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Interview:
Mitch Ryder at Detroit Music Weekend, 5 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Mitch Ryder is about to sock it to the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

The veteran singer and Detroit native will be inducted on Sunday, June 11, into the shrine, celebrating 50+ years of work that includes classic recordings such as “Devil With A Blue Dress On,” “Jenny Take A Ride,” “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Sock It To Me Baby” and more. And though his biggest hits came during the mid-60s, Ryder, 72, (real name William Levise Jr.) remains active as a touring and recording (mostly overseas) artist who also has other projects -- including a new stage musical -- in the works.

In addition to Sunday’s induction, he’ll also be performing during the Detroit Music Weekend as part of the Tribute To Aretha Franklin on Friday, June 9, and with his own show on Saturday, June 10.

• Ryder is honored, but surprised, by the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame induction. “It’s important, let me put it that way. In my book it’s a high honor. I thought about my early past and the music I had made and with whom I had made it, and I feel comfortable being in the Rhythm & Blues thing. I always referred to rhythm & blues being one of things I was very keen on, But it still came as a surprise; I got a letter in the mail saying “we’re going to induct you” and I went, “Somebody’s messin’ with me.” But it’s for real, and I’m happy about it.

• Among Ryder’s rhythm & blues experience is some concert dates he did 50 years ago with Wilson Pickett. “It was his band and my band,” Ryder recalls. “We did several dates together trying to help; It was during the (Detroit) riots, and we were trying to draw mixed crowds and maybe help cool things out.”

• This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Ryder being taken out of the Detroit Wheels and becoming a solo act with a bigger, more R&B-flavored sound. “First of all, that decision wasn’t mine,” notes Ryder, who says the idea was producer Bob Crew’s. “All I really wanted to do is I wanted to add some horns to our existing Wheels, and basically Jimmy (McCarty, guitarist) was a purist, and I can’t fault him for that. All around him he’s seeing groups like the Who who were keeping it down to the bare knuckles. He wanted a group thing. If we would’ve stuck together I would still be fighting to have horns, ‘cause I just loved R&B with horns and big, orchestrated things with strings and stuff.”

• Ryder recently released a new album, “Stick This In Your Ears,” in Europe which features two songs from the musical, “Hide Your Love Away,” that he’s been working on during the past four years. “About two or three times every year (the musical) gets put on hold for a month or two months because of other intrusions -- usually I have to go on tour,” Ryder explains. “If I had somebody funding it for me it could’ve been done years ago. I had a first draft but then realized I had to add depth to my characters, so I wrote a short novel and then started working on the music. I’m doing the orchestrations for it now and when it’s finished we’ll see what happens.”

• After a lifetime in the Detroit metro area, Ryder and his wife Megan recently moved to northern Georgia to be closer to her family. “It’s definitely a different culture down here,” Ryder says. “The one thing I noticed was the ability to buy Confederate flags wherever you want, stuff like that. But the people I’ve met here are really friendly; You kind of hesitate to ask how they’re doing because they’ll tell you, and it takes, like, an hour sometimes. And apparently everybody down here knows how to play guitar; I haven’t met one person who doesn’t love music, mostly country.”



Much Mitch

• Ryder will perform at the Tribute To Aretha Franklin at 8 p.m. Friday, June 9, at the Music Hall Center 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $30-$60.

• Ryder performs his own show at 3:45 p.m. Saturday on the Madison Main Stage at the Michigan Music Weekend festival in and around the Music Hall Center. The show is free.

• Ryder will be honored at the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame 2017 Induction Ceremony at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Music Hall Center. Tickets are $45-$75.

• Call 313-887-8500 or visit detroitmusicweekend.org for all events.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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