Detroit Rock & Roll History

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Detroit Rock & Roll History


Detroit has a long and rich history associated with rock and roll. In 1954 Hank Ballard & the Midnighters crossed over from the R&B charts to the pop charts with "Work With Me, Annie". The song nearly broke into the elite top 20 despite being barred from airplay on many stations due to its suggestive lyrics. In 1955, Detroit-native Bill Haley ushered in the rock and roll era with the release of "Rock Around The Clock"

In the late 1950s rockabilly guitarist Jack Scott had a string of top 40 hits. First, in 1957 with "Leroy", then in 1958 with the hits "My True Love" and "With Your Love" and then twice again in 1959 with the hits "Goodbye Baby" and "The Way I Walk." Scott was one of the first musicians to marry country music's melodic song craft to the dangerous, raw power of rock and roll.


In 1959 Hank Ballard & the Midnighters had a minor hit with their b-side song "The Twist". A cover by Philadelphia native Chubby Checker followed in 1960. His single became a smash hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and started a national dance craze. Also in 1960, Jack Scott had his final top 10 hit with the song "What In The World's Come Over You." The following year, legendary Michigan rocker Del Shannon had his own No. 1 hit in March 1961 with the song "Runaway". This was followed by the top 10 hits "Hats Off to Larry" in June 1961 and "Little Town Flirt" in 1962. In 1964, Detroit's one-hit wonders The Reflections had their own Top 10 hit single with "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet".

By 1964, teen clubs around Metro Detroit such as the 5th Dimension in Ann Arbor and the Hideout off of 8 Mile Road and Harper Road, were a hotbed for young and promising garage rock bands such as The Underdogs, The Fugitives, Unrelated Segments, Terry Knight and the Pack (which featured Don Brewer), ASTIGAFA (which featured a young Marshall Crenshaw), The Lords (featuring a young Ted Nugent) The Pleasure Seekers (which featured a young Suzi Quatro), Four of Us and the Mushrooms (which both featured Glenn Frey), Sky (which featured a young Doug Fieger) and blue eyed soul rockers the Rationals. During the heyday of the Hideout in 1965, Doug Brown and the Omens, financed by Del Shannon, cut Bob Seger's first known official recording "TGIF"/"First Girl." Bob Seger would later form his band known as The Last Heard while Brown produced Seger's regional blockbuster albums "East Side Story," and "Heavy Music." 1965 also Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels had a national top 10 hit with "Jenny Take A Ride!" and then again the following year in 1966 with "Devil With A Blue Dress On"/"Good Golly, Miss Molly." Also in 1966, Flint's Question Mark & the Mysterians (which featured Mel Schacher had a No. 1 hit with "96 Tears." Finally, in 1967, Detroit blues-rock outfit the Woolies had a regional smash hit with the Bo Diddley song "Who Do You Love".

In the late 1960s, Metro Detroit was the epicenter for high-energy rock music with (MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges). Then in 1968, the Metro Detroit rock scene witnessed an extraordinary transformation into something that was purely raw, rough, and messy. This sound was rock & roll but was also equal parts anger, determination and attitude spawning a unique high-energy rock scene in antithesis to Motown and the more mellow bands popular on the east and west coasts This new found high-energy rock was no truer than with the MC5 (Motor City Five) and the protopunk Iggy & the Stooges. These two bands laid the groundwork for the future punk and hard rock movements in the late 1970s. Other notable bands from this time frame included The Amboy Dukes (featuring Ted Nugent), The Bob Seger Sound System, Alice Cooper, Frijid Pink, SRC, The Up, [[Frost|The Frost] (featuring Dick Wagner), Popcorn Blizzard (featuring Meat Loaf), Cactus and the soulful sounds of Rare Earth and The Flaming Ember. Much of the music scene during this time was centered around the legendary Grande Ballroom and its owner Russ Gibb. As the pure sonic force of the Detroit rock scene drove on into the close of the decade, in 1969 a magazine based in and around Detroit known as CREEM: "America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine," was started by Barry Kramer and founding editor Tony Reay. CREEM is known as the first publication to coin the words "punk rock" and "heavy metal" and featured such famous editors such as Rob Tyner, Patti Smith, Cameron Crowe and Lester Bangs, who is often cited as "America's Greatest Rock Critic,".


