Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels
William S. Levise, Jr (born February 26, 1945), known better by his stage name Mitch Ryder, is an American musician who has recorded more than two dozen albums over more than four decades.
Ryder is noted for his gruff, wailing singing style and his dynamic stage performances. He was influenced by his father, a musician. As a teenager, Ryder sang backup with a black soul-music group known as the Peps, but racial animosities interfered with his continued presence in the group.
Ryder formed his first band, Tempest, when he was in high school, and the group gained some notoriety playing at a Detroit soul music club called The Village. Ryder next appeared fronting a band named Billy Lee & The Rivieras, which had limited success until they met songwriter / record producer Bob Crewe. Crewe renamed the group Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, and they recorded several hit records for his DynoVoice Records and New Voice labels in the mid to late 1960s, most notably "Devil with a Blue Dress On", their highest-charting single at number 4, as well as "Sock It to Me-Baby!", a number 6 hit in 1967, and "Jenny Take a Ride!", which reached number 10 in 1965. The Detroit Wheels were John Badanjek on drums, Joe Kubert (not to be confused with the comic book illustrator of the same name) on rhythm guitar, Jim McCarty (not to be confused with the Yardbirds drummer of the same name) on lead guitar and Jim McAllister on bass.
Ryder's musical endeavors would see less success after the early 1970s. Ryder's participation with the Detroit Wheels ended just as the counterculture was becoming dominant in 1968. During 1968, trumpeters Mike Thuroff and John Stefan were hired to tour with his horn section and band. Thuroff and Stefan also recorded the trumpet parts of Ryder's song, "Ring My Bell." This song was not permitted to be played by radio in many states due to its sexual innuendos. Ryder had one hit single from that period, a cover version of "What Now, My Love". His last successful ensemble band was Detroit. The only original Wheel in the group was the drummer John Badanjek; other members were guitarists Steve Hunter, Robert Gillespie, and Brett Tuggle, organist Harry Phillips, and bassist W.R. Cooke. A single album was released by this grouping, a 1971 self-titled LP issued on Paramount Records (US #176 in 1972). They had a hit with their version of the Lou Reed-penned song "Rock & Roll", which Reed liked enough to ask Steve Hunter to join his backing band.
According to allmusic.com (which calls Ryder "the unsung hero" of Michigan rock and roll), Ryder withdrew from music after experiencing throat trouble, moving to Colorado with his wife and taking up writing and painting. In 1983, Ryder returned to a major label with the John Mellencamp-produced album Never Kick a Sleeping Dog. The album featured a cover version of the Prince song "When You Were Mine," which was Ryder's last score on the Billboard Hot 100.
Ryder continues to record and tour in the United States and Europe.
On February 14, 2012 Ryder released The Promise, his first US release in almost 30 years.
Ryder spent his high school years in Warren, Michigan. After many years living in Warren, and later Livonia, Ryder currently resides in South Lyon, Michigan, a small town northwest of Detroit.
Ryder has influenced the music of such blue collar rock music artists as Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, and also Bruce Springsteen whose version of the song "Devil With a Blue Dress" was part of the No Nukes concert album in the early 1980s. He has also been cited as a primary musical influence by Ted Nugent.
Bruce Springsteen still plays his music on stage. The song titled "Detroit Medley" refers directly to the Detroit Wheels. Included in this medley are the songs, "Devil With a Blue Dress", "Jenny Take a Ride", "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "C.C. Rider". The medley from time to time blends in a variety of other songs, but this remains the core section, often featuring guitar solos from Springsteen and piano solos by Roy Bittan.
Winona Ryder, the stage name of Winona Laura Horowitz, was inspired by Mitch Ryder's music.
The Detroit Wheels
The Detroit Wheels were an American rock band, formed in Detroit in 1964. They served as Mitch Ryder's backup band from 1964 to 1967.
The band had a number of top twenty hits in the mid-1960s before lead singer Ryder was enticed away by Bob Crewe with offers of a solo career, after which the group quickly dissolved. Two of its former members, McCarty and Badanjek, later reunited to establish the nucleus of a new band called The Rockets, after Jim McCarty found some fame with the hard rock outfit Cactus.
