Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kiss & the Asendance of Stoopid

Heavy Metal Kiss


The Ascendance of Stoopid


It isn’t very often that I criticize a major act, a well loved rock & roll band that stood the test of time. Kiss was formed in New York City in 1973 and they were an almost immediate sensation. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were the leaders of the band and they were responsible for the face paint and outlandish outfits. A host of players travelled through the Kiss experience, with smoking guitars, blood spitting and fire breathing. It was like a group of Kabuki warriors with painted faces just waiting to freak you out. The various actors in the musical aggregation were like comic book styled characters like Space Ace, Catman and the Demon. By 1983, the band seemed to tire of the costuming and began to perform without costumes and makeup. I didn’t care one way or another because I thought the shtick was a bit infantile and only fit for lobotomized zombies in the night of the living dead. But I could be wrong. Kiss has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. So, what do I know! It’s just a lot of doodah

Kiss stated out in New York as Wicked Lester. They had a sizeable following and recorded one album that was shelved by Epic. By Late 1972, Simmons and Stanley hired an exceptional drummer and singer by the name of Peter Criss. By 1972 the trio did a showcase for Don Ellis, the A&R director for Epic Records but alas he did not like the band’s music but by January 1973 Ace Frehley joined the band and it was only a few weeks later when Paul Stanley re-christened the band as Kiss.

And the rest is history…well, maybe not history. The current members are Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals); Gene Simmons (bass, vocals); Tommy Thayer (lead guitar, Vocals); Eric Singer (drums, vocals). Former members included; Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Eric Carr, Bruck Kulick, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John and Bruce Kulick. The band has evolved into distinct stages from the Early Years to the Rise of Prominence, Solo Albums, Final Makeup Years, Unmasking, Reunion and Post Reunion. In 1995 the band released a 440 page of wham bam thank you mam that chronicled the group’s history and it was followed by a worldwide Kiss Convention Tour. Not too shabby for egotistical Rock & Roll Hall of Fame hacks; I believe there is always more to consider when we think of Kiss, for instance Dick Wagner’s spectacular guitar work  on such tracks as Flaming Youth and Sweet Pain during the sessions for the Destroyer album while also playing acoustic guitar on the power ballad Beth. I also have a memory of an old interview with Simmons in which he praised British Invasion Bands and professed his love and respect for the Beatles music but after all these years and after all their triumphs, I still don’t get it. Perhaps it’s like having a shabby old pair of sneakers, they aren’t very comfortable but they fit just right and you won’t throw them away. It’s when something reminds you of an old forgotten time, a brief candle of memories that take you to another place that’s warm and soothing. Kiss has been around for forty plus years and all the cylinders are firing. Their resilience is stunning especially when you notice that other musicians fold in face of ennui whether its new wave, old wave, metal, rap or punk. I still don’t get it.  There must be an explanation for this Kiss phenomenon, perhaps something like a musical X-file… oh no, something is out there!

I am unable to attend the August 15th Kiss Concert but I will sit without judgment.  I have an open mind about Kiss and I dig their longevity and working class vibe. I decided to take a trip through YouTube and chanced to see several of their more recent concerts, not too shabby. I did notice that Simmons and Stanley do not move their groove thing very much anymore. It’s tough when you have to squeeze your big fat butt into those spangled rock & roll outfits and put on that nasty Japanese kabuki war paint on your face. It itches like a bitch!

As for the concert in Saginaw, I hope they play all their hits especially Lola and Paperback Writer




Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pete Woodman - Bossmen, Mysterians and Meatloaf Soul

Pete Woodman

                                                        A  Sixties Icon

                                                   The Prodigal Son Returns

Pete Woodman recalls the early days growing up in Freeland off old U.S. 10. He remembers when he hung out with his friends from the Music Box days and high school dances. Now they are in their sixties and seventies and those times have sharpened into prism of memories, fondly embraced. It was an era in which Butch White became a tentative rock & roller with the Playboys and perfected his craft just months before Dick Wagner rode into town with Lanny Roenicke and Woodman to become a rock and roll hero. He renamed the band the Bossmen and they became our Beatles. But the real story started several years before when 12 year old Pete worked his craft, learning drum beats from an Estonian band teacher that loved Pete’s spunk. Around that time Pete and his brothers Rock and Michael caught the bug. They formed a band called the King Toppers and they won a prize for best band at the Chesaning Showboat. Pete never looked back. It was in his blood. To this day Pete claims he is the most famous drummer in Freeland only because I’m the only drummer from Freeland!                                               

