Vocalist Mitch Ryder first hit the charts, with his R&B band The Detroit Wheels in the 1960s. Born William Levise Jnr on February 26, 1945 in Hamtramck, Michigan, USA he grew up in Detroit, home of Tamla Motown. He heard many soul artists performing at local venues who inspired him to sing.
After performing at high school he began performing at Detroit night clubs. billed as ‘Billy LaVere’ or ‘Billy Lee’ and singing in a Little Richard style.
Aged 17 he recorded his first single ‘That’s The Way It’s Going To Be’/‘Fool For Your’ in 1962. He fronted a black vocal group called The Peps then in 1963 teamed up with a white group, Billy Lee And the Rivieras.
Four Seasons producer Bob Crewe became their manager and producer and in February 1965 the group relocated to New York City, renamed Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Their break through hit ‘Jenny Take Ride!’ was a medley of Little Richard’s ‘Jenny Jenny’ and Chuck Willis’s ‘C.C.Rider’ that shot to Number 10 in the U.S. in January 1966.
Bob Crewe produced their next few hits notably ‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’ a Number 17 in March 1966. Another medley ‘Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly’ was their biggest hit. But Ryder parted company with The Wheels in 1967 to launch a solo career.
In 1971 he formed heavy rockers Detroit, but after this broke up Ryder quit touring. In 1978 he formed a new band and recorded ‘How I Spent My Vacation’ (1978). Next came ‘Naked But Not Dead’ (1980) and ‘Never Kick a Sleeping Dog’ (1983). Mitch carried on touring, especially in Germany and by 2008 was working on his autobiography ‘Devils In Blue Dresses: The Wild Ride Of A Rock’n’Roll Legend’.