Friday, December 21, 2012


The Year in Review

Endings, Rot and Renewal

I can never quite reconcile my yearly migrations, the summer solstice, fall equinox and Mayan predictions of doom and gloom. But I do feel grateful that this year is winding down. I need some renewal. I need hope for the future. Living in Saginaw is like living in Lebanon where sectarian violence between the Sunnis and Shiites has escalated ten-fold. I’ll say it straight I’m abhorred by the random stupid violence in Saginaw. I’m worried that there is not enough music and poetry in Saginaw. The Arts are not a panacea to the violence that has corrupted our country but it nourishes our soul. Listen, feel and breathe it in. It is yours, forever.

We’ve lost so much in the past year. It seems an injustice to write only about the rock & roll heroes that have passed away in 2012. I’d hazard to guess that when they reached the gates of Heaven, our savage rockers might gumption up enough nerve to ask St Peter if there could be a loophole. Oh well. The list is long and I’m not going to single out anyone who has not touched my life in a personal way. Let’s begin with a small list of well-known artists who died in 2012 (there were several hundred):

Jon Lord (Deep Purple); Hal David (lyricist); Chris Stamp (Manager  of the Who); Dave Brubeck (Jazz pianist/composer); Marvin Hamlisch (composer); Michael Davis( MC5); Earl Scruggs (The Ballad of Jed Clampett): Bob Babbitt(Motown/Funk Brothers bassist),;Dick Clark (American Bandstand); Levon Helm (the Band); Adam Yauch (the Beastie Boys); Etta James (I Just Want to Make Love to You); Jim Marshall (Founder of Marshall Amps); Don Cornelius (Soul Train); Duck Dunn(Booker T & the MGs); Robin Gibb Bee Gees; Joe South (Singer Songwriter/Games People Play).

There are four artists with Saginaw ties and that I’ve met personally, a short sketch of each follows:

Kathi McDonald

 Here is an unknown superstar from the heyday of rock & roll. Kathi took over as singer for Big Brother & the Holding Company after Janis Joplin left to forge a brief but illustrious solo career. She released several acclaimed LPs including Sex Not Guaranteed, Above & Beyond and Insane Asylum. She was a sought after session singer and can be heard on the Rolling Stone’s masterpiece Tumbling Dice from Exile on Main Street. She was a tiny person with a big voice and a heart that could cradle so much love. She became close with Keith Richards and they remained friends until the day she died. She told me that Richards was always there for her that he was kind and caring. McDonald recorded and toured with Long John Baldry for over two decades. In 1980 they had a big hit in Australia with You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. We had dinner together and I was struck by her self-effacing humility. We agreed to make an effort to get Baldry over to Saginaw but his health was fragile and it was not to be. He passed away in 2005.

Kenny Roberts

I’ll always remember Kenny as the Jumpin’ Cowboy, because he would, well, jump up and down onstage. He was a spectacular yodeler and had hos own Children’s television Show on WNEM TV 5. It was essentially a cartoon show. Sue White was just a kid when she got a chance to be part of his show. Sue said that Roberts seemed a bit distant on the set and gave off the impression that he didn’t like kids But when I got to know him about ten years ago he was funny and very down to earth. Mercy that man could talk. Listening to Kenny phone talking was like sitting through a free presentation on a Time Share. But then again he had a down home charm that was just irresistible. Kenny had several charted hits including Chocolate Ice Cream Cone and I never See Maggie Alone. Kenny used to perform at Daniel’s Theatre (later known as Daniels Den) between features. He would sing a few songs, strum his guitar, yodel his ass off and then take the money and run. Loved him!

Louisiana Red

Red was a phenomenal blues guitarist and harp player. He moved to Germany in 1980, tired of all the strife and racism. He was very sensitive to discrimination and violence in America. His mother died of pneumonia during child birth and his father was lynched by the Ku Klux Klann when Red was only five years old. He carried these scars with dignity not anger and he was able to sing through his pain and suffering and really connect to his audience.  In the late fifties Red played two years  with John Lee Hooker and later in his life he guested on albums by Eric Burdon and Albert King. He gifted me his blue bottle neck tube he used to play slide guitar during his gig @ White’s Bar. He was a quiet and dignified man who was all business yet had a genuine laugh. He could stand outside his pain and enjoy life. His wife accompanied him on this trip back to Michigan. He was a beautiful man.

Johnny Bassett

Gentleman Johnny Bassett was a underappreciated talent. He was an extraordinary blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. For years he was primarily a session man providing his tasty licks to songs by Nolan Strong & the Diablos, The Miracles (Get a Job), and Andre Williams. He gigged with Tina Turner, Little Willie John, Dinah Washington and his good friend Alberta Adams.  A few years back Alberta performed at White’s Bar backed by RJ Spangler’s band. It was a stellar performance. No one but me knew that before the show Johnny called the club and asked for Alberta. They talked for a few minutes and Alberta turned to me and said, “that was Johnnie, he just wanted to pay his respects.” For a brief moment I saw wistfulness in her eyes. She went back onstage and knocked us out with then real thing. When Johnnie played Whites he dressed in a full suit, immaculate. He played it sweet and righteous and the small crowd ate it up. He performed songs from his current LP Party My Blues Away including Big Boss Man, Johnnies Boogaloo and Wonderin’ Blues, Hoochie Coochie Man, Raise the Roof, Jumpin’ Blues and Born Under a Bad Sign.  Before the show we discussed Johnny's close friend Alberta Adams and his thoughtful call to her at White's just before she took the stage. In wrapping a statement around a question, Johnny said, "Alberta put on a REAL show, didn't she?" But that's the kind of man he is honorable and unassuming. Johnny Bassett played on to the wee hours long after I left
You see – he was a man of his word, a man of integrity who has been around long enough to take the bad with the good and still have a twinkle in his eye. In our phone conversations and negotiations for the gig, we addressed each other formally, respectfully - Mr. White and Mr. Bassett . Here's to you Mr. was truly an honor