During the 1970s, many of the Metro Detroit acts grew into international rock icons such as Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Glenn Frey of The Eagles. Along with one hit wonders Brownsville Station and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Detroit became well known for its rock & roll prowess. The city was also immortalized during this time by such songs as Detroit Rock City by Kiss, Detroit Breakdown by The J. Geils Band and Panic in Detroit by David Bowie. After the breakup of the MC5 and The Stooges in the early 1970s, the Detroit area's musical brain trust transformed into several acts that created much notoriety. These acts included rock acts such as Sonic's Rendezvous Band (featuring Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5, Scott Morgan of The Rationals, Scott Ashton of The Stooges), the band simply called Detroit, which featured Mitch Ryder on vocals and Johnny "Bee" Badanjekon drums. Later, Mitch Ryder bowed out of the band Detroit and was replaced by Rusty Day, the Rockets Jim McCarty on guitar and Johnny "Bee" Badanjek on drums. Punk bands Coldcock, The Ramrods and The Sillies, Destroy All Monsters (featuring artists Niagara and Stooges guitarists Ron Asheton).

Detroit was the location of one of the first important hardcore punk scenes that swept underground America in the late 1970's/early 1980s. By the end of 1981 the new style sometimes known as "Midwest Hardcore" had exploded across North America and Detroit was one of several important regional centers fostering its spread. The 1978 saw the emergence of one home for Punk/New Wave acts as well as up and coming national acts. Bookies (Frank Gagen's) was an old supper club taken over by Sam "Bookie" Stewart" in 1969. Bookie turned it into a gay bar also patronized by underground rockers such as Alice Cooper. In March 1978, live punk rock shows were presented by Scott Campbell of the Sillies, Vince Bannon and Andy Peabody. Bookies was the first and only rock & roll nightclub in Detroit to feature original music and national acts from 1978 to 1981.

Of the late 1960s, Detroit rock bands that went on to break new ground in the emerging punk scene with their seminal punk songs Slash Your Face and Fed Up, were The Dogs, (who also penned the song John Rock and Roll Sinclair in 1970 as a protest to free former MC5 manager John Sinclair from Jackson prison), and featuring Loren Molinare on guitar, Mary Kay one of the earliest female rock bassists, noting Suzi Quatro as another, and Ron Wood on drums.


In the summer of 1982, Berkley High School graduate Marshall Crenshaw had a Top 40 hit with the song "Someday, Someway", and later in the decade went on to portray legendary Buddy Holly in the 1987 film La Bamba. Crenshaw continues to tour nationally and has played The Magic Bag in Ferndale several times. In 1988, Detroit pop rockers Was (Not Was)'s breakthrough album What Up, Dog? spawned two Top 20 hits with the songs "Spy in the House of Love" and "Walk the Dinosaur." Also in the early 1980s, The Romantics scored with "What I Like About You". In 1983-84, [[Romantics|The Romantics] had a huge hit with the single "Talking In Your Sleep", which reached the Number #3 position on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it never received a Gold certification from the RIAA, it sold 45 million copies in the US. Another local group, 33 & the Thirds became Rhythm Method and developed a big local following. After renaming the band Rhythm Corps, they went on to record the minor hit "Common Ground".

During the 1980s, Detroit was home to several New Wave, glam, punk and garage rock bands including The Colors, The Look, Bitter Sweet Alley, Toby Redd (which featured future Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith), the Trash Brats, Flirt, Bootsey X & The Lovemasters, The Torpedoes, the Mutants, R.U.R., The Lips are Back, Funhouse, The Latin Dogs, Nicki Corvette & The Convertibles, Reruns, Elvis Hitler, The Gories, Goober & The Peas and the Vertical Pillows, whose Paula Messner went on to form a stay-at-home mom band called The Candy Band who have been known to play Lollapalooza. Cinecyde, still active over thirty years later, began in 1977, achieved much of their following during the 1980s, including their founding of the Tremor Records label. The Detroit rock scene was home to several notable metal bands during the 1980s. These bands included Corrupt, Halloween, Seduce, Mariner and Madam X, Vendetta, Madam X which was formed by future Vixen drummer Roxy Petrucci and for a brief period featured future Skid Row vocalist and former Canadian resident Sebastian Bach.


During the 1990s, metro Detroit rock bands that had minor to major attention and/or critical acclaim include The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, The Von Bondies, The Paybacks, Sponge, Charm Farm, Speedball, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Howling Diablos, His Name Is Alive, Brendan Benson, The Upholsterers, Kid Rock, Rocket 455, and ska-punk band The Suicide Machines.


To this day Detroit is still producing great original bands in addition to groups still playing 30 years after they started.

After Dark Amusement Park, Prude Boys and Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band are 3 groups continuing with the tradition of original music.

Venues also are abundant for original music. The Loving Touch,Sanctuary Detroit, New Dodge Lounge and PJ's Lagerhouse in Corktown are a few of the venues to see original music.