Pete met Lanny Roenicke in high school, trading off gigs with Saginaw High and Arthur Hill bands. At this point Butch White was playing guitar and was the putative leader. Pete has a vivid memory of Butch performing gravy train and nailing it; At the time a piano player was making the rounds, he was loud and he was ripped but he could play like Jerry Lee Lewis and could singer better than most. It was warren Keith! Pete got to know him when he would sit-in occasionally in Adrian just north of Pontiac. Warren was in a band called the Eldorados and he told Pete about this guitar player who could play behind his back and could sing great. It just so happened that Butch White was gonna quit the band so Lanny and Pete drove to Drayton Plains and hired Dick Wagner on the spot! When Gary Lewis and The Playboys hit it big with This Diamond Ring, Warren Keith renamed the band, it was a cool name…the Bossmen!                                             

From 1964-1966 The Bossmen were mid-Michigan’s Beatles. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time of the music business when we could cut our own records and distribute them at teen dances and at local radio stations. Every one of the Bossmen 45’s were local hits. Pete says his favorite Bossmen Songs were You & I and Bad Girl and he felt the harmonies were perfect! The Bossmen performed all over the state and had a headlining show at the Grande ballroom shortly after the Grande opened for business. A local event for the new Montgomery Wards Record Department featured the Bossmen. They sang all the Bossmen songs all the A & B sides. Mark Farner was a full member of the group and performed a few R&B covers at that particular show. Pete encouraged Mark to write songs and his first composition was Heartbreaker, later covered by Mark when he was a member of Grand Funk Railroad!  Pete annd Mark became close friends and Pete got to know his brothers and sisters. To this day Pete  was thrilled with the acclaim of being a local celebrity. Pete says, “It was worth a million dollars, other bands would play our songs and they’d ask Pete, “did I play it right.” And I would always say, “Of course you played the right drum part.” It was kind of special!

After the Bossmen, Dick and Pete tried to put something together but it didn’t work out but when he hooked up with Bobby Rigg & the Chevelles that was pure magic. Pete agreed, “That was the best move for Dick because the Chevelles were a great band and everyone could sing!” Pete went on to talk about Wagner, “Dick was an established songwriter and he helped his new band to improve their craft and write better songs. When the Beatles came along with all those great songs, Dick wanted to be a Beatle. The Bossmen were the vehicle for Dick to write these songs. They are still great tunes with good arrangements!”            


After that Pete put together a band called the Bean Machine and it included his future wife New Zealand born Susie Kane. At the time she was learning chords and scales on the keyboard and in no time she was proficient enough to tour and record with the band. The first song she performed onstage was Midnight Hour and it was a total groove. It wasn’t too long after that Rudy Martinez (Question Mark) asked Pete to play drums for his band. Pete agreed. The band was still red hot with their big hit 96 Tears (along with I Need Somebody). Pete rehearsed and I learned the songs essentially all the songs recorded for the first album. Pete  learned alot on the tour, touring the midwest and the southern states. Susie Kane became the tour manager and made sure there was gas money as well as the profit. Susie would count all the money, all singles. Often she would count out three or four thousand dollars! At that time merchandising was an afterthought, not a revenue source. While in New York Pete recorded Cherry July (on the Cameo Parkway Label) for one of the last great songs recorded by Question Mark & the Mysterians!  


After our time with the Mysterians, Susie and Pete moved back to Freeland and we had lots of money.  Pete remembers, “So we decided to pack up our 1966 Chevrolet and it was a big load. We had my drums in the back and Susie’s organ on the top. I still wonder how we did it!” The move to California proved to be an epiphany. We met Boyce and Hart, Michael Nesmith , David Crosby, Joey Bishop, Steve McQueen, and Tiny Tim doing some cool vaudeville. Then we met a Detroit Band called the Southbound Freeway. They recorded an album at Gold Star Studios but their drummer left so Pete got the gig, though it was short lived it was a good band. They had a minor hit with Psychedelic Used Car Lot. But Goldstar was a haven for musicians and singers. Pete recalled that Buffalo Springfield, Sonny & Cher and the Byrds all hung out there.