2012 Music; The Year In Review

 The Year in Music

It was a fertile year for music as aging sixties icons resurrected themselves, recorded new music and toured. The list includes the Beach Boys triumphant yet acrimonious tour that included their resident tortured genius Brian Wilson and singer/guitarist Al Jardine. The Rolling Stones rolled out several concerts in preparation for 50th anniversary tour. The concert for Sandy raised millions for the Robin Hood Relief Fund to help those ravaged areas from the Jersey shore to New York and Connecticut. Paul McCartney, The Who, Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Roger Walters performed in a top heavy assemblage of artists from British Invasion era. Mick Jagger joked, “This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden.” Perhaps it’s a last gasp of our fading heroes but it feels good that they are all still performing. If they are still relevant maybe we are too.

Cher Lloyd’s Want You Back, Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe and Katy Perry’s Firework are my guilty pleasures. The energy and spunk in these golden chestnuts just blows me away. I saw Jepson perform on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show and it really got me to sit up and take notice. It was an unplugged performance with nice syncopated percussion from several black artists standing behind Jepson and Fallon who were seated in front, trading off vocals. This girl had talent and a sly tongue-in-cheek humor, almost self-deprecating yet decidedly confident. It was an epiphany; goodtime music with a crooked smile.

Box sets are all the rage and several are available for the Christmas season including pricey career spanning discs by the Beatles (a gorgeous vinyl collection; a steal @ $349 for Beatles completest), Blue Oyster Cult, Roxy Music, Judas Priest, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and Heart. The Kinks released a glorious 6 disc set from their live BBC recordings – a must for any serious anglophile.

 I’m more interested in our local music. There is a rich store of releases in the past year including American Underdog, the Tosspints, Brother Smokes, Whaler, Brody & the Busch Rd Trio, Zig Zeitler, Jeff Schrems, Mode , Gutbucket, Lavel Jackson, the 25 Cent Beer Band, Keef Courage and Chase Engel. Buy Local! Shop at Records and Tapes Galore at 1303 Court Street. Bill & Judy Wegner have thousands of vinyl LPs and CDs and if they don’t have it in stock, they’ll find it for you. They are knowledgeable about music and support the local musicians in the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond. You can call them @ 989-793-1777.

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for live music in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. The mighty Maybe August hung it up, Sprout went on hiatus and Thick As Thieves released a spectacular CD, had a party and vanished in thin air. Months later they resurfaced as a UFO sighting. Truth be told Kyle and the crew were just laying back diggin’ the California sunshine and losing momentum. We also lost the Honky Tonk Zeros, Rustbucket, The Bearinger Boys and Sinister Footwear.  We lost a lot of great music, brother. But here’s the rub, despite the loss of population, venues and bands we still had a ton of great music from Jazz and rock to blues and country. Mike Brush is still on his game. Eric Johnson and his daughter Shannon are making a name for themselves with their great singing and rootsy music. Mel sings You Don’t Own Me to Jekel and he just nods and says “merica”, whatever that means. Tom Dolson and Duane Miller have been resurrected by Andrew Kitzman’s spark. He’s a force to be reckoned like a thoroughbred race horse with a fine lineage. You better bet on him. Jim Perkins is a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Eastside Mike and Zig Zeitler remind me why I love music some much. Dave Asher is a true believer and a spiritual force that has touched the lives of both fans and fellow musicians. I cannot imagine our music scene without his benign presence.  I’m a fan of metal because it reminds me of Iggy & the Stooges, a band I grew up with in the late sixties but never really appreciated…until now. I love Tension Head, Hokori, Spork, All For the Cause, 2nd System, Failed Society, and all the other true believers. Keep on keeping on.

 There are several clubs providing stages to our bands. Here’s a shout out to the Hamilton Street Pub, Bemos, Grand Central, Tiz-its, Old City Hall, Prime Event Center, Jamestown Hall, Gabby’s Pub & Grill, Coty’s Landing, Baywood Lounge The Log Cabin, Castaways and White’s Bar. It’s a tough line of work and it doesn’t always pay due to over-regulation, taxes, insurances and punitive fees from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.  Let’s join together and support each other. It’s about time!

Andy Reed continues to astound me with his baroque pop masterpieces and with his ability as a producer to get the most out the artists he produces. Listen to his seemingly effortless craft with such great new bands as Brody & the Busch Rd Trio, Mode and Big Brother Smokes as well as local icons like Verve Pipe, Bryan Rombalski, Banana Convention, Laurie Middlebrook, The Tosspints, Scott Baker and Lavel Jackson. Reed is the gold standard for keeping music alive. There is richness and diversity in our music scene even as our society crumbles around us and our government becomes more ruthless in savaging our rights. We need music, poetry and the arts to comfort each other, to learn the truth and to survive.

Music is the food of love. Join me in the feast

Andy Reed is my pick as artist of the Year. He has been selfless in his promotion of excellence and the search for beauty and truth in the music he creates.

