Saturday, February 27, 2010

BIG RICH: DETROIT LATE 60's


Big, with daughter Celeste and brother Pat the Bird (RIP)

People know me as Big Rich... it's true, I'm pretty big. I'm from Fenkell & Wyoming in the Motor City Detroit... Michigan... I went to Catholic School on Dexter and Fenkell, that's 5 Mile... couple miles from the Grande Ballroom... there was 9 kids in a 3 bedroom house. Dad was a Cop 'till I was 14... my Big Brother Jimmy played a Stratocaster in a 2 piece band... the Rockin' King's... they played around at parties and stuff... him and a snare drum... that's all it took, like,"Walk don't Run". I could hear 'em practicing' in the basement at night...up thru a heater vent in the floor... it was 1964.

Over the years I got around.... had a ton of fun... met some people you might know... MC 5, Stooges, Rationals... a lot of guys in other bands and clubs and stuff... spent some time with Fred Smith, Rock Action and Scott Morgan when they had Sonic's Rendezvous Band... Ron Asheton and Niagara and Michael Davis... when they had Destroy All Monsters... and Dark Carnival... had the privilege of going to Rob Tyner's home... with his buddy, Gary Grimshaw... went to a lot of shows... partied my ass off... had a lot of fun... I love those guy's.

All this memory trippin' started when I first heard that Gary Grimshaw was sick...

I been gone awhile... I started thinkin' back to when I last saw him, a couple years ago... been in Florida runnin' boat's and stuff since '98... came back to Detroit for Mom's Funeral... I had my son Mike along... was able to spend an hour at Gary's place near Wayne State... there he was, in his basement, bare brickwall studio, drawing table in the center of the room... surrounded by artwork, cd's, albums, a shelf of video's we made over the years, crates of framed posters, like a command center for the underground... I was impressed.


Then Kimmer came on the scene and wanted to help me make a blog to chronicle my life and all the "experiences" of my life so far... and so it begins....

I was a leather wearin' greaser in a frat boy school...it's true, never hooked up with any of them chicks, I used to wear socks they call, "thick n' thins"... like the black dudes wore... and shark skin pants, wingtip points, dress leather, tried to look sharp...like the older guys. Kid in my art class said check out this band, MC-5, buy their record, "Lookin' at You", even 'tho it sounds like shit, I asked him, why would I do that?... to support the BAND, Man! He was hip, had a band called Target... guy named Gary Grimshaw drew 'em a Bulls-Eye logo. A weird kid named Mahoney would write poems, I started illustrating them with pen & ink.... quit drawin' skulls and stuff... and usin' Brylcream, started growin' long hair... pretty soon they kicked me out, charged with smokin' it in the boys room... it was 1967, and I was 16.


Now picture this, ridin' shotgun, back in the day... Sister Kitty drivin' Jimmy's Red Sport Fury Convertible... Bucket Seats, Hurst 4 Speed hifter... Hole shot from a stop sign, on the east side, "Satisfaction" on the radio....she was older too... I hung with her alot. We were greasers, wantin' to be biker's... but didn't have no bike. kid's those day rode BSA's, Norton's, stuff like that... a lot of 'em didn't survive. We all worked in my Dads shop, makin' car parts, he let us drive the pick-up truck at night... drank Bali-Hi, and Silver Satin Wine, back out on the west side where we were from... Listenin' to Motown, and the Animals, "We gotta get outta this place", "Sweet Pea" and "Wild Thing" ... it was all about the 45's... Hitsville.


It was around that time when Donnie Young got killed in Viet-Nam. I used to take his niece to the movies on Harper & Van Dyke, at The Eastown Theatre... saw Riot on Sunset Strip... and The Harper, now the call it HARPO'S... He told Kitty, "I won't be coming back"... we went to his funeral, there was a truck load of soldiers, an Honor Guard. They gave his Mom his watch, and the flag, she didn't take it very well... My Dad said you better join the Navy or you'll be up to your ass in jungle-mud. I wasn't sure if they had mud in Viet-Nam... besides, I wasn't goin' nowhere... and I didn't.

Later, sometimes we'd go down by The Detroit River, in my Sister's Chevy, new, light purple with a white rag top, stick shift, just hang out, drink beer... lovin' it... we had a little mini-rumble once, our best guy socked their best guy, and it was over... not too much trouble in those days... besides commin' home late... I kissed my first girl in the back seat of somebody else's car, behind the police station on Belle Isle... we used to go over the bridge to Canada in a black VW bug, way out in the sticks, some one knew some body over there, so we went.... one night I didn't go... they ran a stop and hit a Mack Truck...

