The Rockets have taken off again — and as far as frontman Jim Edwards is concerned, the sky is the limit for the current edition of the band.
Formed as the Helldrivers but re-taking the Rockets name earlier this year, the group — which includes Rockets founders (and original members of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels) Jim McCarty on guitar and Johnny “Bee” Badanjek on drums — has played a couple of high-profile shows at this year’s Stars & Stripes festival in Mount Clemens and opening for the J. Geils Band at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. It took awhile to get McCarty and Badanjek on board for the name change, but now the quintet is seeing the wisdom of its decision.
“When we did a few Rockets songs as the Helldrivers, I noticed those songs had more of an impact on the audience than anything else we did,” says Edwards, 48, whose performance has even been praised by the family of the late Rockets singer Dave Gilbert. “People would cheer louder, their grins were larger, everyone was having a good time. And we kept getting more requests to do more (Rockets) songs.
“So now, as the Rockets, the show has a lot more continuity and flow. It’s a lot more exciting. You don’t have to explain to people why you’re doing a cover song by some obscure Detroit band. It’s all yours.”
The Rockets’ goal now, Edwards says, is a new album — which will be the group’s first studio set since 1982’s “Rocket Roll.” Edwards says several songs are already “solid,” including one called “Whiskey Head” that he wrote with McCarty as well as Badanjek tracks like “Detroit Woman,” “Sister Mojo” and “Let’s Go.”
The group, whose first run was from 1972-83 and included five studio albums and a live recording from the Royal Oak Music Theatre, is currently working on funding, including talks with a national record label. Edwards predicts The Rockets will be in the studio by the end of January with a hoped-for release in 2011.
“It’s going to be our push to do just a great rock ‘n’ roll record like the city’s never seen — not in a long time, at least,” says Edwards, an auto designer who works days as a Chrysler U.A.W. steward. “I know the new Kid Rock record is great, and everyone is in anticipation for when (Bob) Seger comes up with something, but I think this will definitely be on a par with those in terms of news worthiness. We’ll make sure of it.”
The Rockets, Salem Witchcraft and Black Irish perform Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.
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