There once was a note pure & easy                                                                                Playing so free like a breath rippling by

-         Pete Townsend

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Al Hellus Remembered


This is a photo of the Plastic Haiku Band. It was the brainchild of Al Hellus, a gifted poet and Bruce Crawley, an incredible bassist/arranger. They teamed with some of the best musicians in mid-Michigan including Mike Brush (keyboards), Shabazz (percussion), John Rickert (horn & vocals), & Tony Ioppollo (drums). They recorded a show @ Delta College in 1998. It was spectacular! My favorite Hellus composition is Dead Dogs & Dope. Hellus shook me up every time I heard him unleash it. This was an epic song that was hilarious yet had a deeper message – a perfect example of Kidding on the Square. I’m forever grateful to Al & Bruce for championing original music and creating a jazz-based genre that was accessible to the masses. He was truly a local gem. Al brought M.L. Liebler to White’s Bar which led to appearances by Country Joe McDonald and John Sinclair. Al & Bruce are gone now but they will not be forgotten by anyone who tuned into our local music scene in the past twenty years. All Hail to the Plastic Haiku Band, one of Saginaw’s lost treasures.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

John Sinclair Live @ White's Bar November 3rd 2012

John Sinclair Interview by Bo White
Responses @ 420 Café, Amsterdam, February 7, 2011

John will be performing @ White’s Bar Saturday November 3rd with the legendary Blues Creators.  Sinclair’s DVD Twenty To Life will be screened throughout the evening

“To be literate in today's world is a political statement."
  - John Sinclair

John Sinclair
Affiant Sayeth Not

At 69 years of age John Sinclair shows no signs of slowing down. Besides touring the world with a loose and ever changing aggregation of Blues Scholars , Jazz masters and Rock & Rollers, Sinclair continues to release CDs, books, articles and programs and produces podcasts and internet radio programs. John has performed in Saginaw several times and possesses a historic grasp of Michigan culture from an international perspective. Sinclair is a sweet man of peace who is also a realist. From his early days at Trans Love commune, managing the MC5 and befriending John Lennon, Sinclair has kept his hand on the pulse of our crumbling empire. He is quick to point out that that America, like ancient Rome, has lost sight of its democratic principles and given the ruling class carte blanche to rob our coffers. He is also a man of the earth, a happy and contented grandfather who values love and friendship above all else

 John – what have you been up to since 20 to Life was released?

The film was released in 2007 and quickly faded into media oblivion. Since then I have continued my travels, performing around the USA and in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Genoa, Rome, Santiago, Tokyo, Seville, Barcelona, Madrid and wherever they will have me. I’m based in Amsterdam and London when I’m not in Detroit, where I just completed a two-year Poet in Residence term at the Bohemian National Home and am now based at the Trans-Love Energies Compassionate Care Center at 1486 Gratiot in Detroit. I now write a bi-weekly column for the Detroit Metro Times called HIGHER GROUND.

 It must have stirred up renewed interest in your life and times?

Not so much. The filmmaker made a bad deal to get it completed and the distribution was a big let-down, plus there were no theatrical screenings & very few festival screenings, so not much notice was attracted to the film nor, by extension, to myself.

Have you released any new music, poetry or writings?

As a performer I continue to work with diverse bands in Amsterdam, London, New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Mississippi. Some of them play my arrangements, some improvise jazz to my texts, some play straight-out blues to my poems. In the past three years I’ve performed in ensembles with David Kimbrough, Afrissippi, the Black Crowes, Marshall Allen, Elliott Levin, Daniel Carter, Ras Moshe, Sabeer Mateen, 101 Runners, Pinkeye Orchestra, Planet D Nonet, Carlo Ditta, Dr. Prof. Barry Kaiser, Tom Worrell, Vincente Pino, Leslie Lopez, Steve Fly, the Dirty Strangers, Gary Lammin, Charles Shaar Murray, Jair-Rohm Parker Wells, Primal Scream, DKT/MC5, Youth, Mark Ritsema, Angelo Olivieri, Raskolnikov, and people I can’t even remember right now. I have bands of Blues Scholars in Amsterdam, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Oxford, Mississippi.

I’ve issued two books—IT’S ALL GOOD: A JOHN SINCLAIR READER and SUN RA INTERVIEWS & ESSAYS with Headpress in London. SUN RA has just been translated into Spanish and issued by Libertos Editorial. My “underground classic” book, GUITAR ARMY, was reissued in a 35th anniversary edition by Feral House/Process Books in 2007 and has been translated now into Italian, Spanish and French. BookBeat in Detroit will be bringing out my poetry & prose collection SONG OF PRAISE: HOMAGE TO JOHN COLTRANE, and Ecstatic Peace Press is planning to issue the completed first half of my Monk work in verse, always know: a book of monk. And Dotty Oliver in Little Rock is publishing my New Orleans prose collection, MARDI GRAS TO THE WORLD, later this year.

I’ve issued three CDs since 2007—TEARING DOWN THE SHRINE OF TRUTH & BEAUTY with the Pinkeye Orchestra (LocoGnosis Records); DETROIT LIFE with the Motor City Blues Scholars (No Cover Records); and VIPER MADNESS with the Planet D Nonet (No Cover). My new record is called LET’S GO GET ‘EM by John Sinclair & His International Blues Scholars and will be released by No Cover in March, and I’m just now completing a new album project with a producer in London known as Youth that I’m calling BEATNIK YOUTH.

I’ve also completed a work begun in 1982: a book of blues verse titled FATTENING FROGS FOR SNAKES that’s in four sections, each one set to music and recorded with a different ensemble in New Orleans, Detroit, Oxford and Clarksville, Mississippi. I’m assembling the package into a box set as we speak

 Are you still involved in radio? Do you see radio as an effective medium to get your message and your poetry and music to a wider audience?

