Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lord leads Mitch Ryder's band

Former Escanaba resident Brian Lord is making
an impact on the Detroit music scene.


Escanaba native Brian Lord continues his rise in the Detroit area music scene, where the guitarist leads legendary rocker Mitch Ryder's band.

Lord has toured and recorded with Ryder who burst into prominence in the 1960s with the Detroit Wheels on such hits as "Jenny Take a Ride," "Devil With the Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Sock It to Me, Baby."

Ryder, Lord and the rest of the band recorded concert performances of those hits for "Live in America," a compact disc sold exclusively at live shows.

"The latest version of the Detroit Wheels is actually some of my best friends and favorite players from the Detroit area," Lord told me in a recent interview.

Besides Ryder on vocals and Lord on lead guitar, the band is comprised of Pat Harwood (keys), Chris Brantley (guitar), Sean Bondareff (bass) and Jerome Day (drums).

The 12-track CD was recorded on Fremont St. in Las Vegas shortly after the band got together, Lord said of the project which dates from 2008.

Ryder and the "new" Detroit Wheels have toured the United States and Canada where audiences still revere Ryder's hits.

Lord met the veteran vocalist seven or eight years ago in Fairmount, Indiana when he was in the backing band for Ryder at a James Dean festival. Later Harwood invited Lord to do some studio work for Ryder at Pearl Sound Studio in Detroit.

When Ryder dissolved his band a few years ago before a tour of Germany, Lord was asked to assemble a fresh group of musicians to serve as the Detroit Wheels.

"Mitch loves that this band gets along so well. He's singing better than ever and we've been having a good time," Lord said.

In concert the band also performs Lou Reed's "Rock & Roll" and "Gimme Shelter," penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, from Ryder's early 1970s band Detroit. The chestnut "Money (That's What I Want)" closed those shows and the CD.

Ryder's band was praised by Roger LeLievre in the Ann Arbor News as being "especially hot."

Besides Ryder, Lord has also worked with Barrett Strong, another celebrated Detroit music figure. Strong registered Motown's first hit, "Money," written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford. The Beatles recorded a version which closed the LP "With the Beatles."

"For a while there I ran Barrett's studio," Lord said. "It was great working with Barrett. I got to write with him."

Strong is one of Motown's greatest songwriters. Strong and producer Norman Whitfield composed "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "Just My Imagination" and other classics.

Now a resident of Livonia, Lord was born and raised in Escanaba, where his parents Al and Barb still live. He returns to the Upper Peninsula occasionally to visit his family and "hang-out."

Lord became interested in music at the age of 12 or 13 when he worked for Matt Marenger at Bicycle Livery. The youngster put his earnings into bicycles, but after being hit by a car on Ludington St. totalling the bike, he took the insurance money to buy his first guitar and amp at the Melody Shoppe, then located at the Delta Plaza Mall.

Not long after Lord got together with his cousin Todd Dahlquist (bass) and friend Craig Brazeau (drums) to form Sweet Cheater. They "poorly learned about three songs" listening to records in Dahlquist's basement, Lord recalled.

When veteran musician Bill Lippens lost fellow members of the Freestyle band to college, the trio joined with Lippens. Thanks to Lippens, the new version of Sweet Cheater had access to lots of equipment. The young players were 14 or 15 years old at the time and had to quickly learn enough songs to fill a set.

"Bill took a liking to us and saw some potential, I guess," Lord said. The band's first gig was a New Years Eve show at Hickey's Bar, outside Manistique.

As Lord gained experience, he joined Ron Deno, Jamie Hendon, Todd Silverstone and Kevin Chown in the band Notorious.

Notorious was well received locally and soon grew outside the confines of the Upper Peninsula to Green Bay, Milwaukee and other markets.

"I saw this as the next step I needed to take. We learned a lot. We grew a lot. Notorious planted the seeds for what I've became today, for what all of us became," Lord said.

Lord moved to Milwaukee to pursue his musical aspirations, but in 1992 relocated to Detroit where Chown, his best friend, was enjoying success with his musical career.

Back in Michigan, Lord attended music school and played in various bands.

By chance he was asked to pose as an "extra" in a promotional photo for the Hunter Brucks Band. He was later asked to join the group as bass player, then switched to guitar.

The band issued a compact disc called "Workin' Man" in 2000.

With Hunter Brucks for well over a decade, Lord "cut his chops in the studio" with the band, including recording, producing and engineering.

Lord also performs with "Firecracker" which includes Jerome Day and Sean Bondareff from the Detroit Wheels along with Chris Degnore on guitar and lead vocals and Dale Grisa on keys.

Lord has put his recording and producing skills to work on his own material too.

His Myspace account contains the Hunter Brucks song "Cry Me a River," which Lord engineered, produced and played on. Lord also offers demo versions of two songs he wrote with Degnore: "Whisky Talk" and "Reminds Me of You."

A full-length album may be forthcoming, although Lord says the process has been slow.

Last year Lord married his wife Tasha Valdez who performed in two original rock groups. She is now a member of the Hunter Brucks Band.

When they're not making music, the two love to hike, climb and run marathons.

Lord also teaches guitar at the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music and owns Ignition Advertising with ex-Escanaban Chris Hoffman who lives in Asheville, N. C.

If Mitch Ryder, Firecracker and Hunter Brucks Band weren't enough, Lord also plays or works with numerous other Detroit musicians. That includes a gamut of activities including writing, engineering, producing and recording. Whew!

So, what are Lord's future plans? "More of the same," he says.

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