Legendary Rock Venues

For many of us, the legendary rock venues where we saw our favorite bands are as much a part of the music as the performances. Road gigs were the necessary adjunct to releasing records and stage presence was everything.

The Grande – Image from “Louder than Loud”

The MC5 vaulted from relative obscurity to national attention thanks to becoming the house band at Russ Gibb‘s Grande Ballroom. Kick Out The Jams was captured there by Elektra Records. Johnny Rivers recorded an album at West Hollywood’s Whiskey A-Go-Go that produced million sellers. The Beatles honed their chops at Liverpool’s Cavern Club. Harlem’s Apollo was popular long before Murray the K. brought his rock and roll shows there. Stevie Wonder‘s Fingertips Part 2 was recorded at Chicago’s Regal Theater when the artist was just 12 years old. The Fillmores (West and East) introduced many of the acts now associated with Classic Rock, London’s Astoria and The Hollywood Bowl both played pivotal roles in writing the history of Rock and Roll.

Manager Punch Andrews with Bob Seger (1970)

In the day, fledgling artists would play wherever they could get a gig. I remember seeing The Who at Ann Arbor’s 5th Dimension (I was so young that I got thrown out after sneaking in the back door). The Stooges, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck and Bob Seger all graced the tiny stage. Every significant city had its own legendary rock venue. Seger’s long time manager, Punch Andrews, was the force behind Detroit’s Hideout teen club. That venue was once a VFW Hall in Harper Woods.

LA’s Whisky a Go-G0

And that was just Detroit. Wherever you grew up, there were places where you went to see your favorite groups in person. In the days before stadium shows and walls of speakers, it was in the intimacy of these small venues where we felt like we were one with the acts we loved. There was no super sound, other than what amplified the instruments and a couple of speakers for the singers’ microphones, no earphones for the musicians, no feedback boxes at the front of the stage, nor multi-track mix boards in the back of the room. Just raw artistry. You knew pretty quickly if the band was tight and you didn’t need a jumbotron to fully experience the stage presence.

And there was no cell phone video. The few visual artifacts from those days are rare and the consumer recording equipment was rudimentary at best. Perhaps that is part of what makes our memories so rich. Magic moments age better when there is no evidence to dispute them.

I look forward to post-pandemic, when we don’t have to rely on Zoom, computer speakers and tiny video squares for each player. Give me the smell of stale beer, the sweat and the energy that flows between artists and audience.

And thanks for the memories of the legendary rock venues where the stars of the future honed their craft.

52 Years ago Today: 
Miami (AP) – In a surprise move, Cuban authorities allowed the immediate return of passengers and plane that had been hijacked Monday by a gun toting fat man. who said his father was dying in Cuba. There were 111 passengers and 8 crew members aboard Eastern air lines flight 950 when it was diverted at gunpoint while in route from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami. When the hijacking occurred a steward had to quiet one of the passengers — a 268 pound wrestler, Abdullah the Butcher, of Hamilton, Ontario. “I wanted to knock the man down,” said Abdullah afterward, “but the steward said there were to many people involved.” The hijacking brought to 1,182 the number of people making the Havana hop since the first of the year. It was the 14th commercial hijacking since January 1 and the sixth Eastern plain pirated. (No mention of the incident is made in Abdullah’s Wikipedia page.)

Factoid: There were over 130 hijackings over a four year period before the U.S. tightened airport security.

Quick Takes:

Chick Corea 1941-2021

Godspeed Chick Corea. The versatile jazz master left us on February 9, 2021 at the age of 79. Here’s Rolling Stone’s remembrance.

Disney’s “Spin and Marty” starred David Stollery as Martin “Marty” Markham and Tim Considine as Spin Evans, Summer campers at the Triple R Ranch. Stollery grew up to be an Industrial designer. Considine is a professional photographer. Spin and Marty aired as part of original The Mickey Mouse Club. 60 years later, we’re watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Junior with our grandkids.

Worth re-reading, Fred Jacobs talks about the power of an audio signature. Detroiters will remember this iconic TV spot for WRIF, featuring Kelly Harmon. Sister ABC O&O, WPLJ in New York copied the spot as did dozens of other RIF wannabes across the country, although few could afford Kelly’s fee. The logo was pretty powerful, too. (Via Jacobs Media)

Charles M. Schulz

Today in 2000 Charles M. Schulz, left us at age 77. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, cited by cartoonists including Jim DavisBill Watterson, and Matt Groening as their inspiration.  Schulz drew a total 17,897 Peanuts strips; 15,391 dailys 2,506 Sundays. His inspiration for Charlie Brown’s unrequited love for the Little Red-Haired Girl was Donna Mae Johnson, an Art Instruction Inc. accountant with whom he fell in love. When Schulz finally proposed to her in June 1950, shortly after he had made his first contract with his syndicate, she turned him down and married another man.

