Motor City Flashbacks
Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2001 @ 20:29:28 UTC
Topic: Featured

First installment in a series about Detroit Rock City's younger days written by former bassist for Frijid Pink, Terry Stafford.

Motor City Flashbacks

series written by Terry Stafford

edited by eric phillips for

Someday, when you're looking back on your life as a musician, you may find yourself saying, "Remember back when...?" or "Ya know, things in the music business used to be different...." Well, I've found myself reminiscing like that recently. I'm just one of the many musicians who experienced an exciting period in Detroit's Rock & Roll history and lived to tell the tale.

My name is Terry Stafford. I'm a down-river Detroit musician forever and former bassist for Frijid Pink, a local band that went national back in the 70's. At the request of editor Mitch Phillips (a very talented writer, I might add) and, I've collected my thoughts about the years I worked as a musician and stories about other local Detroit bands that went national.

We believe there's lots of things you might find interesting about Detroit's rock & roll past; the places we played, the equipment we used, the management we suffered, life on the road and even the occasional interview with some of my more-famous friends. Periodically, I'll be writing about these subjects in an attempt to show you what the music business was like back in 'the day.'

I'd like to begin with just a few lines about me, then we'll get to the nitty-gritty. I started playing bass in bands at age 11. I played clubs and privates (that's what we called parties - see, you learned something already) during high-school and then, after graduating in 1971, I hit the road.

Some of my bands were, Doggin Heat, Amaze and Outer Drive. We were co-managed by Clyde Stevens and Ron Geddish who were managing Frijid Pink and Toby Redd (with Chili Pepper Chad Smith on drums). Eventually, I was asked to play bass for Pink and did that for a couple years. About ten years ago I started the classic rock band called Trilogy with ex-Pink roadie/keyboardist Tim Adkins and drummer Gary Michaels. I've since left that band and I'm currently recording with Dan Cartwright (Steve King & The Dittlies) and his wife, Carlene. Okay, enough about me.

Rock & Roll Detroit

1965 - 1976

An Overview

There's only two things a 12-year-old boy with only four t.v. channels was interested in back in 1965: sports and music. The Beatles had been out for a couple years and bands had popped up everywhere. Almost every block had a group who played baseball during the day and held band practice in the afternoons. Besides talking about The Tigers, we would argue about and bet each other which song would be #1 on the WKNR Music Guide for that week. Radio (that's AM only) was mostly dominated by Motown and soul songs with a sprinkling of ballads and soft rock.

But things began to change in the late 60's. Suddenly we were hearing more British and West Coast groups that were an "alternative" to the norm. A lot of local bands started to pick up on these new sounds and, of course, add a little Detroit for texture.

This early rock era spawned many Detroit celebs. If you think the local competition is fierce now, here's a list of bands that were playing our high-schools, dances, teen clubs and theaters: The Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent), Last Herd (Bob Segar), Grand Funk, The Rationals (Scott Morgan), The Frost (Dick Wagner), The MC5, SRC, Savage Grace, Frijid Pink, Brownsville Station, The Detroit Wheels (Mitch Ryder), The Stooges (Iggy Pop), The Pack (Terry Knight), Question-Mark and The Mysterians, Rare Earth, Third Power (Drew Abbott), Unrelated Segments, The Woolies, Teengarden & VanWinckle, Cactus, Shy Guys and The Underdogs. Many you've heard of and many you haven't but they were all from the motor city (forgive me if I left anybody out).

At this time Detroit was the hottest area in the country for what we now call "Hard Rock." Other groups from around the country started to move in and use Detroit as an area to develop and be recognized. Some of these were Savoy Brown, Meat Loaf, Journey, J.Geils, Kiss and Alice Cooper. Now, as an 18 year old with our high school class song being Alice Cooper’s “I'm Eighteen," we already knew what the whole world was about to learn; that things were changing dramatically. What an unbelievable understatement that was.

The Vietnam War was still blasting away and we were losing friends to the draft. Protests and rallies against the war escalated into riots. Racial tensions in Detroit exploded and set the city ablaze. After fumbling with the war against Communism, the '68 riots, The Kent State Massacre, the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations, the government was in shock and completely paranoid. Surely they couldn't be blamed for all this hysteria, so President Johnson and his sneaky sidekick, F.B.I inquisitor J. Edgar Hoover, turned their attention (and diverted ours) to the real threats to National Security - kids and their evil music (sound familiar Eminem?). The incidents at Woodstock and Altamont gave them more than enough ammunition to launch a full-scale investigation.

Now, imagine you're playing a gig at some local Detroit club and there's some well-dressed men standing around taking photographs and writing things down in their little note pads. You might like to think they were writers for Rolling Stone or Creem magazine - but you'd be wrong. Back then they were G-Men sent by J. Edgar Hoover who thought that this new rock & roll subculture had to be investigated and infiltrated. Hundreds of musicians and music-cult figures were investigated, harassed and spied upon - including the writers for Creem magazine which was published for a time in both Detroit and Walled Lake, Michigan. Who knows what FBI files are out there? But for sure guitarist Wayne Kramer and manager John Sinclair (both of the MC5) know of at least two unlucky locals who did prison terms for their parts in this heinous plot.

By 1970-71, Detroit had some of the best "ballrooms" anywhere. The Grande Ballroom was in full swing and the Eastown Ballroom (Harper & Van Dyke) had daily shows featuring bands like ELO, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers, ELP, J. Geils, King Crimson, Yes, Mountain and many more. You can't imagine what a trip it was hearing Pink Floyd for the first time.

By 1971-72, many of our "local" bands were going national with monster hits. Frijid Pink was a classic Detroit band story. (Later, I'll dedicate an entire installment, taking you from it's humble beginnings to it's ultimate demise.) I think it speaks volumes about life in a local band that was thrust into the international music scene. Like many young local bands today, we had a lot of good ideas and talent but we knew the gene-pool we were up against. We figured our best chance was to hit the road and spread our version of Detroit music. Our thinking was to develop our own sound, record and return with a seasoned act that couldn't be ignored.

But musical styles were developing faster than the Internet is today: from the Allman Brothers (southern rock), ELP and Pink Floyd (art rock) to The Tubes and David Bowie (glam rock) it was getting harder to get noticed in a music business that was splintering into several rock-genres. Then, around 1975, the worst happened. A band and a sound came along that put almost every working rock act either out of business, or with virtually no chance of getting their music widely promoted or distributed: The Bee Gees and Disco. Much like the effect nineties Grunge had on eighties Hair-Metal and 21st century rap and hip-hop have had on Grunge, those who adapted and assimilated disco survived (e.g. Rod Stewart or David Bowie), those who didn't withered and faded away.

When some of us older guys get together, there's not a conversation that won't include something about the old days and how things were different. They were different, but I believe the more things change the more they stay the same. Detroit is still a hotbed of musical talent. Ask around, read reviews, borrow records, tapes, CD's, MP3's and most of all go see these bands live because there might just be something special there to add to the area's rich musical history.

If you have a comment, suggestion or even a story you'd like to share feel free to send me an E-mail. I'd love to cover as many areas as possible and really try to connect the old with the new.

If you'd like to read more about the history of "Frijid Pink" read ny next Motor City Flashbacks: Frijid Pink- a history."

Terry Stafford

This article comes from Michigan Bands Music and Entertainers

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