Mitch Ryder wheels into Park City
September 8, 2015
Rock legend Mitch Ryder, known for his hits "Jenny Take a Ride," "Devil with a Blue Dress On," "Sock It to Me Baby" and "When You Were Mine," will perform at the Egyptian Theatre this Friday and Saturday.
The singer, who is celebrating 50 years in the music business and continues to perform all over the world, shows no sign of slowing down.
"The week after we get back from Park City, we’ll record two songs that we’ll live stream for free to see what kind of reaction we get," Ryder said during a phone call from his home in central Michigan. "Then we’ll finish an album.
"When you stop and wonder why we do what we’re doing, there are a myriad of reasons," he said. "My favorite, because I use it too, is ‘I don’t know, man. I just love music.’"
That sentence could be on the cover of every classic-rocker’s portfolio, Ryder said with a laugh.
"However, the moment you open it up, you will find three marriages, 20 kids and all of these debts up to the head," he said snickering.
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In all seriousness, Ryder is looking forward to the Park City concerts.
"Over in Europe, where I perform every year, I play 2½ hours without intermission and that’s based on everything I’ve created and released since 1979, so I have a deep catalog that I can draw from," he said. "Since I’m considered a rock ‘n’ roll legend act (in the United States), most people want to hear the gold records, Top 10s and the hits. So, in order to put together an 80-minute show, I have to appeal to the sensibilities of my true fans.
"Those are the ones who bought the copy of ‘Never Kick a Sleeping Dog,’ which was the album that John Mellencamp produced for me in 1983," he said. "I pull material from there and pull material from the ‘Detroit’ album, which was critically acclaimed, but didn’t sell crap."
A few days ago, Ryder was notified that the band wants to perform some of the songs he plays in Europe.
"Those will be fun for people to hear," he said. "I’m going to be coming to Utah a day early to rehearse, so we’ll see if there are any other songs on the list."
Throughout his life, Ryder has performed music, so it wasn’t difficult for him to choose his career.
"When I was in high school, I was in varsity choir and sang semi-classical music and competed in regional contests against other school districts," he said. "At the same time, I would sneak downtown during the night to catch some rhythm and blues acts wherever I could find them. I used to visit a little club, even though I was underage, and there was no denying that my preference leaned towards rhythm and blues."
The epiphany came after hearing Pat Boone’s "White Buck Shoes" immediately followed by Little Richard’s "Jenny Jenny" on the radio.
"I sat there stunned at the impact Little Richard had on my sensibilities that Pat Boone didn’t have," Ryder said. "Little Richard’s voice was so energetic, free, and filled with all kinds of emotions. It was like exploring my inner self. I felt human and felt Little Richard was human and this was something I could listen to over and over again.
"Through that music, I could discover all of these different emotions that made me crazy," he said. "Then I got to see James Brown at the Fox Theatre (in Detroit) and that’s when I realized that R & B was the way I wanted to go."
In the mid-1960s, Ryder met up with a bunch of guys who could play rhythm and blues but also liked to the Beatles and the other British-invasion music of that time.
"So, we mixed those sensibilities together and that’s what became the signature for Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels," he said.
Although the band had only a handful of charting hits, blue-collar singers such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, John Mellencamp and Ted Nugent have said Ryder has influenced their music.
"When I look back, I didn’t think my music would have that much of an impact on anyone, and to be truthful, I’m sure I was only one of a million influences on those guys," he said wryly. "It’s cool that they were able to pick up something from me, but I’m sure I didn’t shape their whole view about what rock music was all about."
Like those artists, Ryder still finds inspiration from modern artists and others he has worked with in the past.
"You take away something from every encounter if you’re smart, because everybody gives you something and you mix it all up with what you, yourself, bring to the table," he said. "I mean, I learned a lot about the business end of things more than the music end of things from Mellencamp, and Junior Walker taught me how to be a professional."
After further reflection on the past 50 years, Ryder said he didn’t think he would still be performing after turning 70 this year.
"If I didn’t know how it would end when I first started, I do now," he said. "I put a lot of time in music, so much that there isn’t time left to learn a new career.
"I know it will all end with something music based, you know, but right now, my voice is still cool, so I’m still using it," he said. "If that happens to fail me, I’ve already dipped into writing and wrote an autobiography (‘Devils and Blue Dresses’) that has won two national awards. That prompted me to say, ‘Hmmm. Maybe I can do something here. That got me commissioned to write a fiction novel that I’ll use as the basis of a musical."
Regardless of where his career takes him next, Ryder won’t stop being creative.
"Time’s too precious," he said. "The older you get, the smaller the pages of that calendar gets."
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $29 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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