Mitch Ryder — “I Believe (There Must Be Someone)”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — May 8, 2023


818) Mitch Ryder — “I Believe (There Must Be Someone)

Truly great blue eyed soul from the Motor City’s Mitch Ryder. Ryder has been inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame ( and not the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, started out singing “with a local Black quartet dubbed the Peps as a teen, but suffered so much racial harassment that he soon left the group”. (Jason Ankeny, By the way, the harassment was from white audiences. Ryder recalls that:

The only difficulty we had was with the white audiences. The black audiences seemed to embrace it. I don’t know how it worked, but I remember really distinctly, a really nice lady coming up to me and saying, “Oh, you sing so pretty … and you’re so light.” I’m going, “Ooh, light? Lady, you don’t know the half of it.”

The song is from Ryder’s ’69 album The Detroit-Memphis Experiment. Joe Viglione writes that:

Mitch Ryder’s voice is in great shape as Steve Cropper takes over the production reigns from industry legend Bob Crewe. . . . [T]he music is truly the voice from Detroit meeting the sound of Memphis. . . . There is a maturity to Mitch Ryder’s voice here — his performance on this disc perhaps a cross between the early hits and the ballads Crewe had him singing later on. It is very, well, refined for this rock/blues combo. . . . Booker T & the MGs featuring Mitch Ryder, which is what this record is, simply delivers a no-nonsense one-two punch of good music. . . . It is great music, but there was no business person to deliver a hit single from this excellent collection. Maybe if someone with Bob Crewe’s drive had supervised the work . . . there would be a greater appreciation for this landmark recording. . . . [T]hat’s what this is, the great undiscovered Mitch Ryder party album.

Ryder recalls:

[T]he choice they gave me was [Booker T & the MGs in Memphis] or Jeff Barry in L.A. I said, “Hmm, I’ll go South.” Which, in more ways than one, I guess I did. The whole country then was going psychedelic and here I am, with still some name power, and I decide to do an R&B album. [Laughs].

As to Ryder, Jason Ankeny writes that:

The unsung heart and soul of the Motor City rock & roll scene, Mitch Ryder was simply one of the most powerful vocalists to rise to fame in the ’60s, a full-bodied rock belter who was also one of the most credible blue-eyed soul men of his generation. He first made a nationwide impression fronting Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, whose fiery R&B attack boasted a gritty passion and incendiary energy matched by few artists on either side of the color line. After exploding onto the charts in 1966 and 1967 with singles like “Jenny Take a Ride” and “Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly,” Ryder went solo on the advice of producer Bob Crewe, though albums like 1967’s What Now My Love and 1969’s The Detroit-Memphis Experiment [disagree!] lacked the fire of the Detroit Wheels hits and didn’t fare as well on the charts. . . . Born William Levise, . . [he] form[ed] his own combo, Billy Lee & the Rivieras. While opening for the Dave Clark Five during a 1965 date,  the Rivieras came to the attention of producer Bob Crewe, who immediately signed the group and, according to legend, rechristened the singer Mitch Ryder after randomly selecting the name from a phone book. Backed by the peerless Detroit Wheels — Ryder reached the Top Ten in early 1966 with “Jenny Take a Ride”; the single, a frenzied combination of Little Richard’s “Jenny Jenny” and Chuck Willis’ “C.C. Rider,” remains one of the quintessential moments in blue-eyed soul, its breathless intensity setting the tone for the remainder of the band’s output. [They] . . . scor[ed] their biggest hit that autumn with the Top Five smash “Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly.” “Sock It to Me Baby!” followed in early 1967, but at Crewe’s insistence, Ryder soon split from the rest of the band to mount a solo career. The move proved disastrous — outside of the Top 30 entry “What Now My Love,” the hits quickly and permanently dried up. . . . [Ryder] return[ed] home [with] a new seven-piece hard rock band known simply as Detroit. The group’s lone LP, a self-titled effort issued in 1971, remains a minor classic, yielding a major FM radio hit with its cover of Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll” that was praised by Reed himself.

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