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Once Upon a Time, There Was Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels

Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels was an important band that has not gotten its due. The site called “Not in the Hall of Fame” sums up the band’s importance. Indeed, it may be the key American-bred liberator of rock and roll:

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels was at its core a Rock band that was able to take the heart of 50’s Rock and Roll and take it to a more raucous level. Their reworking of earlier classics penned by African American artists were not tame versions (as was done constantly) but were Frat House versions of Blue Eyed Soul that could cross racial boundaries. Ryder was a favorite of many Heartland American artists that would come later and in a way his music was a unique bridge that found fans in the most diverse groups. (Continue Reading…)

The item says that the band may be kept out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because Ryder has enemies on the board.

A bio that probably first appeared at the band’s website is a bit more restrained:

High octane, turbo, high performance, super charged MITCH RYDER & The Detroit Wheels didn’t need to hail from the Motor City for those adjectives to be tossed their way, but it was certainly appropriate that they called Motown home. It was Mitch and The Wheels who served as the musical bridge between the Motown soul factory and the high energy, take no prisoners rock ‘n’ roll that would roar out of Detroit via Iggy & The Stooges, MC5, Ted Nugent and Bob Seger. With Ryder, it wasn’t attitude or public outrage or politics that generated the charge you could simply hear it in the music. Ryder hit during the mid-’60s when AM radio was going through a golden era courtesy of Motown, Stax, the British Invasion, Aretha, JB, and any number of garage band one-hit wonders. But no one on the radio then could match Mitch and company for pure visceral excitement, no one else could make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and a wild-eyed gleam creep into your eyes because you just know that SOMETHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. The explosive quality was there from the very start. Listen to the way the chords introducing “Jenny Take A Ride” are chomping at the bit to swoop down into the double-time mid-section, or how John Badanjek’s thundering bass drum trigger’s the ecstatic roll that kicks off “Devil With A Blue Dress On”. (Continue Reading…)

Here are some fun facts about “Devil With a Blue Dress On.” A relatively new version of the song (followed, as always, by “Good Golly Miss Molly”) is below; I couldn’t find video of a vintage version and am not sure whether the band actually is a reincarnation of The Detroit Wheels or it’s Ryder as a solo act. “C.C. Rider” and “Jenny Take a Ride”  are above.

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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