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 Motor City Flashbacks: Frijid Pink - A History
by Terry Stafford - special contributor to Michiganbands.com

This article is my second in a series about the Rock n Roll scene from the late 60’s to the mid 70’s and how it relates to today’s bands and music. This time I'll be relating the story of Frijid Pink, a band I had the privelege of playing with in the early mid-seventies. Complete with a discography, a complete members list, cover photos and more.

MOTOR CITY FLASHBACK #2

Frijid Pink - A Moment in Time

by Terry Stafford

edited by Mitch Phillips for Michiganbands.com

This article is my second in a series about the Rock n Roll scene from the late 60’s to the mid 70’s and how it relates to today’s bands and music.
In the first installment of Motor City Flashbacks, I mentioned many of the local bands and the unbelievable amount of competition there was. But one of these local bands went from playing teens clubs and high school dances to arenas in a matter of weeks.

Looking back, Frijid Pink has always been considered a "one hit wonder” but that's not quite the whole story. The band released four albums, numerous singles and recorded a monster of a hit that sold 5 million copies that's still on many classic radio station’s play lists.

I was very fortunate to have played bass for Frijid Pink a couple of years late in its life span. Pink’s story is a classic tale of finally "making it" and then falling victim to its own success in some respects. Today’s bands are more fortunate in as much as they can learn from our mistakes.

I’d like to start with a history of the band, its discography, past members and finally the cost and expense of keeping a touring band working. And then in my humble opinion, discuss the band' s success and failures.


HISTORY: Frijid Pink

Late 1968 - early 1969

Good Vibrations

Frijid Pink began as the Detroit Vibrations which was managed by Clyde Stevers (an Allen Park policeman) with his son Rick Stevers on drums and Tom Harris playing bass. The Vibrations were always in demand, having success playing teen clubs, parties, dances and high schools mostly in the downriver area. One day, the Vibrations played a teen club in Allen Park called The Chatterbox when Clyde was approached by a brash but accomplished young guitar player named Gary Thompson. Gary told Clyde he was better than his guy and that he should have the job. Gary was better so Clyde hired him along with another local guy with a very powerful voice named Tom Beaudry, later known as Kelly Green.
Also hired on guitar was Dan Yehley, who was drafted shortly thereafter and sent to Vietnam. Unfortunately, he was killed in an enemy ambush before he could see where his band was headed.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

With the lineup now set, they continued to play as the Detroit Vibrations. Clyde' s wife, Clara Stevers, told the guys they needed a name change to go with the new group. As it happened, her son Rick was painting her bathroom a very trendy pink. Apparently, he had it everywhere including his hair when his mother suggested they call the band "frosted pink." It was quite fashionable for a woman to have her hair frosted at the time. Well that didn’t fly but she didn’t lose her train of thought. Sitting in her kitchen table, she stared at their Frigidare refrigerator then blurted out, "Frigid Pink!" and then suggested dropping the "g" for a "j" and the name was born.


Vibrating Pink Velvet Parade

The new band struck a chord with audiences by playing a gutsy, guitar-oriented rock, but they were still known as the Detroit Vibrations. Clyde and the guys came up with a promotional gimmick to facilitate the name change. They headlined a packed music theater in Ecorse called the Harbor Lights, which the week before showcased the First Edition Band featuring then unknown singer Kenny Rogers. The Vibrations played to a packed house dressed in their usual jeans and playing from their regular set list. After the first break, the band changed into brand new custom-sewn pink satins and velvets. They hired the biggest light show in the city that included follow spots, stage fog, dry ice and a psychedelic backdrop of melting colored water. When they came out, they were introduced as Frijid Pink and played all new material. The crowd went wild and, in some circles, that debut is still spoken of today.



In the Studio

After the Harbor Lights debut, Frijid Pink was in demand (you know your on the right road when you start getting paid more money for less time). They hit the studio in the fall of 1969, recording their first tapes at Pioneer Studios in Detroit. They recorded several songs during this session including "God Gave me You" and "Tell me Why.” With about 10 minutes of studio time left, the engineer asked them if there was anything else they wanted "canned.” The guys had been working on a song that they wanted in their live set but with expensive studio time left over, they decided to lay it down anyway. With only a minimum amount of practice and in only one take, Frijid Pink recorded a hit - a heavy version of the public domain song "House of the Rising Sun."

Airplay

At the time, there were only two radio stations in Detroit that played rock n roll, CKLW and WKNR. Paul Cannon was a very popular DJ at "keener 13" and a close friend of Rick Stevers. As a matter of fact, he was dating his daughter Linda. One day at the Cannon house, he asked Rick if he had his studio tapes with him. Rick went out to get them and they sat and listened. Cannon liked what he heard and just when the last song started, which was the beginning of "House" , Rick shut off the tape. Rick and the guys never considered "House" a releasable song because it was destined for their live set, but Cannon told him to turn it back and let it play. He finished listening and walked away telling Rick he needed to call New York right away. Cannon contacted the then President of London Records Walt McGuire, who had already released "God gave me you" and "Drivin Blues" in Detroit and Buffalo, and persuaded him to stop the release and get "House" out right away. Cannon knew he had a hit, but never imagined how big.


Within days the song charted and was getting national and then international air play within weeks.
 

Psychedelic Pajama Party


Pink was then flown to New York to finish recording their first album at Media Sound Studios for London / Parrot Records. While they were in New York they stayed at the Lowes Midtown Hotel where they were checked-in along with other musicians who were performing in the area. Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin, Gordon Lightfoot and Frijid Pink were kept isolated from other guests as best they could. Nobody kept his or her room locked because everyone was exchanging ideas, but if you hear Rick tell it, that wasn’t the only thing being exchanged. DETAILS Terry!

Well "House" went to #7 on Billboard and the band left for a road tour that included a three week spring concert schedule in Australia and months of shows in Canada and the United States. Frijid Pink’s first album was larger than life in the United Kingdom and especially in Germany. Pink was on the cover of all their music magazines and spent 11 weeks at #1 in Germany and 5 months in their top 100.

Maybe it was timing or that English groups like the Beatles and the Stones were being over played, but Detroit groups enjoyed great popularity in Europe. Today, bands like Mitch Ryder and Rare Earth still spend much of their time touring Germany and the rest of Europe because they still can’t get enough of the Detroit sound.


While in St. Louis for a show, Kelly and Gary left for home (without telling anybody) where they met with Walt McGuire of London Records, asking that Rick and Tom be replaced. McGuire turned them down and, because of their demands, told them they were in breach of contract and the band was through.

Pumping Life Into Pink

Auditions were held to replace Kelly and Gary which resulted in a new lineup for the third album. Jon Waring was the new vocalist and a local guitar player named Craig Webb replaced Gary on lead. The album was recorded at the Osmond’s Family Studio and was released in 1972 by Lion Records. “Earth Omen” showed a different side to Pink that included Dawn (later of Tony Orlando fame) as backup singers for several songs. The title song was a surrealistic tune about pollution that never connected with the hard core Pink fans.

Follow up singles, “Lazy Day,” “Shorty Kline” and a remake of the Moody Blues “Go Now,” also failed to chart. The band members lost interest in the project and more auditions were held for the fourth release.

This time Rick was the sole original member with Tom Harris being replaced by Larry Popolizio on bass and Joe Baker on vocals. This album was recorded at Credence Clearwater’s private studio in Berkley California and was released by Fantasy Records in 1974. Critics thought “All Pink Inside” woul put Pink back on top, but again they failed to chart.

No more auditions. This time Clyde wanted people that wrote and played music more to the original Pink sound and had to look no further than his other band, Outer Drive. This was a band that played hard Detroit rock with some newer licks and a lot more harmonies from previous bands. We were Detroit rockers through and through with road experience and a lengthy repertoire of original music. Although we recorded and played two years together, the changing music scene and three unsuccessful albums before us ultimately doomed the band.

A side note before I move on. A lot of people didn’t know that then President Richard Nixon was a huge fan of Frijid Pink. He invited the band to Washington D.C. for a meet and greet and asked the guys to play three shows for him in Chicago, Toledo and Miami.

