Mike’s first band, Helen Highwater (named by Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins), played just about every club and opened for almost every national Southern rock and Outlaw country band throughout the Southeast and Midwest for 10 years. In high school, Mike became friends with the guys in the Rossington Collins Band (founded by Skynyrd plane crash survivors). After RC ended, they launched the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour in 1987 with Helen Highwater opening some shows for them.
In 1992, Mike went on the road with Skynyrd to write songs for an upcoming album and signed a publishing deal with Skynyrd guitarist Ed King’s company I Can’t Read Music. After writing for six months he was asked to join the band as guitarist. Mike spent the next three years touring, writing and recording with Skynyrd, the results appearing on the 1994 Capricorn release Endangered Species, 1995’s live recording Southern Knights and the “100 Minutes with Lynyrd Skynyrd” video.
In 1996, Mike co-wrote a song for Sony Music’s Hotter Than Asphalt CD called “White Knuckle Ride” that broke the Billboard charts. Mike left Skynyrd in 1996 and subsequently played in SRA where he first met his close friend and original Blackfoot drummer, Jakson Spires. Estes recalls, “He and I were thick as thieves. I don’t have the words to say how much I miss him. ”
Since leaving Skynyrd, Mike has released four CDs: Drivin’ Sideways, Mike Estes and Brave New South, Horsetraders and Skinny Molly’s No Good Deed. In 2010, Skinny Molly caught the attention of FOX News with the single “Mr. President,” and the band appeared on FOX’s Huckabee and Mike on Red Eye.
Mike has logged over 200 European dates and has appeared on many major European TV and radio music shows. Mike has written for and produced songs for artists in the United States and Europe. In the U.S., he has appeared on FOX, HBO, CMT, CNN, MTV, VH-1 and others. He has been profiled in various major music magazines including Guitar Player, Guitar, Acoustic Musician and Classic Rock.
Mike was inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame in 1995. Recently, Mike’s playing and arranging can be heard on Billy Ray Cyrus’s new CD, on the legendary Johnny Cash song “I Walk The Line.” The track was recorded with Cyrus and an all-star line up featuring members of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Mike is “tickled to death” to be playing and singing with his long-time friends in Blackfoot. He adds, “They were and are a huge influence on me, and I’m beyond honored that Greg and Charlie asked me to play with them.”