Guitarist- extraordinaire Char Vinnedge,
left, brought her all-girl rock 'n' roll combo,
the Tremolons, to Escanaba in April and again in
August, 1966 after they changed their name to the
By STEVE SEYMOUR
One of rock 'n' roll's most-astounding female guitarists played in Escanaba not once, but twice.
You probably have never heard of Char (short for Charlotte) Vinnedge, unless you appreciate the raw guitar sound she explored in the male-dominated six-string world, which included the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Besides fronting the band, Vinnedge wrote the group's songs, designed their promotional material, fixed their equipment and drove their van.
Vinnedge's group, the Tremolons, had been touring heavily. They played extended dates at state fairs in Minnesota and Illinois and capped off the summer of 1965 with an appearance at the famed Danceland Ballroom in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 4. A poster for the event called the combo "America's greatest all-girl rock 'n' roll group" and urged fans to "see and hear four really cute sweethearts in action."
The Tremolons were highly touted on a list of available bands compiled in March, 1966 by Madison, Wisconsin-based promoter Ken Adamany Music Enterprises.
With that background, Vinnedge brought her band to Delta County on two occasions during 1966.
The first appearance came when the Tremolons were signed to play at Club A Go-Go, a newly-opened teen night spot at 2000 Ludington St., in downtown Escanaba.
Owner Gene Smiltneck booked the all-girl group for a four- hour program, beginning at 7:30 p. m. on Friday, April 15.
The quartet was the vision of Vinnedge, who sang and played lead guitar, but also included her sister Chris on bass, Mary Gallagher on rhythm guitar, and Faith Orem on drums.
An advertisement for the show in "The Escanaban" student newspaper included an illustration of young people around a jukebox with copy which urged students to "get with it."
Perhaps as a bit of promotional bluster, the ad claimed the girls were from New York City, although Niles, Michigan (hometown to Tommy James and the Shondells) was more accurate.
The girls cut blistering takes of "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On" and "Heartbreak Hotel" for their first single which appeared on Benton Harbor's Wildwood Records in 1964. The label also released a second Tremolons' 45 which paired two original songs: "Please Let Me Know" and "Theme for a DJ," the first song Vinnedge ever wrote.
Smiltneck's Club A Go-Go had created quite a buzz among the area's youth just five days before with a show featuring Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, famous for the smash hit, "Wooly Bully."
By the time the Tremolons arrived in Escanaba, they already had two years' experience as a professional rock 'n' roll band, although the field was crowded with testosterone-fueled groups imitating the Beatles. The girls carved a place for themselves by playing ferociously and taking no prisoners as their versions of the popular songs of the day, including Beatles' hits, proved.
Perhaps their appearance was scheduled too soon after Sam the Sham or perhaps area teenagers were already tapped-out, but few attended the Tremolons' performance.
Although the four young women toured as the Tremolons, the moniker didn't seem to catch on with the public. So, not long after their local debut, the girls adopted a more feminine- sounding name, The Luv'd Ones.
On July 12, they were in Chicago at Sound Studios Inc. to tape "Yeah, I'm Feelin' Fine" and "Up Down Sue." It was actually the band's second go-around with "Up Down Sue." They had recorded another version of the song for the White Oak label in Dania, Florida, earlier in the year.
By mid- August, The Luv'd Ones were on a five-stop tour of northern Michigan in what promoters called "U. P. Swings." The bill, headlined by Chicago's Buckinghams, also included The Excels, from Marquette; and Iron Mountain's Ravelles.
In Escanaba, the three-hour program was presented at the recently-constructed Escanaba Area High School beginning at 8 p. m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Admission was $2.
The Luv'd Ones were pushing their first Dunwich single, "I'm Leaving You," backed with "Walkin' the Dog," just released on the Chicago-based label. The newly-formed Dunwich had a Top Ten hit a few months before with a garage-rock version of "Gloria," by the Shadows of Knight.
Hopeful promoters hyped the shows with posters and newspaper advertising. Still, attendance in Escanaba was lower than expected, said Rand Alquist, drummer for the Ravelles. Maybe area teens were saving their cash for the annual U. P. State Fair or money was short due to the approaching school year.
The Luv'd Ones also performed in Iron Mountain, Sault Ste.Marie and Ironwood. They completed their northern excursion in Menominee on Aug. 13, the same day the Beatles played at Detroit's Olympia Stadium for the last time.
By the time the Luv'd Ones appeared at the Cow Palace in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 26, the group had spent two years on the road.
During their stay at Dunwich, the band cut two more 45 rpm singles: "Come Back" was backed wwith "Stand Tall," while "Dance Kid Dance" was paired with the previously released "I'm Leaving You."
While Char Vinnedge didn't meet commercial success with the Tremolons or Luv'd Ones, she didn't give up her music dreams either.
She resurfaced a few years later in Nitrofunction, a band comprising Billy Cox (a member of Hendrix's Band of Gypsys) on bass, Robert Tarrant on drums and Vinnedge on guitar and vocals.
The trio issued a self-titled album which listed Vinnedge on the cover as "The Electric Lady," a reference to the studio where Jimi Hendrix recorded.
By the time their album was completed, however, Hendrix had died, ending any possibility Vinnedge might record with the guitar legend. "Nitrofunction" is loaded with Vinnedge's powerful guitar work and she wrote or co-wrote all but two of the album's nine tracks.
Released in 1972 on Pye Records, one of the album's stand-out cuts is "42-70 (Peace)," a tribute to Hendrix. Also included is "Portrait," a composition Vinnedge originally wrote during the Luv'd Ones' period.
Vinnedge finally received some well-deserved recognition in 1996 when Sundazed Music released at extended play record of four Tremolons songs and followed with a compact disc containing 20 recordings by the Luv'd Ones, many previous unreleased. Sadly, Vinnedge died in 1998 shortly before the terrific CD compilation of her work,"Truth Gotta Stand," was released.
In the years since her death, Vinnedge has been increasingly recognized by critics for her early contributions to the proto-punk and proto- feminist movements.
Separate from any such pretentiousness, however, her music remains exceptional rock 'n' roll.
The Tremolons' Sundazed extended play 45 sleeve
The Luv'd Ones- "Truth Gotta Stand" CD
"Nitrofunction" LP by Billy Cox and Char Vinnedge