Frijid Pink



A DISCOGRAPHY:
ALBUMS
#1 - Frijid Pink 1969 Parrot/Deram Records

United States - #7 Billboard February 1970, 11

weeks in the top 10.
Germany - #1 for 11 weeks and 5 months in the top 100.
United Kingdom - #4 and 4 months in the top 75.

#2 - Defrosted 1971 Parrot/Deram Records
United States- #149 Billboard



#3 - Earth Omen 1972 Lion Records



#4 - All Pink Inside 1974 Fantasy Records



Singles:



#1 - Tell Me Why / Cryin Shame - Parrot Records



#2 - Drivin Blues / God Gave Me You - Parrot Records



#3 - House of the Rising Sun /Tell me Why - #7 Billboard - Parrot Records



#4 - Sing a Song for Freedom / End of the Line - #55 Billboard, #33 Germany - Parrot



#5 - Heartbreak Hotel / Bye Bye Blues - #72 Billboard - Parrot/Deram Records



#6 - Music for the People / Sloony - Parrot/Deram Records



#7 - We". re gonna be there / Shorty Kline - Parrot/Deram Records



#8 - Lost Son / I love her - Parrot/Deram Records



#9 - Lazy Day / Go Now - Lion Records



MEMBERS:







Kelly Green (Tom Beaudry) - vocals



Gary Thompson - guitar



Tom (Sach) Harris - bass



Rick Stevers - drums



Larry Zelanka - keys



John Wearing - vocals



Craig Webb - guitar/vocals



Joe Baker - vocals



Larry Popolizio - bass



Terry Stafford - bass/vocals



Bob Gilbert - guitar/vocals



Ray Knapp - keys/vocals



and Dawn (Tony Orlando)



Thelma Hopkins



Joyce Vincent



MANAGEMENT:



Clyde Stevers (Pink Unlimited)



Ron Geddish



TYPICAL TOURING BAND EXPENDITURES: (at the time)



Management



Agent and Promoters



Band salaries



Road crew salaries



Attorney fees



Accountants



Studio rehearsal time



Credit cards and band loans (if any)



Transportation:



-Truck rentals



-Band and road crews vans



-Airfare



-Insurance:



-Liability



-Vehicles



-Equipment



Union fees and Professional organizations dues



Promotion and Advertising:



-Photography



-Videos



-Posters and lithographs



-Newspaper and magazine ads



-Handouts (buttons, stickers, picks, drum sticks,


photos etc.)



-Clothing for crew and staff



-Mailers and postage



-Clothing and costumes for band



- Promotional packages:



-Schedule of dates



-Recording schedules and timelines



-Bios



-Tapes, records



-Press releases



-Discography



-Awards



-Management and record company information



-Photos, posters and advance material



-Equipment:



-PA



-Lights/trusses/controllers



-Amp line



-Instruments



-Props



-Road cases



-Staging



-Extras (duct tape, bulbs and gels etc.)



-Road expenses:



-Rooms



-Fuel



-Per Diems



-Health and welfare



-Telephones







There’s more believe me. The point being, it’s very costly to keep a recording/road group up and running. A $5000 engagement to a bar band is huge, but to a touring act, that kind of money will only replace a handful of road cases or damaged lighting. And then there are the intangibles. Unexpected costs like breakdowns and even gigantic snowstorms. We spent over a week in Boston not able to make some East Coast shows due to a storm that locked up half of the country. That's Rock ‘n Roll.










Closing Thoughts




Pink started like almost any other band did back then. They worked every job that came in and built a following that really loved them. They developed by picking up the right players maturing into a solid Detroit rock ‘n roll band. What I thought was a turning point for them was the Harbor Light show in Ecorse. That night turned The Detroit Vibrations, a local teen club band into Frijid Pink, a major player in Detroit rock n roll history. For the band, that one show changed everything. Their management and road crew knew it, the promoters and especially the audience knew it. And more importantly, the band changed mentally and physically; they were "Frijid Pink" .