I also program & produce regular podcasts for two internet radio stations, Radio Free Amsterdam and Detroit Life Radio, including weekly installments of the John Sinclair Radio Show, Sinclair On The Air and Jazz from the Hempshopper. I also collect and edit for broadcast blues & jazz programs by deejays present & past that I enjoy. I post one one-hour program each day on each of the two stations.

 With the advent of file sharing do you see a shift in the relationship between record companies and artists like yourself?

Yes: basically there is none in terms of what used to be, i.e., with the possibility of getting paid. My best experience is to be able to make the records and get someone to press some of them at no cost to myself.

Last time we talked you seemed to paint a bleak picture of our future based on the ascendance of powerful business-led coalitions and the financial Institutions that control our government. In the past year Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine, has written several articles and a book Griftopia that has exposed Wall Street’s culpability in destroying America from within. Are you familiar with Taibbi’s work? Why aren’t people in an uproar over the theft of our country? 

That’s a question I’m unable to answer. I know exactly how fucked up this country is, but the white people love it this way and they won’t change for anything.

You had a bleak outlook on Detroit's recovery in the BBC documentary Requiem for Detroit. Do you still feel there is no hope for Detroit and other cities that were built on the auto industry?

I don’t know about the other ones, but Detroit is not going to come back. It’s over. What becomes of the fabulous ruins of Detroit may be something interesting but it will not be economically viable again.

 What keeps bringing you back to Michigan?

I have a beloved daughter & granddaughter in Detroit and hundreds of friends made over the past 50 years. My estranged wife Penny Sinclair lives in Detroit and I like to see her when I can. Also, I can work in and around Detroit and use it as a base to tour different parts of the country and make enough dollars to maintain my very frugal lifestyle while I’m in Amsterdam & London.

 What role could music/poetry play in the recovery of Michigan….the country? Are established artists important to our culture? Should they look for success elsewhere? Can our artists, poets and musicians be heard over the din of mass produced and disposable music that dominates the corporate airwaves?


Over the past ten years, Europe has shown an interest in the downfall of Detroit and the auto industry. Documentaries have been filmed, photographers have come to document the urban decay. Do you feel that their interest is based in aesthetics, or are they sincerely concerned with what seems to be the end of an era? Are they infatuated or concerned?

(A) Aesthetics. (B) They are documentarians.

Do you keep in touch with any of your friends from the days of the MC5 and Trans Love?

Yes. An astonishing number of us are still alive, although we’ve recently lost people like James Semark of the Artists Workshop, Stanley the Mad Hatter of the Grande. Eastown and Second Chance Ballrooms, Bruce Cohen and others. I consider Wayne Kramer of the MC5 one of my closest friends, ditto for Charles Moore of the Detroit Artists Workshop, Pun Plamondon of the White Panther Party, Marton Gross and Johnny Evans of the Urbations, Cary Loren of Destroy All Monsters, and many others whom I see in Michigan and around the country on my travels.

 Do you see any signs that our counter culture/peace movement is growing and establishing a wider base of support?


 Do you still collaborate with your ex-wife Leni?

I remain a terrific fan of her photography and often recommend her work to people publishing various projects of mine.

Any last comments?

I’m happy to be alive in an old age I never anticipated nor expected, I’m ecstatic to be a grandfather, I only do the things I want to do and don’t do the things I don’t want to do, I’m borne along in life by my hundreds of friends all over the western world and generally speaking I’m happy as a clam. Further, Affiant sayeth not.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Louder Than Love

Hell’s Half Mile Film Fest


The State Theatre

This is a film that has gone places, it’s got legs and a lot of mile sand even more accolades. It’s been to Detroit, Chicago, Traverse City, Las Vegas, Ann Arbor, Nashville and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Now it’s been to the jewel of Bay City, the legendary State Theatre. The modest turnout was no doubt due to it being on a Sunday evening near dusk. The director Tony D’Annunzio was missing in action having been called back to his day job covering the Detroit Tigers playoff games. It’s tough living a dream when you need to make a buck. There were a few folks in attendance that had actually attended shows at the Grande Ballroom. I was not part of that memory elite though I was able to brag to no one in particular that I did trek down to the East Town Theatre in 1970/71. It was located on the corner of Harper & Van Dyke, lovely neighborhood…for crime, dope, random hijinks and other high crimes and misdemeanors. I saw the Kinks (twice), the Rascals, Bob Seger, Steve Harley & the Cockney Rebel, Rita Coolidge and a few others.

We settled in and looked around at each other. Hmm, there were some old timers here for sure, those long-in-tooth sixty somethings like me but there was a good mix of other generations. I had an impulse to jump up and disavow any connection to those old farts but I just sat quietly. I didn’t have the gumption or energy to reveal how stupidly vainglorious I could be. All things considered the next two hours was one helluva roller coaster ride. The story was well paced and the rhythm of the images on screen kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting more. The audience seemed to be as one; a psychedelic protoplasm with a shared vision of a moment in time when life was fresh and new sounds were alerting our minds and bodies of another world. We were witness to a film that helped document an era of great music, sexual freedom, and political activism. Louder Than Love was able to capture the camaraderie of young people exploring an alternate life style. I was enthralled by the images portrayed in this historic film.  It can never be repeated

The story begins with a televised address by LBJ declaring a State of Emergency and scenes of Detroit engulfed in fire, a raging inferno that captured the rage of its forgotten residents. The year was 1967 and the riots had started. There was fire everywhere, looting, violence and police brutality. One young black man was asked why he didn’t torch the Grande Ballroom. His response was simple and direct, “we didn’t burn the Grande ‘cos they have music there, man.” Rock & Roll Music, the old chestnut by Dick Wagner & the Frost was the first song of a twenty song soundtrack that accompanied all those glorious images. There were period photographs, music and footage of live performances as well as current interviews with the musicians such as Roger Daltry (the Who), Wayne Kramer and Machine Gun Thompson (the Mc5), Dick Wagner (the Frost), Ted Nugent (The Amboy Dukes), John Sinclair, Alice Cooper and others.

