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.
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. The
Wheels must have known what they had. Witness the confidence -even
cockiness- of telegraphing their punch forever on Little
Latin Lupe Lu, building expectations to fever pitch before
hammering down the riff with Jim McCarty's lead lick trailing behind. And
nailing it big time. One punch, KO, Mike Tyson-style.
The records worked because they perfectly captured the kinetic frenzy
of the live performances that had been the group's stock in trade since
they first joined forces in Detroit early in 1964.
What followed was a wild two-year ride through the starmaking machinery
of the record industry that brought them fame but no fortune and tore the
group apart in the process. Late in 1965, Jenny
Take A Ride climbed to #10 as The Wheels welded Chuck Willis'
"C.C. Rider" to Little Richard's "Jenny, Jenny", and
cannily tossed in an advertisement for their live show along the way
(check how the backing vocals change to "See Mitch Ryder" during
the second verse). Little Latin Lupe Lu
cemented their commercial appeal when it reached #17 and set the general
outline of the band's most popular sound- an R&B standard or two
revved up, Wheels-style, with Mitch's peerless soul shouting ripping away
over the top.
Late in 1966, the Devil With A Blue Dress On
and Good Golly Miss Molly medleys
exploded over the airwaves and indelibly stamped the high energy Mitch
Ryder & The Detroit Wheels sound on anyone within an earshot as they
hit #4 on the charts.
Early in 1967, prototypical, riff-rockin Sock It
To Me Baby! became Ryder's final Top 10 single, despite being
banned on several stations for being too sexually suggestive. The brassy Too
Many Fishes In The Sea and Three Little
Fishes medley was the final chart entry (at #24) for Mitch Ryder
& The Detroit Wheels.
Ryder's career then took several detours, when Bob Crew encouraged him
to pursue a solo career. Unhappy with the results, Mitch went to Memphis to record The Detroit-Memphis
Experiment album with Stax luminaries Booker T. & The MGs and The
Memphis Horns for Dot. He then returned home to a reunion with The
Wheels drummer John Badanjek in the short-lived supergroup Detroit, which
lasted just long enough to record one monster of a heavy-duty rock 'n'
roll album in 1971. "Long Neck Goose" updated the classic Wheels
sound as Ryder digs into the tune with a ferocious glee, but the climatic moment was
"Rock N' Roll", kicked off by
a mountainous guitar riff while Badanjek bounced a cow-bell off your skull
at regular intervals. It was so powerful a performance that Lou Reed was
quoted as saying that was how the song was supposed to sound.
Mitch left the active performing scene for the next 5 years, honing his
songwriting skills at night. After returning to Detroit, he formed a band
and released the confessional, autobiographical How
I Spent My Vacation and then Naked But
Not Dead on his own Seeds and Stems label. That helped trigger
a resurgence of European interest in Ryder and he released several
additional albums in the early '80s on the German Line label.
He came back to a major American label for the John Cougar Mellencamp -
Never Kick A Sleeping Dog in 1983,
highlighted by a world weary, gritty version of Prince's When
You Were Mine that cut the original and all others to shreds.
Currently enjoying another surge in European popularity, Mitch has
released two more LPs for Line, Red Blood, White
Mink and In The China Shop.
No one, but no one, ever kicked out the rockin' R&B jams better
than Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.