Mike Keneally obviously doesn't like to be labeled - he's a bandleader and bandmember, a rock and jazz fusion player, and also an outstanding guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, and percussionist. Taking up keyboards at age five, Keneally's life changed when he moved from New York to California in 1970 and heard Frank Zappa for the first time at age ten. Woodshedding for the next 15 years as a self-taught guitarist, Keneally formed a band called Drop Control in his hometown of San Diego in 1985 and became one of the city's musical heroes. Keneally auditioned for Zappa's band in 1987 as a "stunt guitar" replacement for Steve Vai, and was hired as a guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist.
The multi-instrumentalist would appear on some classic Zappa albums like Broadway the Hard Way and The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life, but little did he know that his lineup would be Zappa's final touring band. Between 1988 and 1991, Keneally performed with Drop Control and Zappa's son Dweezil's band Z, toyed with studio-musician status, and moved to Los Angeles. After working on the Grammy-winning tribute album Zappa's Universe, Keneally started a solo career with his 1992 debut album, Hat.
Quirky and hard to categorize (with Zappa trademarks like classical undertones, stuttering, jazz-like rhythms, and humorous lyrics), the debut was a big hit with critics, as was 1993's Keneally-enhanced Z album, Shampoohorn. But the year would claim both Keneally's father and Frank Zappa, leading to the moody-yet-brilliant 1994 CD, Boil That Dust Speck. Ranging from intense rock ("Skunk") to ballads ("Blameless (The Floating Face)") to Keneally's closing percussion tribute saga to Zappa, "The Old Boat Guy," the disc showcased every facet of his array of talents.
Leaving Z in 1996 and naming his solo touring band Beer for Dolphins, Keneally released the riotous double-CD Half-Alive in Hollywood, featuring one disc of live-in-a-studio originals and one of live stage performances (including covers of Jimi Hendrix's "Power to Love" and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song"). The same year, Keneally joined fellow Zappa alum Steve Vai's band, playing on the G3 Tour over the next year with Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Robert Fripp, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Playing classical piano-like keyboard lines, percussion, and intricate harmonized guitar lines with rock virtuoso Vai, Keneally helped the band steal the G3 show often (as evidenced by the G3 Live in Concert CD). Between releases by Beer For Dolphins (1997's Sluggo; 2000s Dancing) and solo albums (1999's Nonkertompf, on which he played all of the instruments), Keneally also found time to record two CDs with Vai, 1999's The Ultra Zone, and 2001's Alive in an Ultra World. Capable of playing simultaneous guitar and keyboard solos with Beer for Dolphins and singing lead on Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" with Vai's band, Keneally is the leading progressive rock genius of the post-Zappa era.