Mitch Ryder: Moving on

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels will be at the Valentine Theatre Saturday night.
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels will be at the Valentine Theatre Saturday night.

Mitch Ryder doesn t complain.

He describes reality.

Known for 60s R&B rave-ups like Jenny Take a Ride, C.C. Rider, and Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly, Ryder knows he s stuck on what he calls the oldies circuit in the United States and forever identified with those songs.

Bedeviled by an American audience that seems to freeze its favorite artists in commercial amber, stuck permanently focusing on whatever hits they churned out, Ryder has a passionate European following that is eager for the original work he s been making consistently for the past three decades.

Essentially the Detroit rocker has two careers the one that will bring him to the Valentine Theatre Saturday night for familiar hits, covers, and a smattering of originals and the one that sells out venues in Germany playing his own music.

And that might change soon. He s recorded an album of all new originals with producer Don Was (a Detroit-area native who has produced Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones) that he hopes to release this year.

It will be my first American deal in 25 years, Ryder said in a phone interview from his South Lyon, Mich., home. So we ll find out what I can and cannot do with a musical career other than oldies here in America.

Ryder said the American value system is different from Europe s. Here, musicians are defined by their hits and they re lucky to transcend whatever high point their career reaches. Over there, the audiences are more open-minded, he said.

If they like you as an artist, they re interested in every facet of your career, because to them, as an artist you are defined by every facet of your career, where you started, how you dealt with down times, he said.

An irascible fellow who sprinkles his conversation with the occasional obscenity, Ryder came of age playing blistering blue-eyed rhythm and blues on a Detroit scene that was intensely competitive. There was Motown, Ted Nugent, the Stooges, Bob Seger, and any number of bands that defined themselves on hot stage shows and take-no-prisoners showmanship.

Ryder, working with the Detroit Wheels, recorded a batch of songs that stand the test of time thanks to their passion and energy. Artists like Bruce Springsteen who has long closed his concerts with a medley of Ryder s songs John Mellencamp, and Southside Johnny have cited him as a significant influence.

He splits his time between the United States and Europe, where he s a legitimate star. Since the 1960s Ryder has recorded nearly 20 albums and he tours regularly, but most of his work remains unreleased in the U.S., with the focus on that brief period from 1966 to 1968.

I don t have a deep catalog over here because we ve been pigeon-holed into a two year period where the hits were coming, he said. They represent two and a half years out of 47 years.

Ryder recently completed his autobiography, Devils in Blue Dresses: The Wild Ride of a Rock and Roll Legend, Mitch Ryder, which took seven years to write and is due to be released in August. He s also been working on a theatrical production, but he won t reveal what it s about other than to say he s working hard on it.

It s a great period in my time of life. I just began my first musical, I m going to attempt to do this, and it s real inspiring and motivating, he said. I spent the entire night last night either taking the dogs out to the bathroom or working on this musical.

He was asked who he considers his contemporaries, and after calling the question a good one he clearly seemed uncomfortable as he wrestled it around and finally began talking about his legacy, which he said won t be determined for a long time, noting that the songs he s working on now might just be considered his best.

How can you make a value judgment on it when you haven t completed the journey? he said.

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels play at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Valentine, 410 Adams St., in downtown Toledo. Tickets are $33, $39, and $42 and can be purchased at the Valentine box office or by calling 419-242-2787.

Contact Rod Lockwood at or 419-724-6159.