Today in History:

1915: The cornerstone of the Lincoln Memorial was laid in Washington, DC.
1924: Calvin Coolidge became the first U.S. president to deliver an address by radio.
1958: The first Trans Atlantic passenger jetliner service begins by BOAC with flights between London and New York on the new Comet Jet Airliner.
1966: The Rolling Stones arrive in New York to tape an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
1972: Al Green‘s Let’s Stay Together’ is number one today, his only chart topper. It was ranked the 60th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Tina Turner had a hit with the song in 1984.
1973: As part of the Vietnam cease-fire agreement, the first U.S. prisoners of war were released by North Vietnam.
1974: The Bottom Line opens in New York.
1976: Actor Sal Mineo is stabbed to death in Los Angeles.
1977: Blondie, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and the Ramones all appeared at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, California.
2000: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins dies aged 70.
2004: Mattel announced that Barbie and Ken were breaking up. The dolls had met on the set of their first television commercial together in 1961.

Today’s Birthdays:

1809: Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President (Republican: 1861-65), born in Hardin County, Kentucky (d. 1865).
1809: Charles Darwin (Origin of the Species) (d. 1882)
1893: General Omar Bradley (d. 1981)
1904: Ted Mack (Original Amateur Hour) (d. 1976).
1914: Gordon Tex” Beneke (Glenn Miller Orchestra) (d. 2000).”
1919: Forrest Tucker (F Troop, Auntie Mame) (d. 1986).
1920: Session musician Bill Pitman. He played ukulele in the Academy Award-winning song ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head and added his artitstry to The Byrds’ ‘Mr. Tanbourine Man’. The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’, Frank Sinatra’s (Strangers in the Night) an
1923: Director Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo & Juliet) (d. 2019).
1926: Joe Garagiola (Baseball Star – Today Show) (d. 2016)
1934: NBA All-Star Bill Russell.
1935: Gene McDaniels (A Hundred Pounds Of Clay) (d. 2011).
1936: Joe Don Baker(Eischied, Walking Tall, Fletch)
1939: Ray Manzarek (The Doors). (.d 2013).
1945: Bass Player Joe Schermie (Three Dog Night).
1952: Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers).
1956: Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy).
1956: Arsenio Hall (Talk Show Host – Coming To America).
1968: Chynna Phillips (Wilson Phillips).
1968: Josh Brolin (Johnny-Private Eye, Jimmy Hickok-Young Riders).
1980: Christina Ricci (Wednesday-Addams Family, Casper).

Much More Music:

Let’s play a few birthday tunes..

RingoLorne Greene‘s one hit wonder from December of 1964. While he thought the song was about Johnny Ringo, the lyrics don’t sync up with any events in the famous outlaw’s life. For you trivia fans, the flip side of the single is Greene’s version of the Bonanza theme song (Video). Two notable Wrecking Crew members can be heard: Hal Blaine on drums and Tommy Tedesco on guitar. Some think that “the tarnished star above the name of Ringo” had to do with Ringo Starr. The album was recorded before the Beatles became popular in the U.S.  We present the LP version, with Greene’s narrative in front of the opening measures. (Video)

Some say Michael McDonald was single handedly responsible for the resurgence of the Doobie Brothers‘ career. His unique vocal style stands out on “What a Fool Believes”& “Takin it to the Streets”. That’s also him singing backup on Christopher Cross‘ first hit, “Ride Like the Wind”. He was a Motown fan, recording an album full of favorites from Berry Gordy’s cannon. Our birthday selection comes from a collaboration with bass player Nathan East: A swingin big band version of Van Morrison‘s “Moondance”. (Video)

Ray Manzarek is best known as the keyboard guy who came up with the memorable licks on the Doors‘ “Light My Fire”. He died in 2013 of the same rare cancer (cholangiocarcinoma – bile duct cancer) that killed Ernie Harwell. In 1974, he cut a solo LP entitled “The Golden Scarab“. One unusual track therein is something called “He Can’t Come Today”, cut one on side one. It was a deep track on some FM stations in the day, notable for an amazing cowbell solo at the the 2:36 mark. Fast forward the video to find it. (Video)

What tune to pick to celebrate Chynna Phillips‘ birthday? With Wendy and Carney Wilson, Wilson Phillips had three number ones in the 90s, “Hold On”, “Release Me” and “You’re In Love”. I found this interesting rendition of Brian Wilson’s magnum opus, “Good Vibrations”. There’s some technological help to fill out the vocals, but it’s a worthy performance that got some airplay on Adult Contemporary stations, making it to number 25 on the Billboard AC chart in 2012.  (Video)

And finally, we conclude our eclectic playlist with a remake of Stevie Wonder‘s “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”. It’s an impressive layered recording by Jacob Collier, that he created himself in his native England. The home made video is just as fascinating as Jacob’s vocal construction. This tune took off as enthusiasts discovered it on YouTube,  an example of how a great piece of viral art can lead to mainstream success.  (Video)

Thought for Today: Successful writers create flawed characters and throw obstacles in their paths. We love redemption stories. Write your own!

Today in 1962, Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl” was No. 1. It becomes the first million seller for Vee Jay Records.


Thanks for listening!

Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit