The Rockets

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1972-76)

- John "The Bee" Badanjek -- vocals, drums, percussion

- John Fraga -- bass

- Marc Marcano -- keyboards
- Jim McCarty -- lead guitar


  line up 2 (1976-79)

- John "The Bee" Badanjek -- drums, percussion

- John Fraga -- bass

NEW - David Gilbert (RIP 2001) -- lead vocals

- Marc Marcano -- keyboards
- Jim McCarty -- lead guitar

NEW - Dennis Robbins -- rhythm guitar

  line up 3 (1979-80)

NEW - Donnis Backus -- keyboards (replaced  Marc Marcano)

- John "The Bee" Badanjek -- drums, percussion

- John Fraga -- bass

- David Gilbert (RIP 2001) -- lead vocals

NEW - David Hood -- bass
- Jim McCarty -- lead guitar

- Dennis Robbins -- rhythm guitar


  line up 4  (1980-81)

- Donnis Backus -- keyboards

- John "The Bee" Badanjek -- drums, percussion

- David Gilbert (RIP 2001) -- lead vocals

NEW - Dan Keylon -- bass (replaced John Fraga)
- Jim McCarty -- lead guitar

- Dennis Robbins -- rhythm guitar


  line up 5 (1981-82)

- Donnis Backus -- keyboards

- John "The Bee" Badanjek -- drums, percussion

- David Gilbert (RIP 2001) -- lead vocals

NEW - Bob Neil Haralson (RIP) -- bass (replaced Dan Keylon)

- Jim McCarty -- lead guitar

- Dennis Robbins -- rhythm guitar


  line up 6 (1982-83)

- Donnis Backus -- keyboards

- John "The Bee" Badanjek -- drums, percussion

- David Gilbert (RIP 2001) -- lead vocals

- Bob Neil Haralson (RIP)  -- bass 

- Jim McCarty -- lead guitar





- Amboy Dukes (David Gilbert)

Cactus (Jim McCarty)

- Detriot

- Detriot Blues Band (Jim McCarty)

- The Happy Dragon Band (Johnny Badanjek and John Fraga)

- Billy Lee and the Riveras (Jimmy McCarty and  Johnny Badanjek)

- Midwest Tree Company (David Gilbter)

- Buddy Miles Express (Jim McCarty)

- Phantom's Divine Comedy (Johnny Badanjek)

- Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels

- Mystery Train (Jim McCarty)

- Shoot (Jim McCarty)

- Siegel-Schwall Blues Band (Jim McCarty)

- Wazoo (John Fraga)





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Rockets

Company: Guinness

Catalog: GNS 36043

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed


Catalog ID: 5687

Price: $50.00


I guess it shouldn't come as a major surprise, but I've never seen a Rockets discography that includes this 1977 release.  Similarly I've never seen the album discussed by any of the band members in an interview.  The fact that the cleverly titled "Rockets" was issued by the tax scam Guinness label and may have been of questionable legality probably had something to do with those omissions ...  who knows.


The Rockets started out as a post Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels/Detroit enterprise led by singer/drummer  John "The Bee" Badanjek.  The line up was rounded out by bassist John Fraga, keyboardist Marc Marcano, and former Detroit wheel lead guitarist Jim McCarty.  Their earlier successes with the Detroit Wheels were of little help when it came to scoring a recording contract and the the quartet spent several years plugging away on Michigan's club circuit.  


In 1976 the band underwent a personnel shake up that saw former Amboy Duke vocalist Steve Gilbert added to the line up (Ted Nugent had kicked him out of the band for his drinking and drugging).



Released in 1977, "Rockets" seems to have been an effort to capitalize on the strong reviews surrounding the release of the band's 1977 RCA Victor debut "Love Transfusion".  Unfortunately, as typical for a Guinness release, the liner notes provided little information on the set.  The vocals were split between Badanjek and Gilbert indicating at least some of the track were recorded post-1975 when Gilbert was added to the line up.  This is nothing but speculation on my part, but I'm guessing the material was culled from tracks the band had previously recorded when they signed with Don Davis' Tortoise label.  That, or it may have reflected outtakes from sessions for their debut album.  Another story that I've heard is that the material reflected tapes the band had financed themselves, but abandoned in a dispute with the studio owner.  The studio subsequently unloaded the master tapes on Guinness at a heavy discount.  Regardless, produced by William S. Evans, the six tracks all featured surprisingly good sound quality.  So what do the songs actually sound like?


"Rockets" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Lufrania   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 4:31

In spite of the odd title (which seems to be a girl's name), powered by Gilbert's amazing bluesy voice 'Lufrania' was a first rate rocker that had considerable commercial potential.

2.) Juke Box Daddy (instrumental)   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 7:53

The extended instrumental 'Juke Box' was a plodding blues number that was almost salvaged by McCarty's nice slide guitar work.       

3.) Rocket Car Wash Blues   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 7:40

Another bar band blues number, 'Rocket Car Wash Blues' featured Badanjek on lead vocals.  Not bad, but easy to see why the band decided to bring in Gilbert as lead singer.  Keyboardist Marcano and guitarist McCarty shared the spotlight on this one.


(side 2)
1.) Feel Alright   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 7:10

With Gilbert handling vocals, 'Feel Alright' was another feel-good party anthem that had considerable commercial potential.  In fact this one was as good, if not better than anything on the RC debut.  Great McCarty solo too boot !  With a little judicious editing (the track clocked in at over seven minutes), it could've been a hit.

2.) Rock 'n' Roll   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 5:34

The less-than-original title wouldn't give you much hope, which made the rocking boogie 'Rock 'n' Roll' an even bigger surprise.  True, there wasn't a single original note or though on this one, but kicked along by keyboardist Marcano and guitarist McCarty, this one actually managed to generate quite a bit of energy by the time it concluded.  Very nice and perhaps my favorite track.

3.) Working Man Blues   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 2:48

An atypical acoustic blues number, 'Working Band Blues' was a major surprise.  Gilbert was a major surprise on this one, turning in a surprisingly restrained and impressive performance.  McCarty turned in an amazing slide performance.  Fantastic track that should even appeal to folks who don't like acoustic blues.

4.) Thing in 'D'   (Jim McCarthy - John Badanjek) - 3:35

In this instance the the throwaway title was a pretty good indicator of what to expect ...  throwaway boogie rocker.  It probably sounded a lot better in a club setting after you'd had a couple of beers.  Maybe not ...



For a throwaway collection this one was surprisingly enjoyable.  Certainly better than some of their latter studio sets with big name producers like Jack Douglas.  Love to know more about it ...


Sadly, having lived the true rock and roll lifestyle which included overdoses of drugs, wine, and women, lead singer Gilbert died of cirrhosis and liver cancer in September 2001.  He was only 49.


True to the rock and roll lifestyle, late-inning bassist Bob Neil Haralson died in a drug deal turned sour.