The man who invented rock & roll passed away this evening. The great Chuck Berry. He changed the face of music forever. And so I have a little Chuck Berry Story I'd like to tell you.
We were (Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels). living in New York City, and we were booked to be on a show. The Detroit Wheels were also gonna be the house band and back up all the other acts that were on the show. Chuck Berry was the headliner. The show was in Virginia Beach at the arena. We were so excited.
So our manager borrows a car from a friend and we get one rent-a-car, and we set off from NYC at 6:00 in the morning. We were gonna drive down to Virginia Beach and rehearse with all the other groups we have to back up. The Orlons, Johnny Tillotson, The Angels, and a few others.
We were just getting into Maryland and it was real foggy. Mitch, Joe, and I were in the rent-a-car in back. McCarty, Earl, our manager and his friend were in the front car.
We were coming up to a T in the road with a yellow flashing light. The front car slowed down, and then they kept going straight. And we looked at each and said, "what the hell are these guys doing?"
And they drove straight into an aluminum office building. Right up to the tail lights! We were out of minds. We thought they were dead. The whole car was scratched up. We ran up the street to a donut shop and there was a Police Officer sitting inside. He came running out with us and down the street to the building.
Everybody in the car was alright. They were lucky. The car had be towed out of the building and taken to a dealership where we rented another car to get to the show.
We got there at noon, set up and started rehearsing all the songs on the spot. The Watusi by The Orlons, and many others. The show was sold out. We were playing and no Chuck Berry yet.
The Promoter was starting get nervous. We kept backing up all the other groups, and were waiting for Chuck. Finally the promoter yells, "he's here!" Chuck Berry walks in and he doesn't have a guitar. He says where's the band that's backing me up. The Promoter says over there, the Detroit Wheels.
So Chuck walks up to us and says....Who's the drummer. I said, I am. He says, "you see my right foot?" "When I bring it down and it hits the floor you stop." OK!. OK! Chuck had a big foot it was a size 16 Brogan Shoe.
Then he asks if he can borrow a guitar. So McCarty says here use mine. At That time Jim was playing a Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar. Chuck picked it up, put it on and the crowd was going crazy.
Growing up we played a lot of Chuck Berry songs so we knew most of his stuff. So we started playing and rocking the joint. and every time we stopped, Chuck, would say something to the audience about McCarty's guitar, Chuck says.....(I never played a guitar with so many buttons on it).
The crowd was eatin' it up. So we keep playing and Chuck goes out into audience and is duck walking all around, and at the end of the song, he says, (Man playing this guitar is like flyin' a spaceship).
What a night! And we just kept on a rockin'....to us little kids we were havin' a ball. Playing with the man who invented rock & roll.
Thank you Mr. Chuck Berry for everything you taught us. RIP! God Bless!
Johnny Bee Badanjek
Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels.
Johnny Bee Badanjek has done more for rock n roll than anyone. His discography is just off the planet. As I was researching different bands to showcase recently...I discovered that damn near everyone one of these groups had a "BEE" connection... Mitch Ryder, The Rockets, Michael Katon, Huck Johns, Edgar Winter, Alice Cooper, Broken Toys, Nils Lofgren, Max Weinberg, The Detroit Cobras, Brownsville Station, The Romantics, The Look, The Howling Diablos, Dr. John, Albert King and many many more.... Take a look at Bee's Complete Discography
The seventies rock & roll in the Motor-city... An amazing time to be playing in the bar scene. Between Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Toledo there where only a handful of clubs and they would be packed every night.
I started a new band called The Rockets featuring Jim McCarty on guitar who was also a band mate from our first band Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels. And on bass was John Fraga, and Marc Marcano on keyboards. We had no vocalist at the time and so I sang from behind the drums.
There were many musician friends who would always stop by and wanna sit in, we only allowed the musicians we knew who could play to sit in. There was a young lad that would always be hanging out and asking us to let him sit in, he had a cropped haircut like the English musicians ala The Faces and he always had on a Burgundy Velvet suit.
He was like the Mick Jagger of Detroit. Before he would sit in he'd walk into the restroom and wrap wads of toilet paper around his neck and as we started to play he would grab the mike and start singing while ripping piece's of the paper off from around his neck and he'd be throwing piece's of it at the girls on the dance floor.
And believe me I'm talking about a lot of toilet paper. The dance floor would be covered. He had it all, a rock star in the making. At the time The Rockets were managed by John Sinclair and Pete Andrews who lived in Ann Arbor.
Johnny Angelos and Robert Gillespie
(photo courtesy of Robert Gillespie)
After playing the Red Carpet one night and Johnny sitting in with us, the next day I had to go to a band meeting in Ann Arbor. It was early afternoon and I was in heavy traffic, as I was flying down I-94 just passing Metro Airport I did a double take because out of the corner of my eye....
I saw Johnny Angelos hitch-hiking on the side of the freeway with his Burgundy Velvet suit on and messed up hair in the hot sun, and I'm thinking damn that's one crazy mf. He never even went home yet and the man is heading out to sing on another gamble with love in his eyes. Johnny was a bad-ass singer who never reaped the awards he was due.
Detroit Guitarist Robert Gillespie and Johnny Angelos formed the Torpedos in October 1978, fusing their love of classic Motown soul and blues with elements of Heartbreakers and Sex Pistols punk. Gillespie says the Torpedos stood out from an emerging pack of new bands because “we had killer songs and a excellent front man in Johnny, who was like Rod Stewart, but more deviant.”
They developed a following, label interest and landed choice shows with the Romantics at venues such as Cleveland’s Agora ballroom and Detroit’s Masonic Temple. They got some radio support from Doug Podell and Steve Kostan. Yet it was not enough.
The Torpedos broke up shortly after Angelos split in 1981. He went on to form the Reputations with guitar slinger Bobby East. The Torpedos tried to continue with Thomas Anonymous, a singer from New York.
Post from: Retro Kimmer is a talented and widely-respected writer, show promoter and multi-media event designer. Kimmer's blog, Retrokimmer.com, is about pop culture and it's evolution into today's hottest trends.