Detroit's Amazing Guitarist Robert Gillespie

Had a great time chatting with Bad ass Detroit Axe man Robert Gillespie the other day.  It has been a long time coming as i know damn near everyone he played with! We almost met at a gig at Alvin's in 2009.  I thought it was time to share the man with my readers...He has a long history and is a founding father of Detroit Rock n Roll.  He is so smooth but right on the money... as Stanley T. Madhatter used to say...."ARE YOU READY TO ROCK N ROLL?"

 Robert Gillespie

Detroit Guitarist Robert Gillespie has had an interest in guitar since the early age of six or seven; his grandmother, Martha played piano and a little banjo and his grandfather, Jesse, played fiddle and mandolin.

There was an old guitar in granny’s closet that Robert wanted to play with all the time and finally Martha got it out and tuned to to an open chord Hawaiian style and laid it across his lap and would use a butter knife to play chords and slide up and down the neck. Robert was hooked but still too small hold it up-right and play it properly.

The Torpedos

At the age of ten Robert got a cheap acoustic and started banging around with that and finally took lessons after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan show like many other young people.

After a year and a half of lessons he was ready and got organized with some older guys and played in a garage band called The Wise Guys they played one back-yard party and a wedding, then broke up.

All through school the interest continued and Robert was very into the English wave of Rock bands like Rolling Stones / Kinks / Animals and most of all the Yardbirds and The Who.

Robert Gillespie

Robert played with a cool East-Side band called Lickin’ Stick that performed at the Cinderella Ballroom in 1971, and also backed up Chuck Berry at the Allen Theater in Cleveland, Ohio that fall.

Lickin’ Stick turned into Limousine and they recorded a few songs that Robert wrote and one caught the interest of a local D.J. Johnny Williams.  The new 18 year old vote had just came into effect and Johnny Williams added some lyrics.

"This is my 50's Les Paul Gold-top; "Goldie" I bought her from Paul Warren from Rod Stewart's band......she's smooth like "butta"..." Robert Gillespie

The song  “You’ve Got The Power” b/w “Natural Fact” written by Gillespie and vocalist John Ogen, a great singer from downriver received airplay locally and in Flint. That band turned into Northstar with Motown bassist Tony Newton. 

The summer of 1976 Robert was jamming at the infamous Red Carpet, a popular east-side club with the Rockets. Robert met guitarist Jimmy McCarty and drummer Johnny Bee Bandanjek, the cream of the crop of Detroit musicians from the Detroit Wheels, whom Robert admired blaring from the transistor radio in 1965.

One special night Robert found himself on stage with Rob Tyner from the MC5. They both hit it off and starting rehearsing, writing songs.

Robert Gillespie with Rob Tyner

Their new band the New MC5 played their first show the next year at the Red Carpet. They soon signed with Brass Ring Productions and began playing arenas all over the tri-state area, mostly Michigan. They opened for big headliners like AC-DC, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush,  and recorded some tracks for Atlantic Records.

By late 1978, Robert and Johnny Angelos started the Torpedos with Mike Marshall on bass and Ralph Serafino on drums (both from the Tyner band). They began writing and recording then became very big in Detroit creating a buzz with record people on a national level.

The Torpedos

The late Johnny Angelos a brilliant pop songwriter and much more. — with Tom Curry, Robert Gillespie, Johnny Angelos, and Ralph Serafino.  Johnny quit the Torpedos just as things were getting hot on the scene.  He went on to front another smaller band then sadly committed suicide. Robert and the Detroit rock scene were devastated.

Robert is very proud of the music the Torpedos created. In recent years Johnny's son Mitchell Angelos has been fronting the reunited Torpedos. My pals Robin and Trudi went with me in 2009 to see Helldrivers/Torpedos/Circus Boy at Alvin's in Detroit.

 Robert Gillespie and Mitch Ryder

Though they were all great...to me the Torpedos stole the show! We danced their entire set. Barely got any photographs due to having so much fun.  Didn't get to meet Robert that night but we will meet soon I am certain.

ROBERT SMOKES THIS TUNE......................

During the 1980′s Robert started a band with vocalist Dennis Quinn and Mike Marshall on bass plus Greg Calder on drums called The Finnz.

They recorded two singles and performed on Doug Podell’s T.V. show called The Beat. The Finnz’s were finished in early ’83 when Robert heard "When You Were Mine" on the radio from Mitch Ryder and just had to have that gig.

He auditioned and got hired spring of ’83 and toured the US and Europe and recorded five albums and a DVD over the 19 years with Mitch (longer than anyone else BTW).

L2R Andy Frost Chris Taylor Robert Gillespie and Scott Morgan

In 2001 Robert formed Powertrane with Scott Morgan of the Rationals and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. They performed and recorded two CD’s, two singles and did gigs sporadically over the next eight years.

Ron Asheton Robert Gillespie Scott Morgan

When Geoff Ginsberg, president of Real O Minds Records (Philadelphia), brought Robert Gillespie into Forty-Ounce Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan to overdub the guitar work on Morgan's song, "Satisfier", the chemistry between Morgan and Gillespie was immediately apparent.

Powertrane's combination of young talented rockers with Detroit legendary musicians has created a unity and cohesion which has drawn out the talent and creative energy evident in this lineup.

 Ron Asheton, Robert Gillespie, Deniz Tek, Chris Taylor Scott Morgan

Their first show was at the Magic Bag on St. Patrick's Day 2001.  Powertrane played sold-out, high-profile gigs in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Cincinnati, not to mention Detroit and Ann Arbor. They were been joined on stage by Mitch Ryder, Ron Asheton and Deniz Tek.

Robert Gillespie and Mike Marshall

Then in 2010  Robert had the idea to start an instrumental band. He called his long time pals bass man Mike Marshall and drummer Greg Calder. Will be writing more on these guys soon...K

Robert Gillespie Greg Calder and Mike Marshall

Guitarist Robert Gillespie along with Mike Marshall on bass & Greg Calder on drums. They play instrumental Guitar-Rock; from Dickie Dale to Jimi Hendrix and exciting originals.

Together they formed The Detroit Daggers.. I am anxious to see them play..Loved their videos..

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