Rock and roll never forgets. That’s what Bob Seger says. However, my peers cannot tell me exactly when and where Bob played in town, but swear they saw him.
The rock and roll events held at the Trenton rink in the late 1960s were very informal and it was just 50 cents general admission. There is no real paper trail or tickets to verify when he played.
Seger certainly played Downriver before hitting national fame; the defunct Southgate Aquinas was a popular attraction for Seger and others, such as Detroit-adopted Alice Cooper. Seger was a sort of native in this area, as he attended Lincoln Park High School for a time. Bob Seger’s early music on Hideout and Cameo records is classic, and his singing and recording spans all the way back to 1961.
The first regional hit for Seger was “Heavy Music,” which rose to No. 2 on the WKNR Music Survey, but barely broke the top 100 Billboard nationally; to me this song should be the national anthem for rock and roll. Other great sounds of Seger on 45 were “2+2,” “Sock it to me Santa Claus,” “Persecution Smith” and “East Side Story.” His first significant album accomplishment was “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” in 1969.
A big name that definitely played the Kennedy ice rink was Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes. Nugent’s arrival was quite regal, driving west on West Road in a limo the size of an Abrams tank. Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes had hit the top of the Detroit charts with “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” and it reached No. 16 nationally. The concert with the Amboy Dukes was a wild performance, as onlookers witnessed Ted climb to the top of a giant amp and leap off and tumble to the floor and astonish the crowd by getting back on his feet and continue to play his guitar.
It’s no secret that Ted’s quite opinionated on issues of the second amendment (immigration, etc.) — but also on music. Speaking to a caller on talk radio, Ted asked the listener who was his favorite rock and roll artist. The caller answered, “Elton John.” I thought Ted’s head was going to go through the radio as he yelled, “Elton John’s not rock and roll!”
Another big Michigan band that played at the ice rink was the Rationals. Their big hit was “Respect” — not Aretha Franklin’s, but Otis Redding’s version. Respect was in the top 10 all over the Detroit area stations, and was No. 1 in Ann Arbor (the Rationals’ hometown) and also in Flint.
The Rationals were a big attraction at the famed Grande Ballroom in Detroit. Some of my friends have told me Frost and Frigid Pink played the rink. If they did, the atmosphere of the ice rink would be perfect and appropriate for those named groups.
In the vicinity was the Grosse Ile Youth Center. The old barn is long gone but it, too, attracted Michigan talent. Three years before their national hit “Smokin in the Boys’ Room,” Brownsville Station rocked the Island in 1970.
I remember Cub Coda, the lead singer, recounting how the band got lost trying to find Grosse Ile. The MC5 were a Lincoln Park band renowned for their rebellious lyrics and had a manager more famous than themselves. They played all over the Downriver area. The manager was John Sinclair, who was a social and political activist who went to prison for possession of those funny looking cigarettes. There were many in the entertainment and music world who came to his defense, the biggest names being Yoko Ono and John Lennon.
The MC5 (Motor City 5) played at Weslow Hall on Quarry Road more than once. Weslow is now known as Arnaldo’s, a luxury banquet facility. The MC5 were very engaging with their fans, and were down-to-earth guys, front and back stage.
Great memories come to mind during a time of social unrest and war overseas, to think of all the southeastern Michigan talent: The Underdogs, Unrelated Segments, The Camel Drivers, SRC, Southbound Freeway, Springwell, Terry Knight and the Pack, Grand Funk Railroad — foreign names to many, yet household names to many as well.
Oh, yes, there was this little thing called Motown records as well. Rock and roll music remains timeless; if you could bring these artists back in their prime and they played before an audience of today’s 18-35 year-olds, they would be appreciated still. Mitch Ryder playing the Trenton summer festival is just one example of this dynamic.
It is impossible to listen to rock and roll and feel old — look what it’s done for Mick Jagger, who’s in his mid-70s and still having kids. Although when his significant other, Melanie, goes to the store to buy diapers, no one knows quite sure for whom.
Nevertheless, Bob Seger’s appearance at the Trenton rink is disputed, but as his song says, rock and roll never forgets — it keeps you young and prevents memory loss.
Tony Mazzella welcomes readers to friend him on Facebook, where he frequently shares recollections about some of the interesting people and businesses in Trenton’s past.