Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Punk Guitar Heroes - Detroit's MVP's

Wayner Kramer Central Park

It all started with Wayne Kramer and Fred Sonic Smith of the MC5. Then, the only guys who could hold the rock n roll fort down behind Iggy --- the Stooges. Ron Asheton still kicks out the jams with The Stooges.

yellow iggysmall
Iggy (he's for sale!)

These Detroit (and Ann Arbor) guys who inadvertently gave birth to punk rock launched a thousand ships. They would influence so many, and give Detroit a special leg up on punk rock guitar heroism. All these Detroit rockers are loathe to associate with a label or genre beyond "rock n roll." They just rock hard- period.

In the past few years, the surviving members of the MC5 have been touring and the young Turks who've been invited to join them onstage are actually the ones given a run for the money. The godfathers of punk rock - Wayne Kramer, Michael Davis and Dennis Thompson have not only years of experience at the rock, but facility across so many genres that they can keep all the youngsters guessing.

Wayner Kramer
The MC5's Wayne Kramer

I never got to see the MC5 during their original lifespan as a band, with Rob Tyner and Sonic. However, I've seen the reunited survivors and I've seen Fred's son with Patti Smith, Jackson.


Jackson Smith
Jackson Smith, Fred & Patti's son

I first saw Jackson Smith play guitar with his mom's band at Irving Plaza in NYC when Patti Smith was promoting her first album in years, "Gone Again." She brought him on stage - he must have been all of 16...the other guitar players in the band were Lenny Kaye, Tom Verlaine and Oliver Ray. They played "Smoke on the Water," a riff-heavy song that every 16 year old guitar player still plays. What a debut! A few years later, I visited Jackson at his suburban Detroit home - the one where he grew up. There were all of Fred's guitars--- just there. I was awestruck, and impressed by Jackson's focus on practicing.

John Nash

Here is John Nash, of The Witches, Electric Six, Volebeats, Nashinal Debt, Alphabet and who knows how many other Detroit bands who need a journeyman genius who can pull off any genre with strong but silent virtuosity?

Witches are Real

Matthew Smith is a producer, bandleader and composer who also shows mastery at every genre from punk to prog. You know him from Outrageous Cherry, Volebeats and THTX. He has also played in the band behind Nathaniel Mayer and has been known to inspire even long-established musicians ranging from Kim Fowley to Kevin Ayers. Outrageous Cherry's other guitar player, Larry Ray can do some wild things on those six strings too. The Smith/Ray pair could possibly be Detroit's answer to Verlaine/Lloyd...check them out and hear it for yourself.

Matthew Smith

From my favorite line-up of the Dirtbombs, here is Tom Potter (you may think he's a bass player because of that, but he played fuzz baritone guitar) who was the madman of Bantam Rooster, the slick class clown of Detroit City Council and now fronts Chrome Spiders.

Tom takes a cigarrette

Mike Walker played in Detroit City Council with Tom Potter, as well as in Detroit's short-lived but critically applauded Bogue. These days, he fronts Cuckold, a dirty trio who can count among their supporters John Brannon of Negative Approach.

Mike Walker

One of Detroit's most iconic guitar players and frontmen is Mick Collins from the seminal Gories where he played alongside Dan Kroha, aka Danny Dollrod, who is another Detroit guitar MVP (but alas one whose still photo I've yet to take. I shot video of the Dollrods. Someday that might show up here.) Of course, Mick heads The Dirtbombs, where he is the sole guitar player between two basses. His showmanship is a show-stopper...as if his deep Soul Man vocals on his unique tunes weren't enough.

Soul Man

I leave for last a lovely lady who can rock. Amy of the Gore Gore Girls has been doing this garage punk thing for a long time (that's in indie band years, mind you) and can hold her own in any rock fight. Once I saw the Gore Gore Girls open for The Cramps and those ladies definitely held the crowd's interest.

Girls & Prunes

Here's a shot from 2004, two of the Gore Gore Girls, former bass player Jen, and Amy (on the far right) meet The Electric Prunes.

And below, Amy's enjoying the record show at the 2006 Ponderosa Stomp with Matt Pendleton (Royal Pendletons)

Matt and Amy at the Stomp

Detroit is a rock n roll city bar none. There's always some good music going on and there's always players getting together - it seems that everyone is in multiple bands. There are so many great players that you can't name them all. Their omission here is no slight (it just means I don't have a photo to show you). Detroit Rock City. Check it out (and I mean - VISIT!) - its more than Motown and motor cars, more than Lions and Tigers and Redwings...its pure rock n roll.

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