Mitch Ryder (b. February 26, 1945) is a veteran and influential rock singer who, with his backup band, The Detroit Wheels, became famous during the mid-late 1960s. Known for his fiery vocals and dynamic onstage presence, he has performed in a variety of genres that include early rock and roll, R&B, blue-eyed soul, garage rock, and hard rock.
Born William S. Levise, Jr. in Hamtramck, Michigan near Detroit, he formed his first band, Tempest, while in high school. In 1962, while still in his late teens, he made his first recording, "That's The Way It's Gonna Be," and began fronting for a local soul group known as the Peps. Two years later, he joined a rock group then consisting of Jim McCarty (lead guitar), Earl Elliot (bass), and John Badanjek (drums), and after rhythm guitarist Joe Kubert came on board, they became known as Billy Lee & The Rivieras and developed a strong local following. Soon after, they were discovered by famed songwriter and producer, Bob Crewe, and by early 1965, had relocated to New York to begin recording. The band was renamed Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels in part to avoid a conflict with The Rivieras of "California Sun" fame. Ryder reportedly got his stage name after flipping through a Manhattan phone directory. The Detroit Wheels lineup had some personnel changes along the way, with lead guitarist Mark Manko joining the band ca. 1965 and bassist Jim McAllister replacing Earl Elliot in 1966.
With The Detroit Wheels, Ryder made his debut on the Pop/Rock charts in 1965 with the high octane "Jenny Take A Ride!" which is a medley consisting of "C.C. Rider" and Little Richard's "Jenny, Jenny." This smash was followed by the Bill Medley-penned "Little Latin Lupe Lu" (1966), the rock and roll medley, "Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly" (1966), the racy "Sock It To Me-Baby!" (1967), and the foot stomping "Too Many Fish In The Sea & Three Little Fishes" (1967). The band also had minor hits with "Break Out" (1966) and the soulful "Takin' All I Can Get" (1966).
After Ryder went solo in 1967, he had a string of hits through 1972 that included his version of the extensively-covered "What Now My Love" (1967), which became a Top 40 hit, "Joy" (1967), "(You've Got) Personality & Chantilly Lace" (1968), and "Rock 'N Roll" (1972, credited to Detroit Featuring Mitch Ryder). Years later, in 1983, he had a minor hit with the Prince-penned "When You Were Mine."
Ryder's many honors and accolades include being inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2017. He has been cited as an influence on such performing artists as John Mellencamp, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, and Bruce Springsteen. He had continued to tour and record actively over the years and has amassed a large fan base.
- For more info about Mitch Ryder's life and career, visit mitchryder.net.
- Mitch Ryder discusses his early musical influences and how he came up with his unique R&B/rock sound in an interview with jambase.com (March 1, 2012).
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Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels
- Devil With A Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly 1966
(This song later also became a hit for Pratt & McClain (1976).)
- Jenny Take A Ride! 1965
- Little Latin Lupe Lu 1966
(This song was previously a hit for the Righteous Brothers (1963) and the Kingsmen (1964).)
- Sock It To Me-Baby! 1967
- Too Many Fish In The Sea/Three Little Fishes 1967
(This song was previously a hit for the Marvelettes (1965).)
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