Russ Gibb, a former school teacher, got the idea for the Grande after a trip to the West Coast where he met Bill Graham and visited the Fillmore West. The Byrds were playing that night and there was a psychedelic light show. It was truly an eye opener for the somewhat parochial Gibb. The music was too loud. Everything was wrong. But it was alive and real. Freedom of expression, alternate lifestyles and the incredible music co-existed in total harmony. He brought the Fillmore to Detroit and put his own stamp on it – thanks to the influences of John Sinclair, The Fifth Estate (alternate newspaper) and the counterculture that swirled around them. Before the Grande the only music you heard in Detroit was the symphony. The balance was changing like a runaway avalanche. It was vital but for only a short time 1966-70. John Sinclair developed an alternate community at Wayne State before moving to Ann Arbor. Sinclair explained (tongue-in-cheek but profoundly accurate and honest), “It was the only place for people to come and enjoy themselves. We were weirdos with long hair and we would listen to blues and jazz all the time. This was the only place to experience psychedelia except for San Francisco.”

It was also apparent that the war raging in Vietnam gave kids the idea that you might not be able to trust the government. Wayne Kramer honed in on the connections between love, sex and also thoughts and convictions. “It was part of Detroit’s industrial consciousness. We work hard; we play hard. The music rocked HARD. The Grande was the Petri dish.”

John  Sinclair gave credit where credit was due;

”Bob Seger’s Heavy Music - that is what Detroit is all about, Rob Tyner was a visionary, a genius.”  Sinclair picked the NMc5 for the Grande. They were the first band to play the Grande and the Last. They had a sheet of sound that signaled to Grande folks to march in the streets and get political. Music, art and politics were equal. The music was the pearls that held it together. It happened for the good of the world.”

For many the Grande was the Holy Grail. Everyone wanted to play there. The Who performed Tommy for the first time in America at the Grande. In an unexpected moment of truth, their road manager Tom Wright was offered a job managing the Grande. When Wright took the job, the Who thought he moved up, far surpassing them. Hell, the Who wanted to work for the Grande too! They had never seen such a responsive crowd that actually knew the lyrics to their somewhat obscure deep album cuts.

The Grande was a supercharged sensory overloaded environment with peculiar sights and sounds that promised every Dionysian delight this side of paradise. The music and light show were a pure psychedelic aphrodisiac. It was freedom without violence. Wayne Kramer put it perfectly,”There was no violence, just a lot of loving – it was sexy.”

Louder than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story is more than a movie. It is an historic document about a time and place that no longer exists. It is the soundtrack for a cultural zeitgeist in America that lasted for only a brief candle of time. It needs to be preserved. For Tony D’Annunzio, It was a labor of love. There was no guaranteed pay off or possibility of fame and notoriety. It is heartening to see a great movie that deserves the accolades given. It was lovingly directed and produced by Tony D’Annunzio and expertly edited by Karl Rausch. A great team


Before the Grande the only music you heard in Detroit was the symphony. The Grande is gone; the symphony’s still here. There is room for both. If only…


Bo White




John Sinclair Live @ White's Bar

John Sinclair is an historical figure in the counterculture of America. He was the founder of the White Panther Party in the mid-sixties and established a political and communal base in Detroit and Ann Arbor through Trans Love Energies. It was a magnet for musicians, poets, and freethinkers. He was largely responsible for the success of MC5and their four year residency @ the Grande Ballroom.

John grew up with a deep and abiding love for Jazz and Blues and has toured the world performing his poetry with the backing of a loose and ever changing aggregation of top flight musicians. John has performed @ White’s Bar several times in the past 10 years and will grace our stage on Saturday November 3rd @ 6:30pm for a night of music, poetry and storytelling. He is a gentle man of peace and has seen the dark side of freedom when oppression ruled the day. He is a visionary who speaks the truth – clearly, with just a hint of anger and a weary shrug.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Parkapaloosa - End of Summer Music & Arts Festival

Parkapalooza; Summer’s Swan Song

By Bo White

Holy Crap…summer is over, already? But it’s only just begun. I remember like it was yesterday shoveling snow and watching the shiver on the river and thinking “it’s too damn cold out, now I know why my grandparents migrated to Florida every winter.” But wait a minute…I’m not ready just yet to bid adieu to summer. I do not want to feel cold ever again. NEVER. I want to bask in the warmth of the sun and listen to that good old rock & roll. It will never die; believe me - especially if we have people like Ed Kerns keeping music alive in Midland County. I count on him to give me a day to remember, to hear the magic and the truth in music. After all, music is the food of love; prepare for some righteous indigestion. It hurts so good and leaves you panting for more, baby. It all takes place at Sanford Lake Park. Yes THAT Sanford Lake. It’s the lake that we’ve all been swimming and sun bathing in since we’ve been babies. As precocious teens we use to ogle the girls and say clever things like, you have nice butt, giggle giggle - awkward.  Years later we took our children there to swim, frolic and grill some hot dogs and burgers… good times, indeed. And it’s been revisited for several generations since. It feels good just to know Sanford Lake is still there and it is still a cool place to be. You can’t argue with a half-mile of lake frontage and 1000 feet of soft sandy beach. It is a local paradise, just add music and you will be in heaven,