Pete met Meatloaf shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles. Meatloaf was a big man, over 300 pounds. He had dirty blonde hair, he didn’t look very clean and he didn’t wear shoes. He was walking with a few other guys and one of them saw my drumsticks and he said, “You wanna play with us on these songs we have?”Pete agreed and so he went into the studio and there was Rick Bozzio and Meatloaf. They laid down several rough tracks and Susie played keyboards. The band was christened Meatloaf Soul. The band was quite successful in Michigan. Pete recalled getting gigs through Punch Andrews (Seger’s manager) and played the Hideout Clubs, the Blue Light in Midland and Bay City and Daniels Den. Pete recalls that at that point in the seventies, original live music was at its height of popularity! To this day Pete recalls teaching Meatloaf how to count in- 1,2,3 during a song! They even played the Grande Ballroom with the Fugs!

“When I look back, says Pete, I want to be able to say I did the best I could do. I had lots of fun and everything I did was positive. It was good for my direction in life. I wanted to feel good about myself. Every day is the best day ever is a phrase I used when I worked at Orchard St. Marys, an all boys Prep School for kids from 9th grade to 12th grade. I worked at the Field House on the Ice Arena. I would say to the kids “You’re going to be great today! The best day ever!! And the kids would yell back – “Best Day Ever!!”

Pete and his band HIPS with Susie and Sarah Woodman will be performing @ Freeland’s Tittabawasee Park in Freeland. Dick Fabian’s wife Gail will make a few remarks about her late husband Dick Fabian. The concert starts @ 7pm. Come and witness a local legend and dig the music!


Bo White

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Legend of the Hot Ratzow Part 2

The Legend of The Hot Ratzow Part II



I had just returned from hitchhiking to California. It felt good to be back in Ann Arbor. My trip was a mixed bag of self-discovery and disappointment…major disappointment. I teamed-up with Hugh Orlins for this cross country adventure. We became buddies at Bicycle Jim’s, a most unique and wonderful restaurant, where everyone seemed to possess something, almost intangible but involved courage and risk taking. We were young and many of us had already earned college degrees. Higher education didn’t seem to do us too much harm and we were, for the most part, free from the bourgeois trappings that many of our counterparts embraced whole heartedly. We avoided the corporate rat-race and delayed adulthood for several years. Some were artisans; some were performers. We were straight and we were gay and we embraced our differences. We saw ourselves as part of a counter-culture. It was here that I met the Hot Ratzow, the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. And he may have been the kindest man I’ve ever known. I know that he was more than patient with me. And somewhere behind the gaze of his steely blue eyes, he seemed to know that which is unspoken, the arrow that is never sent. And he approached life calmly, mindfully as if each perfect moment existed for a reason and should not be neglected or ignored. The Hot Ratzow didn’t rush through life multi-tasking and getting’ strung out, uptight, and in a bag. He embraced life with an inward smile that accepted everything, joy and sorrow, equally without hesitation. He taught me so much without ever trying to teach. I became friends with Carol, Theresa but mostly (in my mind) with the real Nell Caraway.


  Nell and I seriously flirted with something more intimate and loving but we just stopped, smiled and said goodbye. Soon after she moves away to another state. I never heard from here again

 By the time I returned from my time on the road, Bicycle Jim’s was in an uproar. The four managers Ann, Kate, Coleman and Tom, walked out when the owner refused pay increases to the two women on the team. In sympathy, most of the staff followed. It was a strategy that didn’t work out and most of us were left without jobs. The Hot Ratzow and I hired on as cooks at the Little Brown Jug, just down the street on South University. The owner Pat was a high strung man of Greek descent and was taken to push his cooks off of the grill so he could prepare a “special dish” for friends. He also propositioned my girlfriend at the time - $100 if she’d sleep with him. She had to accept the offer, she was broke and in debt…eventually we broke up. It was probably inevitable. She insisted she was schizophrenic and she told me that she sang occasionally with the Tubes. But it was all that in your face pathology that I found so alluring, it was her keen sense of the bizarre that I really liked about her, that ability to live on a thin line, and teeter off at any moment.

