Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bomp logged state's rock scene

Greg Shaw published an early history of
Michigan rock bands in his Bomp magazine.


Michigan's early rock scene, which flourished in the shadows of Detroit's popular Motown acts, was detailed in Bomp magazine before most other media noticed the phenomenon.

Carrying the slogan "The magazine for rock 'n' roll fans," Bomp was published and edited by Greg Shaw from offices in Burbank, Cal.

I'm lucky to own issue No. 13 from the spring of 1975 which contains an early history of Michigan rock written by Dick Rosemont.

Although it originally sold for just $1, Bomp's 48-pages contained exhaustive discographies, columns and reviews in an era before rock was taken seriously.

While Detroit was famous for the soul music of the Supremes, Temptations and Stevie Wonder, Michigan's early rock scene had a significant impact as well, although little national attention was paid to it. Most observers agree that the heyday of Michigan rock occurred from the mid-1960s to the early 70s.

There were various local scenes throughout the state, Rosemont noted in his article, including suburban Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing/East Lansing, Flint/Saginaw and outstate Michigan.

The roots of the Michigan rock story can be traced to Grand Rapids native Del Shannon who hit with the chart topping "Runaway" in 1961.

Detroit-born Mitch Ryder, who struck with "Jenny Take A Ride," followed in 1966.

The Detroit area contributed the Underdogs ("Love's Gone Bad"), the Shy Guys ("We Gotta Go") and Reflections ("Just Like Romeo and Juliet"). Other bands making an impression were the Wanted, the Tidal Waves and Unrelated Segments. The MC5 released the powerful "Looking At You"/"Borderline" single on the A-Square label.

Shannon was interested in developing local talent and paid for early demo recordings for Bob Seger, according to producer Dan Bourgoise. Seger's first record was "East Side Story," while his first national success would come in 1969 with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."

Another success story came with the Amboy Dukes, featuring Ted Nugent, who registered a national smash with "Journey To The Center of the Mind" in 1968.

Besides Seger, the Ann Arbor area gave rise to the Rationals, who hit with "Respect" months before Aretha Franklin recorded her version. The rock band SRC was also a favorite with their "Black Sheep" single.

The Woolies, who enjoyed a hit with "Who Do You Love" in 1967 were the best-known group in the Lansing/East Lansing area.

The Flint/Saginaw region was headquarters for Terry Knight and the Pack, who also hit in 1967 with "I (Who Have Nothing)." Knight went on to manage Grand Funk Railroad. "96 Tears" by ? (Question Mark) & the Mysterians became a rare No. 1 record in 1966. Dick Wagner formed the Bossmen in this area and later fronted The Frost.

Although Bomp described Flint and Saginaw as the "upper wastes of northern Michigan," and "an unlikely hotbed of musical activity," the region north of the Mackinac Bridge did figure into the picture, although it wasn't acknowledged at the time.

That Shaw's Bomp magazine would publish a feature on the history of Michigan rock was a perfect fit, considering the magazine's "fan perspective."

A lifelong record collector, Shaw started Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News with Dave Harris in 1966 to chronicle San Francisco's emerging music scene. After he visited Shaw to ask him about magazine publishing, Jann Wenner launched Rolling Stone in late 1967.

By 1970, Shaw turned his energies to publishing Bomp, which had taken its name from the 1961 Barry Mann song "Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)."

Shaw was a fan of San Francisco's Flamin' Groovies, who despite their talent, escaped major success. Formed in 1965, the Flamin' Groovies persisted for ten years, moving to New York and England, then finally back to San Francisco.

After telling him they couldn't get a label to release their latest single, Shaw featured the Flamin' Groovies on the cover of Bomp in 1975, agreeing to press and distribute their latest single, "You Tore Me Down."

Bomp Records was born. As a label, Bomp released records by Devo, ex- Michigan resident and former Stooges vocalist Iggy Pop, among others.

The owner of a legendary record collection, Shaw began a archiving little-known bands from the 1960s in a series called Pebbles. Shaw was a champion of the sound he referred to as "garage rock," first chronicled in a two-LP collection in 1972 called "Nuggets."

While Rosemont's Bomp article provided an excellent summary of Michigan's early rock 'n' roll history, no information was included about bands from the Upper Peninsula, although plenty of vinyl came from the region.

For example, Ironwood's Galaxies waxed two singles, while 360 miles away in Sault Ste. Marie, Renaissance Fair recorded three more. The Soo was also home to the Executives and Rob Kirk and the Word, each adding a disc to the total.

Marquette boasted the Excels, who taped five singles for Detroit's Carla label and the French Church who recorded a gem called "Slapneck 1943." Northern Michigan University student Mike Koda released a single on the local Princeton label and later founded Brownsville Station, famous for "Smokin' in the Boys Room."

Marquette's Walrus recorded their single at SRC's Morgan Sound Studios in Ann Arbor, while Negaunee's Fastells cut their 45 in Wisconsin.

The central U. P. communities of Iron Mountain and Kingsford contributed Joey Gee and the Bluetones, the Ravelles and Lexington Project. Lexington Project recorded one 45 in Rhinelander, Wis. while the Ravelles also recorded a second single as St. Jon's Academy.

A number of 45s are attributed to Copper Country bands. The Kinetics, from Houghton, and the Rhythm Rockers, from Alston, each issued a pair of 45 rpm singles. The Henchmen VI called Ontonagon home, as did the Vigilantes, who recorded under a variety of different names.

Escanaba featured the Riot Squad and Prophets of Doom, who each recorded a seven-inch disc for Peninsula Records. Infinite Blue, based in Menominee, recorded "Black Train," written by Dick Wagner of the Frost.

These outstate bands issued appealing, if sometimes primitive singles, just like many rock 'n' roll combos elsewhere in the state.

Bomp magazine, which documented much of the Michigan scene, ceased publishing in 1979 and Shaw died in 2004, at age 55.

An addendum to the article now might note the U. P. had scores of noteworthy rock bands and several dozen of them recorded 45 rpm singles.

Of course, besides Michigan there were other regional rock scenes across the United States, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Texas, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston and the Pacific northwest.

Thanks to Shaw's lifelong promotion of garage music, interest in the genre will continue for years to come.

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