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Published: Saturday, 5/6/2006

Kid Rock has done it all, but he's still a Michigan boy at heart

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
On Wednesday, Kid Rock will play Toledo at the Sports Arena for the first time since March, 2004, bringing his Twisted Brown Trucker Band for a set that is chock full of greatest hits that are featured on the band's current live disc.
On Wednesday, Kid Rock will play Toledo at the Sports Arena for the first time since March, 2004, bringing his Twisted Brown Trucker Band for a set that is chock full of greatest hits that are featured on the band's current live disc.
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Oh, to be Kid Rock.

He dated Pamela Anderson.

He hangs out with guys like Hank Williams, Jr., and Hulk Hogan and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

He went to Elton John's wedding.

He toured with rappers Ice Cube and Too Short.

He's written songs with Sheryl Crow and sung ballads with Gretchen Wilson.

He gave platinum recording artist Uncle Kracker his start.

He was going to rock an inauguration bash with the Bush sisters before Christian lobbyists had him booted from the bill because he's got a nasty reputation and he cusses a lot.

He owns a 45-acre compound in Michigan that's decked out with just about everything a 35-year-old multimillionaire would ever need: the General Lee car from Dukes of Hazzard, lots of guns and guitars, and toys galore.

He's a cocky cowboy, a devil without a cause, and an "early-mornin' stoned pimp."

He's Kid Rock and sometimes it seems like he's everywhere, whether it's on an episode of CSI or punching out paparazzi in Hollywood.

On Wednesday he'll play Toledo at the Sports Arena for the first time since March, 2004, bringing his Twisted Brown Trucker Band for a set that is chock full of greatest hits that are featured on the band's current live disc.

There will be dancing girls, pyrotechnics, raps, rock, country and soul. In the center of it all will be Robert James Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, a Detroit-area native determined to milk every bit of fun possible out of his unlikely celebrity.

Rock, who was not available for an interview, has sold more than 20 million records, something he cites with obvious relish on "Cocky," the title track to his 2001 release. He brings a solid midwestern work ethic to his career, always taking advantage of publicity, meeting as many famous people as he can and fashioning a hard-partying everyman image that easily survives such incidents as the now- infamous porn video that features him and Creed's Scott Stapp along with a bevy of women.

Despite his fame, money, and access to the stars, there's always something grounded about Rock that makes him seem just a couple lucky breaks removed from one of his fans. Or maybe it's just that he shows up on the red carpet wearing sleeveless T-shirts, slurping domestic beer and puffing on a stogy.

A couple of years ago he told Rolling Stone magazine what drives him.

"I'm terrified of being famous and broke," he said. "I worked so hard to get here, got kicked down so many times and stood back up, and always believed in myself. And I got to see a lot along the way, and I saw what not to do. I was raised halfway decent; I give some credit to my parents. People say, 'You still live where you're from.' I'm sure that has something to do with it, but I feel like I could live smack-dab underneath the Hollywood sign and still be who I am."

Rock is from Romeo, Mich., and he started in the '80s, DJ-ing around Detroit, making home-grown recordings and working in obscurity throughout the 1990s. He toured with Ice Cube and Too Short, but the Jive label dumped him when his music didn't find a wider audience.

Like a surfer finding the perfect wave, in 1998 he unexpectedly hit it big with "Devil Without a Cause" and caught hold of the ground swell mix of rap and rock played by bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn that was taking off.

The singles "Bawitdaba" and "Cowboy" were major hits and Rock formed the limber, classic rock-oriented Twisted Brown Trucker Band, which allowed him to cross over to more mainstream rock radio and its large fan base.

His prowess as a live performer, which features him as a DJ, guitarist, rapper, and country-soul crooner, earned him a spot on the Woodstock '99 bill.

"Cocky" followed in 2001, featuring the duet with Sheryl Crow on "Picture" that was a crossover hit and helped him gain a foothold on the country markets. The self-titled "Kid Rock" followed in 2003, and Rock had effectively transformed himself from rap/rocker to pretty much a straight-ahead rock act.

His current tour is pushing the live album "Live Trucker," which has a cover that bears a conscious resemblance to Bob Seger's "Live Bullet" album from 1976. All of the performances are culled from shows Rock performed in Detroit between 2000 and 2004.

Rock told Newsweek magazine recently that he's been talking to producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down, Dixie Chicks) about recording an album this summer that would lead him even further from rap.

"We both came from the same place - hip-hop fused with rock and roll," Rock said of Rubin, who is one of the most in-demand producers of his era. "We've always been friends, but we've never worked together. Now I want to make a really good, timeless rock and roll record."

Tickets for Wednesday's concert at the Sports Arena are $35 and can be purchased at the Sports Arena box office or at www.ticketmaster.com. The show is at 7:30 p.m.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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