Detroit Love IN Grimshaw Poster

That summer, the hippies had a LOVE-IN on Belle Isle, Mom dropped us off in a white Impala convertible, she used to hang out there as a girl, so she thought it would be cool.... I hopped out in the traffic jam... I think I saw the MC5, can't say for sure... had a blast... a black dude passed some weed... end of the day a little bit of a ruckus broke out, over by the Bikers... Cops on horses made us leave... it got pretty stupid, down on the street, people throwin' rocks and stuff...

My buddys brother came home from the Navy, we gave 'em a ride downtown to a place called Plum Street, Detroit's version of Haight Ashbury..."Man, you can get anything you want down there", he said, "a fur-covered tambourine, maybe even some boo"....we were impressed... later, I passed my pal a joint on the way home from school, he threw it out the window, didn't see him much after that.... it was his car. He joined the Navy too. Pretty soon I smoked it every chance I got... bought it from the bikers, at the Daly Drive-in... you had to know somebody then... and it was't the mean green the kids are blowin' these days.

Pot used to come in tin foil, 3 bucks or 5, a nickel bag, before they invented baggies, thats how old I am....

We started hangin' down on Plum... on the street, around the shops... sometimes at a place we called High Cool, an old lady sold hot french bread with butter, sugar and cinnamon, out the window of a house, 'till the city shut her down... hippie food... just smokin' grass, drinkin' coffee and poppin' dexidrine... strobe lights flashin' in the snow, havin' a fine time....chicks, hippies, bikers, tourists... you could be anything you wanted. Mom bought tickets to see Frank Zappa & The Mothers, our new favorite band ...we started gettin' weirder... Plum Street started goin' bad...trouble and cops... One night we took a bus from Downtown, up Grand River to Joy Road, first time ever at the Grande Ballroom, got there late, just in time to see the MC-5, it was New Years Eve, 1967... after that we went there all the time, seen all the bands, like Jimi said, never hear surf music again... more like... the Psychedelic Stooges...


One night, late, I was with Peter Canfield, they called him Peter the Witch... he was tumbling down the Grande stairs...some kind of acrobat... just for kicks... he almost creamed Chuck Berry, who was commin' UP the stairs, no lie... I had a hold of Chuck Berry! Another time, I was trippin', Uncle Russ was standing at the top of those stairs,watching people walk in, he said "I'm looking for a new announcer, Dave Miller is quittin' & I need someone tall, come by my office"....Nah, I said... I could hardly talk... Crazy times.... Miller traded my partner Billy G a fringed suede vest for a black motorcycle jacket... we loved the Grande... all them girls in velvet pants... dark... do what ya' want...

I can still remember runnin' up them stairs, hearing "Border Line"... knowin' the Five was lettin' loose...like a giant psychedelic pep-rally. The Grande was a Ballrom Dancin', Rollerskate'n place from the '30's... the walk-around was like a horse shoe shape... great big windows you could sit in... watch the freak show passin' by... step down thru the arches onto the big wooden floor... stage at the far end... big white walls on either side with swirlin' pulsatin' light show goin'... trippin'... gettin' crazy postcards for the next show... all kinds of diff'rent music... your ears would be ringin' on the way home... never saw anything that compares.


People say you could walk into the Dressing Room... it's true... we went in and were tokin' & jokin' while the 5 tuned up, just like that song "Kick out the Jams", ..."the dressing room got hazy"... found a pick on the floor... saved it for 40 years, till one of my boy's was lookin' for one... they were impressed.

I saw Janis walkin' down Forrest, when Big Brother played, people said she was lookin' for dope. "Cheap Thrills" was our favorite album that summer, Hells Angels approved it said on the cover, we had a lotta' fun... Orange Wedge Trippin' on the Roller Coaster at Edgewater Amusement Park...

We were really flyin' high....walls were fallin' down, for sure... with not much guidance, there was little we wouldn't do, once the ball went rollin', it was hard to stop... it's true.

My Family moved out to the 'Burbs, no bus, no sidewalks, didn't dig that scene, being a City Boy and all... but there were Teen Clubs and Shows all over... always something goin' on... The Hideouts, Crows Nest, Palladium... you could see 5 or 6 "local bands" on any given night... name 'em...

