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Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels


Detroit's contribution to Rock has been a straightforward and no nonsense. Bob Seger was a perfect example. Also, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Formed in '63 by R&B singer William Levise Jr. (soon to become Mitch Ryder), as Billy Lee & the Rivieras, they began playing clubs and making small label recordings.

This action got them noticed by "hot" producer Bob Crewe who moved the group to New York. Levise's stage name was picked out of a phone book. The Rivieras moniker was dropped in favor of the more "contemporary" sounding Detroit Wheels. But if anything, they were a retro act, reviving Rock 'n' Roll chestnuts. Their spin was to do medleys.

The first release, in '66, was "Jenny Take A Ride," a combination of traditional Blues song "See See Rider" and Little Richard's "Jenny, Jenny." Next up was a cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Little Latin Lupe Lu." While not as successful as "Jenny Take A Ride" it did break the Top Twenty (#17).





The Detroit Wheels were a tight unit consisting of Jim McCarty (guitar), Joe Kubert (guitar), Jim McCallister (bass) and John Badanjek (drums). Then there was the producer. Bob Crewe had the "touch" in the mid '60s. He was able to provide just enough polish for the pop market without interfering with or compromising the Rock 'n' Roll feeling. No small achievement.

From the second album "Breakout.!!!" came the group's biggest hit, another medley, "Devil With A Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly." A Little Richard song again provided the medley's second part. In early '67, "Sock It To Me, Baby!" was the group's last Top Ten hit. Ryder went solo without much luck and was last seen on the oldies circuit.

Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels Discography

Albums:

1966 Take A Ride
1966 Breakout!
1967 Sock It To Me

Mitch Ryder was a revivalist. He updated classic Rock 'n' Roll and Blues, keeping the original's manic energy. His performances were without inhibition. A Rock 'n' Roll tent show revival. Also, the Detroit Wheels were hot players. "Breakout!!!" and "Sock It To Me!" are the best albums. They both capture a wired singer and a tight band.

As for compilations, "The Best of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels" does the best job. It also presents some of Ryder's post Detroit Wheels recordings, including his stint with Detroit. This unheralded hard Rock outfit is worth a listen.

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