Mitch Ryder slated to perform fundraiser concert in Wyandotte

Paula Neuman
– Wyandotte Warrior

Michigan rock legend Mitch Ryder – with members of his All Star band and surprise guest artists – will perform a fundraiser concert on Aug. 22 at the Downriver Council for the Arts in Wyandotte.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the music will start at 8. Tickets, on sale now at the DCA, 81 Chestnut St.,  are $50 for general admission or $100 for the concert plus a “meet and greet” with Ryder and the other performers after the show. The venue offers standing room and limited seating, and the event is for adults 21 and older.

Throughout his career, Ryder has been generous about performing free of charge to raise money for people in need.

This time it’s personal.

“They needed my help at the time, and I need their help at this time,” Ryder said. “Any life is worth saving. It works around.”

The event will raise money for his son, Thomas Emmanuel, 38, who grew up in Michigan and now lives in New York.

“He has a very aggressive form of glioma, a brain cancer,” Ryder said. “We’re trying to raise money to buy him a few more years of life. They have some new stuff they want to test out.”

The concert won’t be your “typical rock ‘n’ roll show,” he said. “I’m selecting some unusual material for this show. They’re billing it as an intimate night. I’m not sure what that means, (but) I will be a little more forthcoming with details of my personal life.”

Ryder, who lives in Georgia now but comes back to Michigan often to perform, is a friend of Scott Galeski, a former Wyandotte police officer and a board member at the DCA. They got to know each other when Galeski worked for Ryder as a bodyguard, and Ryder has had roles in some of the indie films Galeski makes with Ring of Fire Entertainment.

Ryder with his band, The Detroit Wheels, was still a teenager when he rose to fame in 1965 with “Jenny Take a Ride.” The hits, including “Little Latin Lupe Lu” and “Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1966 and “Sock It To Me Baby” in 1967, stormed the charts.

Ryder was born William Levise Jr. in Hamtramck in 1945, and began performing at a young age as Billy Lee. He gathered some friends to form a band, Billy Lee & the Rivieras. In 1964, the band was signed to a contract by producer Bob Crewe, who moved them to New York, where they became Mitch Ryder and Detroit Wheels. “Jenny Take a Ride,” featuring Ryder’s famously ferocious intense vocal style, rocketed the band to stardom.

The contract with Crewe gave the producer complete control, and he wanted Ryder to have a solo career. At one point, Crewe had Ryder performing with a nine-piece band with slick production. 

Putting a harness on Ryder’s raw energy and creativity and taking away his original bandmates didn’t work out as well as Crewe hoped. And because of the contract, Ryder gleaned little of the financial rewards from his earlier hits. In 1968, Ryder took Crewe to court to recover some of the royalties the rock star felt he was owed. He lost the case, and Crewe sold Ryder’s contract to another label.

With a new manager and a re-formed band called Detroit, Ryder kept performing, but never regained his earlier level of rock stardom. He wrote an autobiography in 2011, and bared his soul about his earlier rock ‘n’ lifestyle and how the music industry exploited him up when he was young.

Today, his voice is still strong, and he has continued to grow as an artist, touring all over the world. He has a large following in Europe, and he still enjoys performing live, Ryder said.

In 2005, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.

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