't take Mike very long before he blew up the amp and he was on his way!
Mike's early influences included Harvey Brooks, Jack Bruce, John Entwhistle, Tim Bogart and Felix Pappalardi of Mountain. His biggest influence though, was John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. (MA - "The bass solo in "The Lemon Song" is still my favorite piece to listen to!")
Mike's first band was known as "Poverty's Children" and featured himself on bass and lead vocals, Mike Hershey on guitar, and Mike's brother Steve on drums. (MA - "Every week my brother and I would get into a fight about something; he would quit the band; I would tell my father and then, he'd be back in the band." Other early bands included Black Opal, Balls, and Snake, which played around the same area where Eddie and Alex Van Halen's band Mammoth would play. (Note: Mammoth was one of Eddie and Alex's early bands that featured Eddie on guitar and lead vocals, Alex on drums and background vocals and Mark Stone on bass.)
After High School, Mike attended Pasadena City College where he was pursuing a degree in music. During this time, after learning that Mark Stone was being booted out of Mammoth, Mike was suggested by a mutual friend of he and Eddie's to audition for the newly-renamed Van Halen, who had also recently added frontman David Lee Roth to the mix.
Mike jammed with Eddie and Alex in a small garage where the band rehearsed. (MA - "Ed and Al put me through all their crazy meter and beat changes, and when we were finished jamming Al asked me if I wanted to join the band, and I immediately said YES."
Mike planned on attending college in Santa Barbara after his stint at Pasadena City College, but dropped out a few credits shy of earning his AA degree to devote all of his time to Van Halen - who were becoming huge locally and playing Gazarris and the Starwood clubs in the Hollywood area. According to Mike, his father was none too pleased about his dropping out of college. (MA - "He kicked me out of the house and I lived with my sister for awhile! But, I knew it was now or never, so I had to quit school and go for it." After Van Halen finished their first tour, Michael bought his parents a car (MA - "To make peace!)"
Van Halen assaulted the Southern California club scene over the course of the next few years and established themselves as one of the premiere rock and roll bands in the area. In 1976, Kiss' Gene Simmons produced their first demo and tried, without success, to get them signed on the Casablanca label. In May of 1977, VH were re-discovered by Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman and quickly signed to Warner Bros. In March of 1978 they released their first album and the rest, as they say, is history.