Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels was a white soul group from Detroit with several hit songs on the charts in the mid-60's.

The group was formed by Mitch Ryder, who had been born in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1945 as William Levise, Jr. He grew up in Detroit listening to rhythm and blues music and joined a group in high school called the Tempest. Levise sang in a quartet comprised predominantly of very good black singers -- the Peps -- but suffered so much harassment that he left the group. He went to Los Angeles, then returned to Detroit to form another group which he called Billy Lee and the Rivieras.

Levise himself was Billy Lee and sang lead vocals. Others in the group were bass player Earl Elliott, lead guitarist Jim McCarty and drummer John Badanjek. The group brought in Joe Kubert, who had been with the Tempest, to play rhythm guitar. New York record producer Bob Crewe became the group's new manager and insisted that they change their name -- to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. The name Mitch Ryder was chosen at random from a telephone directory, and Levise has used it ever since.

The group's first recording, I Need Help, went nowhere but its second effort went all the way to the top ten. Jenny Take A Ride! was actually a medley of C. C. Rider [a.k.a. See See Rider], a song that had been done by Chuck Willis in the 50's and which had inspired a dance known as The Stroll, and Jenny, Jenny, which had been a top ten song for Little Richard in the 50's. Mitch Ryder added his own flair to the song and it was a big hit.

In 1966 and 1967, recording for the New Voice label, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels put five songs in the top forty including Little Latin Lupe Lu, Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly, and Sock It To Me-Baby! Encouraged by producer Crewe, Mitch Ryder went solo in 1967, with little success other than his What Now My Love on Crewe's DynoVoice label. He became disillusioned, and there were lawsuits.

In 1969 he worked with Booker T and the MG's to come up with The Detroit-Memphis Experience, but its sales were sluggish. He joined with the drummer from the Detroit Wheels, John Badanjek, to form a new rock group they called Detroit in 1971.

In later years Ryder settled in to writing songs with his wife Kimberley, wrote a novel and did some painting. Some recordings he did in the late 70's led to a European tour, and he did an album that was produced by John Mellencamp in 1983, Never Kick A Sleeping Dog. Bruce Springsteen sometimes closes his show with the songs that were made famous by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. And Mitch Ryder still performs on occasion.

Most Recent Update: April 20, 2000

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