Kerns and Company has enlisted a Bonnaroo-like eclecticism by lining up bands that embrace diverse rhythms, melodies, syncopation and beats. Rockers such as The Banana Convention, Jerkwater Town Boys and The Screaming Casanovas will hit you like a punch in the chest. It hurts so good. Chromatic Effect plays a hybrid of jazz and blues with some cool eastern influences and an appreciation for melody. Steel Wheels is just a flat out great country band with a well-deserved following. Magnum will provide the funk and R & B while The Sinclairs will take you back in time for some tasty classic/retro rock and Empty Canvas will blow your mind with something entirely different. There is music and activities for everybody. The bands are an excellent cross section of what is happening in mid-Michigan for 2012 and beyond. Prepare to snap your fingers, move your feet and get your groove on to the beat of Parkapalooza.

 Ed Kerns from the Midland county Parks system agreed to sit down and talk about this year’s show

How were you able to convince the Midland Park System to give you the go ahead for Parkapalooza 2012?


First, in the interest of full disclosure, it’s important to know that I’ve worked for Midland County Parks for nearly 30 years. Way back in 2004, when Parkapalooza was just an idea, it came from the perspective of something that was good for the parks and good for our visitors. It has always been the parks intention to give our customers the best recreation experience possible, and offering an end of the summer family festival is just an extension of that.

 The fact that I’ve been a musician even longer than 30 years made having music as the core of Parkapalooza a natural fit for me. Partnering with Dstreet was a natural progression and that partnership has worked very well for the past 8 years.

Is any other government entity involved?


There are many many people involved, from civic groups to other nonprofit organizations. The city of Midland makes their stage, and set up assistance for their stage, available to us and that is a great help.


How much does a free concert cost you to put on?


You’ve heard the expression; “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”? It’s sort of like that. The show costs Dstreet several thousand dollars in out of pocket expenses, for everything from advertising to ASCAP to porta-potties, but the real costs are shouldered by our volunteers, underwriters and generous sponsors. There is no such thing as a free concert and without those folks, Parkapalooza would be unaffordable.

How much time and effort have you put into this?


It isn’t an easy task, and there are many good people who work on it. Dstreet is a group whose best work is done literally behind the scenes. Our board and volunteers work on this project year around. Typically we begin discussing the festival in February and it snowballs into the manic stage around June and July. If we do it right, on festival day it should look easy.

Who are your staff, how many volunteers?


We are all volunteers. Dstreet has a governing board, right now made up of nine people. Our President is Darrin DeMott and our board members are Bill Morand, Pat McFarland, Gene McFarland, Heather and Ben Cohen, Joe Caudy, Rob Caulkins and me. For an event like Parkapalooza we will have about 100 volunteers in total. That includes the bands who are volunteering their time and talent to support Dstreet’s mission.


How did you choose the bands?


Seven years ago it was really easy to choose the bands. We simply begged everyone we knew and whoever said ‘yes’ was in. It is gratifying and humbling that playing Parkapalooza has become a hot ticket in recent years and we’ve been lucky enough to have a great talent pool to draw from. The hard part now is narrowing the line-up to just eight great bands. We look for acts that have wide appeal, that are family friendly and that are true professionals. It isn’t easy to get on stage with limited or no sound check, hit your spot, wipe the sweat from your eyes, and play. There are many players who are wonderful musicians, but just wouldn’t be comfortable in that setting.

Are the Sinclairs still a great band? (I think so)


Umm…yes?  I played with the Sinclairs band for a number of years. We were a good band then and they are a great band now. In my opinion, the thing about the Sinclairs is they’ve always been a fantastic entertainment band, but now the level of musicianship has also risen to that level. It would truly disgust me if I weren’t so fond of those guys. (laughs)

Do you film or record the show?


Midland Community Television often records the show for broadcast. We’ve talked about doing an audio recording, but wouldn’t do it without express permission from the bands. In a way, it would be counter-productive. Parkapalooza is about the spirit of the music, not musical perfection - and that doesn’t translate easily to tape.


Why did you choose a Sunday?


The festival is a tie in with Founders Days in Sanford (where Sanford Lake Park is located) Founder’s Days begins Saturday and wraps on Sunday.  It is a wonderful old-timey celebration with bean soup, a craft show, parade…etc.  I like to think of Parkapalooza as a nightcap to Founders Day. Plus, on a very practical level, most of our bands are working late Saturday night and are kind enough to roll out of bed and entertain us on Sunday!


This is a family friendly show. What other activities do you have for children/families?


I’m glad you asked! There will be a huge silent auction, free wood crafts from Home Depot, a Climbing wall provided by The Rock, the Turtle Tide SplashPad, A Geo-caching demonstration, Disc Golf with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a Bounce House from North Midland Family center, a Scavenger Hunt, Sand sculpting contest…the list literally goes on and on.



Are there food and other vendors - selling CDs, shirts, and posters?

We’ll have a great variety of food available, from hot dogs, to gourmet sandwiches to chicken dinners.

 The bands will be able to sell (and autograph) their merchandise after their set, but it may surprise you that there will be a minimum of other vendors. We want Parkapalooza to feel like a festival and not a flea market. Families can literally walk in with no money and enjoy the show and activities.

I do have to add that Midland County charges a $6 parking fee if you park inside the park. There will also be inexpensive offsite parking available with a free trolley, or bike- taxi ride into the park.


