Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels

Kicking out the Jams: Fans Recall Local Bands Always Ready to Rock

For Digital First Media
Carol Hopkins, reporter
The Oakland Press
48 W. Huron,
Pontiac MI 48342

Detroit can boast countless home grown bands. Since the late ’60s, local rock bands such as Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Motor City 5 (MC5), Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band and Ted Nugent have risen to the top to put Detroit on the map.

Other bands such the Rockets, Frijid Pink, Rationals and SRC drew loyal fans. Readers loyal to local bands shared their memories of hearing and seeing those talented musicians.

Lynn Swain of Highland remembers the Rockets playing in the early 1980s at Pine Knob.

“There is no doubt that The Rockets with Dave Gilbert, Jim McCarty and Johnny ‘Bee’ Badanjek were one of the greatest bands to come out of Michigan,” she said.

“Once they hit the stage, it was a truly electrifying evening of pure rock ’n’ roll. Dave’s presence, along with the musicianship of both Jim and Johnny, made this band absolutely fabulous.

“My husband and I often talk about how big they really could have been, had drugs not taken over Dave. I’ve seen Jim McCarty a few times when he was playing with Mystery Train and was actually introduced to him by Dee Gilbert, Dave’s widow.

 Retrokimmer and Jimmy McCarty

“Jim’s truly a class act and a great musician. My husband knew Dave when they both lived in the Union Lake area. The Rockets will always hold a special place in my heart!”

Paula Messner of Royal Oak played guitar with the Vertical Pillows and Motor Dolls in the 1990s.
“It was a great time,” said Messner, who still plays with the Candy Band.“The camaraderie was amazing between bands then. Everybody supported each other.”

People didn’t have Internet in the early 1990s, she said. “You had to promote yourself, hitting the streets and ‘fliering’ cars.” Her favorite bands of the day were the  Hysteric Narcotics and the Junk Monkeys.

“We miss the cool clubs like the Hamtramck Pub and Red Carpet,” she said.

Another great band from the 1960s era was Dick Wagner and the Frost, said Matt MacDermaid. Wagner played with Lou Reed — and wrote and played “Only Women Bleed” with Alice Cooper, also from Detroit, MacDermaid said.

“Our local recording group called Crazy Boy is remaking old Frost tunes and giving them a new coat of paint. We are doing this with Dick Wagner as we speak, and the songs will then move to TV and movies under the name The Dick Wagner Project.”

Waterford resident John Zian was celebrating his 26th birthday at his home at Silver Lake and Walton roads in August, 1980, when he had a surprise visitor.

“It was 1 a.m. and the next thing you know Dave Gilbert (with the Rockets) comes walking in with his band and 15 other people he brought from the Firebird Lanes lounge,” said Zian.

Word about the party had come from Zian’s friend, a roadie with the Rockets. The band, well-known in the area, didn’t play at Zian’s party, but did circulate and talk with people. “Everybody was in awe,” said Zian. “I felt honored.”

Zian owned a Rockets cassette tape back in the day, but has since lost it. “I wish I had everything I had back then,” he said. “Now I just have memories.”
Michael Dunn, a member of the Blue Kings jazz and blues group, saw Bob Seger play at the University of Detroit in the 1970s. “I really went to see another band playing, Dream, because I knew all the guys in that band — Joe Forlini, Bob Hill, Jim Bates and John Zerbo.”

Kim Maki aka Retro Kimmer of Ann Arbor has never been far from the region’s music scene, and now writes her blog about  music and pop culture, retrokimmer.com.

'The best band I ever saw live when I was really young, in the late 1960s, was the MC5,” she said. Maki, now 57, was so young she didn’t drive, arriving at the concert in Ann Arbor’s West Park on her bicycle.

Sonic's Rendezvous Band

“They were pure energy and different. It was quite a shock from seeing pop music (performed).”Later at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor, she saw the Amboy Dukes and Iggy and the Stooges. She also loved SRC (Scot Richard Case).


“I helped SRC reunite (years later),” Maki said. “Their songs were so layered. It was perfect psychedelic hippie music.”

By 1968, SRC was one of the biggest bands on the Grande Ballroom scene, according to an overview of the band by WDET. The band shared bills with the MC5 and Stooges as well as international acts such as The Who and The Rolling Stones.

Maki also remembers seeing Bob Seger solo at Hill Auditorium in the 1970s when the admission ticket was JUST $1.50. “My mom knew I wanted to go to concerts so anytime she wanted me to do something, the prize for me was a concert ticket,” she said.
Maki remembers the mood of the crowds back then, too. “Everybody smoked weed, so they were all mellow, not wild and throwing things,” she said. She recalled an Allman Brothers concert at the time at Crisler Arena. “Everybody was just laying on the floor,” she said.
Maki, who in later years produced public shows and worked at Cobo Center, recalls a major reason people flocked to concerts. “We went to see each other as much as hear the music,” she said.
“We were a community of music fan kids."

That’s what the Grande Ballroom (in Detroit) was — like the world’s biggest teen club. Everybody worked all week on what they would wear.”

Maki, who now keeps readers updated on classic bands through Retrokimmer.com, said her writing and photography allows her to get behind the scenes with a lot of bands. “I prefer to photograph/video them behind the stage,” she said. “It’s more fun for me.

“I talk to just about any rock person now, big and small. I never dreamed this would happen to me.”

Maki has advice for anyone starting in the music business. “Get good photos and video of yourselves and post it on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Post your stuff everywhere.... If (people) can’t find it, how can you be written about? “You need to promote yourself. Take the reins of your own career.”


Skid Marx said...

AWESOME Kim,Keep Rockin',Keep Reportin'

Larry Carothers said...

Keep doin what you're doin!!!I myself was part of the Grande scene back in 67 -68 and love seeing/Hearing about all these old memories.I now live in St.Helen Mich. and am still Jamming with a lot of great musicians,and Also jam with Allen Bondar the owner of Dharma records in Grayling Mi.He had a band back in the day called Bondar and Wise,who possibly played the Grande!You can still find their stuff on U-Tube! Take Care!Peace!!

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