Carol and I goofed around but were unable to take it seriously. We laughed at ourselves and it was cool.
As always, the Hot Ratzow made the most of a bad situation. He never let the owner penetrate his Zen-like emotional armor and his uncanny ability to stay in the moment. I must admit we had a ball, despite the craziness. And though we didn’t really date, we met some wonderful girls, many of whom were beautiful – just like the Hot Ratzow. I dated a beautiful red-head but only briefly. She became enraged at me for not spending the night. Little did she know that I was embarrassed by this monstrous tumor-like zit on my back. It was the size of a ping pong ball or a third eye and it hurt like a bitch. I just didn’t want to be in the awkward position of her seeing it and then making fun of me or thinking I’m some kind of mutant. What if she touched it and it oozed gobs of poisonous yucky stuff while I’m screaming in torturous knife-in-the-back pain? I’ll never know for sure, she wouldn’t see me after that but I’m pretty sure that she thought, at the very least, that I was some kind of unfathomable, undeserving scum sucking idiot...or worse. I told the Hot Ratzow about my dilemma and he just shook his head and smiled. It wasn’t too long after that when everyone began picking up stakes and finding their own way home. Tom (TK), The Hot Ratzow and Theresa (one of the short-haired girls with tattoos) moved to Jackson Hole Wyoming, Roger Brown moved back to Royal Oak and I returned to Saginaw.


 It was a time of personal accounting, a reorganization of friendships...of goals. It was just a few months before my "prodigal son returns to Saginaw" act that we all got together for one last adventure. It was something I never dreamed of doing but it symbolized my quest for adventure and my uneasiness with life. I forget whose idea brought us to that modest Tecumseh airfield but I never questioned why.  I just went along with it, feigning fearlessness but all the time scared. We took a few hours of instruction and then we were going to parachute that same day, only the winds were too strong and we had to cancel our jump until the next available slot. Two weeks later the winds were right and we did take the jump. Everyone did just fine...Theresa, the Hot Ratzow and the others. But me, well I just lost it. At 3000 feet, the side door opened and I followed the commands…put your feet out, get out (hands on the top strut, feet firmly placed on the lower strut), go! I went sailing out of that plane like nobody’s business. It was exhilarating and sexy. My eyes were shut until the safety line engaged the chute. It opened like a charm. I began screaming and laughing hysterically, not listening at all to the radioed instructions from the ground below. As a result I ended up off course and landed in a farmer’s field nearby. The Tecumseh staff was none too pleased with me and invited me to never come back. Not to worry, I wasn’t going back. Still as I look back that jump was the perfect metaphor for my life at the momentand for a long time to come. I just didn’t have a clue. I rushed through life without plan or reason, as if the winds of change could blow me like a leaf and I would scatter away to satisfy its whim and fancy. And I would find myself like Dylan’s rolling stone, with no direction or conscious thought that I was so far from home and from the people I loved in Ann Arbor when I moved back to Saginaw.


 Saginaw seemed foreign to me now. I didn’t feel like it was a good fit, until, that is, I began working for my father at White’s Bar. The old timers (my grandfather's friends) accepted  me easily and the men who grew up with my father remembered me to be a good athlete in high school and embraced me for my athleticism and because I was my father’s son. I met up with an old neighborhood chum Andy Puszykowski. He was a few years older and seemed like a brother to me. He really helped me adjust and made me feel that I belonged. He captained the White’s Bar softball team and enlisted me to play, I jumped at the opportunity. It reminded me of my past, a good past of glory days and good friends.


At summer’s end in 1977, TK called me up. Something was brewing. He and a few others from our Bicycle Jim’s days were starting a restaurant in Corvallis Oregon. Would I like to join the project? I never blinked. I packed up all my stuff including my best friend Snow Puppy. Snow was my buddy and we were inseparable. I use to take him into all the record shops I frequented in Ann Arbor and one cool used record store in Ypsilanti, right off the main campus of Eastern Michigan University. It was at that particular store that I bought my first copy of the Beau Brummels' magnificent LP, Bradley's Barn, an undiscovered masterpiece that got me through many lonely moments. Snow was named for his beautiful white fur and for that burning white powder we all enjoyed so much, for such a brief moment. I bought 20 cases of Strohs for my friends in Oregon. Strohs was still a regional beer and was highly valued out west – just like Coors’ was valued in the Midwest. I was recovering from an operation and had to swear off beer and caffeine for the next month. So, Snow and me, well, we picked up stakes and headed down the Highway. It took me 60 hours to drive from Saginaw to Corvallis. It was a marathon session that left me exhausted and almost delirious. I would rest at a roadside stop for a few hours, take Snow for a walk, drink some coffee, and get back on the road again. I couldn’t wait to see my friends, just couldn’t wait. And when I left Saginaw on that muggy September morning,


 I thought I was leaving for good...