Third Power, Wilson Mower Pursuit, Frost, SRC, Bob Seeger, Ted Nugent, Rationals, Stooges, and always, the MC-5.

I split from home, again, ran away to Toronto with my girlfriend in a 4 door '61 Ford. This was 1968, Canned Heat on the radio, "On the road again"... We heard about the Party in Chicago, they called it the Festival of Light... joint rolling contests, bands, MC-5, all that... some people wanted to go, so we went. We stopped in Ann Arbor at the Hill Street House on the way... when we got there, Cops were kickin' peoples asses in the streets, all over... not too cool... had to run alot... at night we slept in some kind of theatre court yard with big brick walls, near Lincoln Park. We went to see The Five play, got there just in time to see the party "broke up"... my car was parked in the Zoo lot, cops were sittin' on the hood and all 4 tires were slashed... they were laughin'... I was only 17, so they let me go... we headed back to Detroit.

"Kick Out The Jams" was recorded LIVE at the Grande... Halloween of '68...the ZENTA New Year... (thats our religion...) I got off work late, found someone to score some booze, six pack of Mickeys Malt and a fifth of Southern Comfort, (for Janis...) all this took a while, needless to say, they wouldn't let us in... gave me a poster and said go away... so I did... a very sad state of affairs, indeed. I met up with those guys later... The MC5 was it for us...looked cool, crazy sparkly costumes and flags and full length leathers, they talked cool with a serious swagger and a hell on wheels approach to life they called "Total Assault on the Culture"... we could relate....

Mom thought MC-5 was a drug... Dad called me Zenta, till the day he died...

The heat was on that fall, people got busted... nowhere to run... I moved back home and went back to school to dodge the draft, ended up at Warren High, like Mitch Ryder, from earlier times... his picture was still hangin on the wall... finally graduated, they mailed me my diploma... had a car, off and on... $100 specials... drove 'em till they stopped then walked away... workin' in the tool shop... and carryin' on...

Preston Fletcher went to Viet Nam so we moved into his apartment on 4th and Antoinette... me and a kid named Gerber Baby... every one had a nick name... that was his. we were walking down the street one day... black chick said man, "you all got the crazy-ittis" we were proud... sometimes we sold the Fifth Estate, for cash. It was a radical newspaper, full of revolution and all... once we got arrested for selling it outside a High School, Peddling without a License was the charge and off to Oakland County Jail... they were always wantin' to give a kid a haircut, I guess it was important to them, too... Cops were really aggravated by all this long hair, free love and talk of overthrowing the established order... I could tell.

Truth was, no one dared to put a FREE JOHN SINCLAIR bumper sticker on their car... know what I mean?



BIG

12 comments:

Fast Film said...

Gosh, I'm astonished at your memory of events back in the day. (Out on my coast, I was sleeping them off!) I'm glad you started this blog: it's a great recap of good times or weird times, and you've just gotten started.

KENNY CRIMEWAVE said...

i worked the show, guiding the press to Russ Gibbs office.

Buxton Heyerman said...

Didn't make that show but a couple years later there was another Rock-n-Roll Revival with a number of bands. The last three were J.Geils, Edgar Winter and Johnny Winter, great show. I used to tell the younger rockers," if you want to catch a great show catch J.Geils in Detroit". Detroiters always seem to like bands from the Boston area(Boston, J, Geils, and Aerosmith.

RICH said...

Kenny your story is commin' up! You good with that? The Cody Show and stuff.

Susan Mann said...

Digging this! Thanks for the memories, Rich.

KENNY CRIMEWAVE said...

ok with anything you write, Rich

BIG RICH said...

Cool..... we have had a wild ride!

James Steelman said...

great article, great pics, great read. Thanks for sharing...

BIG RICH said...

I will testify to that Brother, I'm a "west-sider" too..

KENNY CRIMEWAVE said...

I such a west-sider that my studio is located in Redford, 1/2 mile from my alma mater, Thurston H.S

davidearlstark said...

Fascinating stories..I knew all this fun and crazy stuff was going on, but was too young to be part of it....punk kid....

cspencer74 said...

BIG RICH!!!..can't believe I found this..bouncin' around the blogs..see Big Rich Dorris..can't be??..anyways., just seen yer bro's gig at the autorama..Ghetto Rags..been a while..Stoney Creek..Tattoo videos..