Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: Devil with the Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly (1966)

 |   |  1 min read

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: Devil with the Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly (1966)

Whatever the reason -- working class industrial, mix of races, impurities in the water -- Detroit has been a hotbed of great music. From Bill Haley and Hank Ballard in the Fifties through Motown, Bob Seger and the Stooges to the Dirtbombs, Eminem and the White Stripes, it just keeps coming.

And let's not forget -- although many do -- the great Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels who cracked a couple of classic singles in the early Sixties.

Ryder -- actually Billy Levise who initially styled himself Billy Lee -- played the black clubs with his band the Rivieras while still in high school then took on white suburban dance halls where his energetic performance kept alive the spirtit of his hero Little Richard even as the British Invasion arrived.

Spotted by producer Bob Crewe when they opened for the Dave Clark Five and blew them off the stage, they relocated to New York to record, Levise/Lee became Mitch Ryder and Crewe captured on disc their furious live performance.

Their first single was an authentically raw treatment of Little Richard's Jenny Jenny coupled to the old r'n'b standard CC Rider given light-speed treatment.

But for my money this medley -- the failed Motown single Devil with a Blue Dress (by Shorty Long in '64) welded onto Little Richard's Good Golly Miss Molly, via the Jack and the Beanstalk phrase "fe fe fi fi fo fo fum" -- was their finest three minutes.

It went top five in the States -- but that was about it for Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels in terms of chart success.

They had a couple of lesserly successful singles and Crewe steered Ryder into a slower soul style and he ended up in cabaret.

A pity, but this is a rock'n'roll classic of pure energy at a time when music was getting just a little bit arty.

Bruce Springsteen was a big fan of Mitch Ryder and used to incorporate this into his live shows, and for the No Nukes concert at Madison Square Garden in '72 he did a Detroit medley of both Ryder/Wheels classic singles.

This was old school rock'n'roll frenzy punched onto a small slice of black plastic. Perfection. 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Larry Williams: Slow Down (1959)

Larry Williams: Slow Down (1959)

R'n'b/rock'n'roll singer-songwriter Williams didn't have a particularly long time in the spotlight -- he appeared in '57 and was effectively gone from the charts within three years -- but his small... > Read more

Curtis Mayfield: Hard Times (1975)

Curtis Mayfield: Hard Times (1975)

Few artists captured the feelings of loss, discomfort, urban troubles and spiritual hope better and more consistently than Curtis Mayfield. This subtle slow-burner is lifted from his... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER JEFFREY PAPAROA HOLMAN on David Bowie and mining identity

GUEST WRITER JEFFREY PAPAROA HOLMAN on David Bowie and mining identity

In the tidal wave of emotion that has swept the world since David Bowie’s death was announced, I have found my myself in a curious position: saluting a great artist who I never really got... > Read more

TURN OFF YOUR MIND: Meditation and a missed opportunity

TURN OFF YOUR MIND: Meditation and a missed opportunity

In the late Seventies, when in my 20s and back at university as an adult student taking life and studies more seriously, I saw a notice offering free lessons in transcendental meditation.... > Read more