Can folks bring their own food and beverages? can they barbecue?


Absolutely! It’s a park after all. Only one major caveat; hard liquor is not allowed - and this is without exception. Beer and wine in moderation are fine, but as you’ve pointed out, it is a family festival. We owe it to our sponsors, the parks and other festival goers to keep it that way.


 Who are the sponsors?


We are grateful to be sponsored by, Charter Communications, MidMichigan Health, The Great Lakes Loons and Chemical Bank and Trust. Our Insurance is underwritten by the Miller Insurance Group.

Sanford Lake is beautiful. I have great memories from my teenage years. How does Midland County keep this natural wonder viable, beautiful?


The park has gone through a lot of positive changes in recent years. It is a beautiful facility and we work hard to keep it that way. Ironically one of our most significant problems now is managing the crowds who have discovered this park and often come from great distances to enjoy it. It is growing pains in the truest sense, but we’re pleased and proud to be a place people want to visit.


 Any last comments?


I’d like to let people know about a raffle we’re promoting. Dstreet is giving away an iPad (3), a Kindle Fire and an iPod Nano. Tickets are $5 , support our foundation and will be available at Palooza  or now from any Dstreet board member. All prizes will be awarded that day and you need not be present to win. Also we are seeking contestants for this year’s sand-sculpting contest sponsored by Chemical Bank. There is no fee to enter and there will be $150 in prizes. Rules and registration are available at




Saturday, August 18, 2012

Peter Tork Performs @ The State Theatre

Peter Tork

In this Generation


 The Canyon of Dreams

Peter Tork was part of one of the most incredible experiments in sixties television, The Monkees. It was inspired by the Beatles landmark movie A Hard Days Night that took the world by storm in 1965. The Beatles juiced things up and oiled the creaky broken down wheel of American Culture through their over the top British charm a placebo of good will and escape from the dark days following the Kennedy assassination. It was as simple and complex as taking American music, transforming it with a big beat, mirroring it back to America and creating a youth culture with the power of a ten ton nuclear bomb. The lies of the governments here and abroad provided the scaffold for the ascendance of the fifties/sixties  anti-heroes and led to an artistic renaissance led Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, Andy Warhol,  Bob Dylan, the Beatles  and so many more. The not-so-quiet revolution of the mind became the soundtrack for the youth culture in America. It was this internal landscape that created the conditions that led to a golden era of experimentation and freedom of expression. Peter Tork was part of this renaissance. Instinctively, he migrated to the west coast in search for the holy grail of sunshine, good vibes and incredible music. He was standing in the epicenter of new bohemia.  The beatniks gave rise to the hippies and Tork fit-in perfectly. He was a folkie at heart and he hung out in Laurel Canyon with hippie artisans like Van Dyke Parks, Tim Buckley, Steven Stills, Nurit Wilde and Joni Mitchell. In the beginning none were famous and no one had discovered their own unique voice – not quite yet. It was only a year or so later when a convergence of social and musical experimentation led to a kind of artistic epiphany, a freedom born of natural talent and a transformative enlightenment. The good vibrations flowed like the clear cool vision of the new tribal society.

As the Monkees phenomenon exploded exponentially, Tork opened his home to the new rock gods, jamming with Hendrix and hanging out with Zappa. He opened up his home for the early rehearsals for a new super group Crosby, Stills and Nash. Henry Diltz, a photographer and scene-maker was part of the hippie paradise. He knew Peter quite well and talks about Peter’s role in this hub of creativity;

“Peter’s house had belonged to actor Wally Cox. It was one of those substantial homes. It had a swimming pool. It had a whole wing off in one direction with rooms in it used for rehearsals. Peter was very social. He was like a commune type of guy - lot of people around. He was like a yoga and guru guy. In those days you could go over and could stay for a couple days if you wanted. You’d meet somebody there and fall in love.  It was a very open society.”

 Now 45 years later Peter Tork is older and wiser. He performs regularly with Shoe Suede Blues and is about to embark on a limited 12 date tour with the Monkees featuring Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith.

May The Circle Be Unbroken

I listened to some Shoe Suede Blues songs and I liked the laid back sepia toned country blues vibe especially the remakes of For Petes Sake and Your Auntie Grizelda. The Dylan chestnut She Belongs to Me is a perfect country blues. It gave them a whole new feel. How would you describe your music?

I don’t know – perhaps it’s a mixture of the ‘50s and ‘60s blues and rock & roll. Of course the blues had informed pop music for nearly 60 years now. It helped me to really stretch out. Just the other day it occurred to me that maybe what I’m doing is blues music. It’s hard to know exactly, but very much the blues influence, definitely the blues influence.

After you formed Shoe Suede Blue you went on and you opened for the Monkees later.

It was funny being at both ends of that. I wore sunglasses and a Panama hat and as loud checked jacket, and I was the guitar player and one of the singers in the band…What we did in those days is the opening band came out and sang Daydream Believer with the Monkees, and so out comes the band and they bring me out my jacket and hat and sunglasses, and I put them on and there were gasps from the crowd. That was fun.

What convinced you to go forward with the project with Shoe Suede Blues?