The band had its origins in Detroit in the early 1960s. At this time, a young white singer by the name of William Levise, Jr., who was singing at a black soul club called The Village, met a rock & roll group which included McCarty, bassist Earl Elliot, and Badanjek. Levise decided to join the group and took the stage name of Billy Lee, and the band became Billy Lee and the Rivieras. After attracting attention from producer Bob Crewe while working as a support act to The Dave Clark Five, the group moved to New York to start recording. However, since another band had already recorded as The Rivieras, the band decided to change its name again. With the help of a phone book, Levise took the new stage name of Mitch Ryder, and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels were born. The group's live performances are said to have had an "explosive quality" and their style has been described as "revved up...R&B".
Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels had their first big hit in 1965 with "Jenny Take a Ride", which reached #10 on national charts, and #1 on the R&B chart – the first time a self-contained rock group had achieved the latter distinction. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. Crewe had originally planned to release the track as a B side, but changed his mind after seeing the reactions of Brian Jones and Keith Richards, of The Rolling Stones, who were in the Stei-Philips studio in New York City as it was being recorded.
Ryder and the Detroit Wheels followed up with another top twenty hit, "Little Latin Lupe Lu," which peaked at #17. After a couple of misses, the group had its biggest hit with the "Devil with a Blue Dress On"/"Good Golly Miss Molly" medley which reached #4. Around this period they also recorded a number of albums, largely composed of reworked R&B classics, along with a smattering of original compositions.
In 1967 Ryder had another top ten hit with "Sock It to Me, Baby!", which was banned by some stations as too sexually suggestive. The band had its last hit with the brassy "Too Many Fish in the Sea"/"Three Little Fishes" single, which reached #24. Crewe then persuaded Ryder to quit the group and embark on a solo career.
After Ryder's departure, Badanjek fronted a short-lived band of the same name which recorded several tracks, most notably "Linda Sue Dixon", a song glorifying the illicit hallucinogenic drug LSD, which charted worldwide in 1968. They also recorded "Think (About the Good Things)/For the Love of a Stranger". The band's line-up during this time is uncertain.
Ryder's solo career, meantime, had been mishandled and failed to take off. In 1969 he, Badanjek and some other musicians along with Mitch Ryder on vocals covering a number of the songs established a new band called The Band Detroit, which recorded an eponymous named album. One single was released from the album, a cover of Lou Reed's "Rock and Roll" that Reed reportedly liked better than his original version, and Reed subsequently hired Detroit guitarist Steve Hunter for his own band. Detroit's follow-up tour to the album, however, met with little success, after which Ryder departed once again and the band broke up. The final lineup of the band featured harmonica player and powerhouse singer Rusty Day, who Ryder chose to replace him in 1972, and also featured pre-Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Steve "Crawdaddy" Gaines, guitarist Bill Hodgson of Shadowfax, drummer Ted "T-Mel" Smith of The Spinners, bassist Nathaniel Peterson of Twin Dragons, and keyboardist Terry Emery of the Moxie Band Atlanta. Steve Gaines died on Skynyrd's plane crash October 20, 1977. Also killed in the crash were Gaines's older sister Cassie, and Skynyrd founder and lead singer Ronnie VanZant. Rusty Day was murdered on June 3, 1982 at his own home in Longwood, Florida. Nobody knows who killed Day, and the case remains open even now. Bill Hodgson died around 1983-ish shortly after having moved to New York. Hodgson died due to what was confirmed to be a drug overdose, most likely accidental. Ted "T-Mel" Smith died of natural causes in 2006. Terry Emery joined the Moxie Band Atlanta in 1997, which he's remained in ever since. Nathaniel Peterson has been in several bands after The Band Detroit broke up, in particularly one that Peterson founded called Twin Dragons.
In 1972, Badanjek and former Wheels guitarist McCarty reunited to form the nucleus of a new group called The Rockets, which recorded a number of albums through the 1970's and 1980's. McCarty continues to perform today with his group, Mystery Train. John Badanjek remains active as well and still plays out with McCarty. McCarty also played with Rusty Day, Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice in the group Cactus.