The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies On Unknown Sundays 2024


The year is 1993, and the southern blues rock scene had certainly heard an influx of new, up-n-comers as well as the return of some very solidified 1990s acts in that “wheel” house.  Enter The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies. Rock, southern gospel fused radio friendly style jumpin’ blues!  You didn’t have to be polished.  You didn’t have to be extremely tight.  And, you didn’t have to be gloriously produced.  You just had to be committed to hitting, being loose, and being emotionally convincing with the swagger of the sound and vocal!  Well, they had that the minute they met vocalist Mike Farris for sure!  The first five songs they ever all wrote and made together stuck, and with the band name slightly taken from a Far Side illustration, ‘Cheetah Wheelies’ (which could have been a cereal name for all I knew at the time), they had just about everything they needed.  Oh, yeah, they decided to add “Screamin'” in front, which makes absolute sense – yeah!  The self-titled debut hit on October of 1993, The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies on the well respected Atlantic Records.

It’s not surprising that the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies (known from here on out as SCW so we can shorten the words) got airplay, entered my ears, and then was quickly snatched up in my local record store.  It’s always good to have a Buffalo News reviewer who drops off promotional CDs into the ‘used bin’ for an obsessive like me!  From radio to rotation on my disc-changer in my Ford Probe, there was a lot of Southern Rock influences getting loudly exposed on every road trip!  Flipping from The Black Crowes, Cry of Love, and the Four Horsemen to Brother Cane and even hailing back to The Allman Brothers Band and off-shoots, we we’re lovin’ on the SCW.  The difference here, at least at the first two albums, is a heavier, grittier reach with almost metal solo guitar licks, and of course, that voice of Mike Farris.  It just screams SCW and separated their sound (perhaps that’s where they got the ‘screamin’ from?  They didn’t jam as long as The Black Crowes or The Allman Brothers Band, but they were definitive in their delivery and passion for the music, and it came out.  Even in the performance I was lucky enough to see, where they opened for a very popular band at the time, Blackfish, which had a hit single, ‘The Sugar Shack’ back in the same year.  The band was as advertised and then some.  Very much in the wild southern blues rock arena, and even par with those bands of the 1990s that were in the same genre.

Now, you have to put into context what’s going on in the music industry at the time.  This scene is not where the music industry money is, nor is it where the overall listener is.  Reminder, 1993 held Nirvana’s In Utero, Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream, and Vs by Pearl Jam.  That also doesn’t count in expensive record contracts and promotions of bands and artists like Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, U2, and Mariah Carey.  As well as the influx of indie-alternative from Liz Phair and Bjork and an adult contemporary rockers like Counting Crows and Sheryl Crow.  Oh, yeah, and something was happening in Compton, big time (Snoop, Cypress Hill, and a certain Doctor).  So that’s a lot of battles to fight in record sales, which we know determines attention and careers.  So, 1996 happens, and here comes their sophomore record, Magnolia, which I immediately grabbed when the price was right.  It even had a guest appearance by Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, which was just getting their own footing in the world of music at the time.  So, as you would expect, despite Magnolia’s considerable connection to the prior sound, and the better production, the Southern Rock Blues era was starting to lose a bit of footing (leaving new comers and keeping only a handful of those that came before, like The Black Crowes and legacy artists like The Allman Brothers).  No one survived.  Not Brother Cane, not Cry of Love, not Black fish (not southern rock), nor The Four Horsemen.  They were able to put out another album under Capricorn label, titled Big Wheel, which had a hint of sound changes, melding a bit of Blue Traveler sound and wavering back and forth between slow and hard rock and blues.  Still, a very feel good record with a lot of great engaging southern rock and blues guitar work.

No matter what, I’m glad that there was this six year span of the SCW to look back on.  They are still considered an unknown despite their tremendous grip on the genre and the vocal style and passion of Mike Farris.  Mike has been pretty steady in solo career with four solo albums: “Goodnight Sun” (2002), “Salvation In Lights” (2007) on INO Records, “Shine for All the People” (2014) on Compass Records, which won a Grammy for Best Roots Gospel album. He followed that up with “Silver & Stone” (2018) on Compass.  While he has the range, the solo is a lot more toward raw-blues rock, hammond organ grind with hints of Gospel and more vocal reach, including some tender ballad works, too.  The band members have had the following side projects that you can check out, as well (Stack, Black Mountain Prophet, Scale Hound and Blackwood).  And yes, The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies returned together for a Long Goodbye Tour in 2022, which centered around the Nashville area.  Wish I could have gone, would’ve been cool to hear their sound nearly in this decade live in comparison.

The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies have a place in the music multiverse, especially if you’re a lover of the southern rock-blues.  They hold up just as well as those bands we mentioned above, and even the solo work of Mr. Farris could also be a wonderful ‘Unknown’ to explore on any given Sunday!

Albums of The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies in my collection
  • The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies (Atlantic Records, 1993)
  • Magnolia (Atlantic Records, 1996)
  • Big Wheel (Capricorn, 1998)

Other albums, EP(s) out there:

  • Live Vol. 1 and 2 (Big Top Records, 2000)
  • Shakin’ the Blues (live) (Dark Reign Records, 2002)
  • Ten Miles High EP (2005)  – This has four songs that were from recording session that never made an album from 2000’s attempt.

Mike Farris Solo Albums out there (of interest):

  • Goodnight Sun (Mean It!, 2002)
  • Salvation in Lights (INO, 2007)
  • Shout! Live (INO, 2008)
  • Live from Westlake Studio B (Independent, 2009)
  • The Night the Cumberland Came Alive (Entertainment One, 2010)
  • Shine for All the People (Compass, 2014)
  • Silver & Stone (Compass Records, 2018)


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