Every once in a while, whether you are a musician, singer or someone in the audience, you will be part of something so special that it justs tears your heart out; when you witness a part of music history that you’ll never forget. Its happened to me a couple of times both on and off the stage and in talking to my good friend Rick Stevers, I know that the Harbor Light show was one for him. Another was when they played the Coliseum in Montreal where they received their first "candlelight" ovation.



These things happen, and when they do, cherish them because these are the high times. Sure the money is important and earlier I tried to show the need for a steady cash flow, but believe me that money comes and goes, but those memories are a part of you forever. I’ve heard actors call it a "stage high.” Whatever it is, that's why we play music because that craving is the one thing that never seems to go away.



But mostly there are those not-so-high times that every band has to endure and work through. And for lack of a better term, the second album "Defrosted" Frijid Pink. Call it a sophomore jinx, bigger heads, weaker songs, or lack of direction or mis-management. Whatever it was, the band would never quite recover.



In my opinion four things led to the ultimate breakup of the group: Success, Management, Timing and Direction.



Success is a blessing and a curse at the same time. If an artist could pick an ideal situation, I think they should want a steady flow of successful singles and build gradually to stardom. But all to often things jump off when least expected; success cannot be timed. In Pinks case, they started with a local fan base, but when "House" hit they were a "new" band on the scene.



My second reason is mis-management. Please don’t misunderstand me, Clyde Stevers deserves a lot of credit. He took a teen band and did the necessary and prudent steps for success at a time when all of this was new for everyone. And then you’d have to ask yourself, how many of our parents could take your band to the top of the charts and schedule world tours? But once things "broke" for the band and the phone wouldn’t stop, again it’s my opinion that an "A" list management team should have been employed. Clyde could have still been a "hands on" co-manager, but the band would have benefited from the skills and experience that industry professionals would have employed.






Lastly, Timing and Direction were a problem. Starting out, Pink could not have timed it better. They were the right band with the right sound in the right city at the right time. Their style of rock n roll (hard-driving, guitar oriented Detroit blues) was what audiences wanted and even expected from a Detroit band. But longevity is a fleeting thing. That same sound couldn't carry over deep into the 70’s. Seger developed and was more polished, Rare Earth was having trouble with their lengthy Motown jams and Grand Funk went from "Inside looking out" to "Locomotion.” Dick Wagner, founder of The Frost, moved on to a very successful playing and writing career with artists like Alice Cooper, who himself went from "Reflected" (not Elected, see his “Pretties For You” album) to "Only Women Bleed," a Dick Wagner tune. These bands adapted with the changes and continue to be very successful today.



Frijid Pink did change it’s sound on the "Earth Omen" and then on the "All Pink Inside" albums but mostly due to wholesale personnel changes. They’ve always had a great line up of musicians that included two local girls Thelma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent (Dawn), who left Pink to join Tony Orlando in his stage and television shows to great success. But the new sound didn’t connect with the band’s following. The very last Pink of which I played bass and co-wrote, was a more consistent throw-back to the original sound with newer hooks and harmonies, but by that time, mostly because of disappointing sales of the previous albums and the new "Disco" sound, we just couldn't get anything released.



Today’s bands have much more at their disposal: the Internet, MP3’s, Indie labels, Web Sites and many more radio stations and oh yeah, VH1 and MTV. But then again, making a band successful hasn’t changed much. You should still do the following:



-Get the right personnel (this is the hard part)



-Practice (everyday)



-Build a sound you like (write good songs, don’t cut corners)



-Establish a fan base



-Self promote



-Stay organized and motivated



-Record and even practice recording (on your own if necessary)



-Be prepared (if there’s one thing this article should tell you, YOU NEVER KNOW!)



As always, e-mail me with your comments or suggestions for future topics. A story or two would be great and I’d love to hear from you. And if you like these types of articles about the older groups, tell others and by all means post a comment.

Terry Stafford

If you'd like to know more about the Detroit rock scene in the late sixties and early seventies, read my first article Motor City Flashbacks.



Posted on Sunday, April 15, 2001 @ 13:01:50 EDT by Chief Editor
Topic: Featured
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