Well, it was like I said we just …we got together. A friend of mine who plays blues, harp, and some keys suggested we do a benefit. He was like, “Let’s you and me and that guy over there plays bass. I know he plays bass pretty good, and we’ll do this benefit, this charity thing we’re doing.” I said, “Sure.” We got another guitar player and a drummer, and we did like three of these shows with different drummers and different guitar players, and we thought we sounded pretty good. So just about then a friend of mine said, “Look, I’m responsible for the entertainment at this promotional gig I’m doing at the other end of the country, and you should come, it pays pretty well.” I said, “Yeah, that’s good only it’s not enough. Can you get us a couple more gigs?” She did, and lo and behold we were a national act just like that. We just happened to click and we’ve done for over 12 years or something like that. We’ve rotated members but we’ve been continuous. It’s like the old farmer’s joke. “See this hatchet - it’s had eight handles and three heads, but I’ve had this hatchet for 45 years.”

Who is in the band, any original members?

Michael Sunday was an original, and basically I think he just hated to fly so badly that he just couldn’t take it any longer and resigned. If you look at the cover of Cambria Hotel, sitting there at the bottom smoking a cigarette is Arnold Jacks, AJ. He is still in the band. Richard Mikuls, bless his soul, has passed on. We have a new guitar player, a heavy guitar player named Joe Boyle, and a drummer, Sturgis Cunningham. These guys are both residents of the east coast. Since it’s where I am, it kind of makes it easier. Other than that, it’s the same band. We’re making a new CD. I’m not going to be able to give it to you now, it’s not ready to appear just yet, but when I do you’ll see what we’re talking about. There’s some wonderful stuff on there.

Have you written any new songs for the upcoming tour?

 There will be some new songs. They will go on the tour, not all of them because we love our standards, but there will be a few.

Your two CDs have a lot of great cover songs – original rock R&B and blues – Shake Rattle & Roll, Flip, Flop and Fly, Youngblood, Hound Dog, Route 66. Treat Her Right & so on. What was the process of determining the songs made the cut?

Basically it was whatever felt right -basically that’s all there was to it. Just whatever seemed to fit our style and approach music. There were a few songs that we played that were like other songs in terms of style, arrangements, chords and lyrics, so we couldn’t use them. We had to select one, pick one that we liked better. It was that kind of process of elimination

Are you going to perform any of your Monkees songs on this tour?          

Sure thing. Oh yeah. Absolutely. I love them. Almost a third of the show is Monkees songs – For Pete’s Sake, Auntie Grizelda, Shades of Gray. Last Train to Clarksville and a few others

 Before you joined the Monkees, before you got into the project, you were hanging out with some pretty heavy hitters, Steven Stills, Van Dyke Parks and others from Laurel Canyon. You were really a part of a young elite. How did that help you prepare for the Monkees or did it bump into the Monkees in some way?

Well I didn’t have any sense of that at the time. I didn’t know they were members of the elite until years later when they all had successful careers…so, you know, I didn’t know Richie Havens was doing really well. I didn’t know Jose Feliciano was making it, I didn’t know any of those guys were going to be good until they got good, so it wasn’t like I was hanging out with heavy hitters as far as I knew at the time…

As multi-instrumentalist, do you have an instrument that you prefer, one that allows you to really express yourself?

I like guitar because I’m standing up, and I get to dance, and I like piano because it has the widest, broadest rhythm and the sound of it, those great boogie-woogie songs need piano and also for the harmony range. I like bass. Electric guitar is probably my favorite…it’s more for melody than harmony. So I like those two the most, bass when I’m called upon to play bass. I enjoy it. I love laying down a foundation and then the banjo for the old folky and your folk hat because that’s how I came up, as a folky.

As you look back on you career with the Monkees can you identify what you’re most proud of?

Headquarters. So yeah because that was when the band fought and won…my skills and contribution was being the root. It was a great boost for me. I am extremely grateful that I was able to do what I did in the public arena. It’s a huge debt of gratitude. I owe the Monkees a huge debt of gratitude on that account.

You were the quiet, thoughtful member of the group and the more cerebral. Do you think these qualities helped you as a musician?

I think anything helps as a musician. I know guys who were…but did wonderful, sophisticated, delicate, rhythmic stuff, and I know guys who are marvelously intelligent who can’t play, so there’s  not a great deal of overlap there, but what you’ve got is definitely a help.

I always liked your vocals. I thought you had a great vocal vibe. The Shades of Gray was just wonderful. How do you rate yourself as a singer?

Not very well. No, I’m getting better. I know I’m getting better in every aspect of the thing, but the better I get, the more I realize how far from good I am in almost axis, along any line. My pitch doesn’t always serve me well.  I’m always concerned about my pitch, and I don’t know that I’m a natural singer but I just plug along because it’s important to do.

 What was your opinion of Head? Do you think it turned out well? What was the message?

The message in that one, as far as I’m concerned, the message is that you don’t…The message is always supposed to be how good can you get, what’s the work got to do, or maybe at the very worse, what do you want to avoid? This message says, “You’re stuck,” and I think that’s a bad message. I think that Rafelson did a good job, given the movie he wanted to make. He and Nicholson produced the movie.  I think there are some wonderful scenes, and I think Rafelson did a decent job portraying us, using us to portray us, but as I said, I think the message is a bad one.

I saw the Monkees show at the Fox Theatre last year and felt it was triumphant. You had a front and center role this time around. You talked to the crowd. Introduced songs, sang lead on your songs and played several instruments. It was as if you found your voice after all these years. How did you see it?

Yeah, I think I worked up to my total innate musical capacity. Like I said, singing is not what I do; it’s not my strong suit. I think I have a lot of other attributes as an entertainer… it’s like those guys finally recognized me for my genius. That would be just joking. (Laughter)

Well, you have had a great career, perhaps you are a genius

Define your terms…I really have to go, But if you have some other questions that you really need to ask, send an email to my agent...Peace