Mitch Ryder

Band members                              Related acts

- Mitch Ryder (aka William S. Levise, Jr) -- vocals, keyboards


  supporting musicians: 1981

- Billy Csernits -- keyboards

- Wayne Gabriel -- guitar

- Mark Gougeon -- bass

- Joe Gutc -- rhythm guitar

- Chuck Overton -- horns

- Wilson Owens -- drums, percussion

- Richard Schein -- guitar


  supporting musicians: 1983

- Kenny Arnoff -- drums, percussion

- Larry Crane -- guitar, backing vocals

- Mark Gougeon -- bass, backing vocals

- Pat Peterson -- backing vocals

- Harry Phillips -- organ

- Mike Wanchich -- guitar, violin, backing vocals




- Detroit

- Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Detroit-Memphis Experiment

Company: Dot

Catalog: DLP-25693

Year: 1969

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4139

Price: $25.00



A long-standing personal favorite, for some odd reason Mitch Ryder seems to have been largely forgotten by all but the most dedicated fans.  Geez, he was even overlooked in a recent Mojo issue that focused on Detroit.  That's unfortunate since the man is a true star and stands as one of Detroit's unsung musical heroes - forget the MC5, Bob Seger, etc.  Ryder did it earlier and better than all of 'em!


Frustrated with his long-standing business association with Bob Crewe (check out Ryder's rather blistering liner notes), this largely forgotten 1969 set found Ryder abandoning his usual recording environment in favor of a collaboration with Stax guitarist/songwriter/producer Steve Cropper.  Produced by Cropper and backed by the cream of Stax's sessions players, "The Detroit-Memphis Experiment" is nothing short that wonderful.  Ryder's seldom sounded as assured; simultaneously comfortable and even upbeat in the studio!  Perhaps the biggest surprise here is how well Ryder's Detroit rock roots mesh with the Memphis soul sound.  With Ryder and Cropper collaborating on a series of songs, material such as the leadoff rocker "Liberty", "Push Around'" and "Long Long Time" stands as some of the most commercial and catchy music in Ryder's long and stellar career.  Elsewhere Ryder's Caribbean flavored cover of Procol Harum's "Boredom" stands as one of the LP's most interesting (and oddest) offerings.  Personal favorites - the soulful, horn propelled "Eenie Meenie Minie Moe" (Tony Joe White should have had such good material) and "".  While the album attracted positive critical reviews it did nothing commercially.  Sad, since it's an LP we return to on a regular basis.


"The Detroit-Memphis Experiment" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Liberty   (Steve Cropper - Mitch Ryder - Wells) - 3:32

2.) Eenie Meenie Minie Moe   (We Three) - 2:54

3.) Boredom   (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher - Keith Reid) - 3:32

4.) Push Aroun'   (Steve Cropper - Mitch Ryder) - 3:52

5.) Sugar Bee   (We Three) - 2:39

6.) I Got Hot   (Ellis) - 3:02


(side 2)

1.) I Believe  (Steve Cropper - Mitch Ryder) - 3:10

2.) Direct Me   (Steve Cropper - Otis Redding) - 2:41

3.) Long Long Time  (Steve Cropper - Mitch Ryder) - 3:36

4.) Raise Your Hand   (Steve Cropper - Eddie Floyd - Isbell) - 3:56

5.) Wear and Tear On My Heart   (we Three) - 2:45

6.) Meat   (We Three) - 3:00 



Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Look Ma, No Wheels

Company: RFC / Quality

Catalog: QRFC-2097

Year: 1981

Country/State: --

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut out hole top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1179

Price: $20.00

Cost: $66.00


Mitch Ryder's recording catalog is convoluted; particularly his late-1970s through early-1980s releases which found him skipping from label to label.  Adding to the confusion, Ryder frequently found himself without an American distributor.  1981's obscure "Look Ma, No Wheels" (the title's always made me smile) was a perfect example of the situation.  Released by the Canadian RFC imprint, co-produced by Ryder and Tom Conner, the ten track album was actually a compilation, featuring most of the material from his 1981 German studio album "Got Change For a Million ?".  For anyone interested, missing from the German album were 'Bang Bang', and the reggae-flavored 'Ich Bin aus Amerika'.  Rounding out the album, the smooth ballad 'Freezin' In Hell' was off Ryder's "What I Did for My Vacation" LP.  Having been disappointed by a couple of his earlier releases, I've got to tell you this one was pretty amazing!  For a guy who'd gone through some truly tough times, Ryder's seldom sounded as good and enthusiastic.  His "no name" supporting band (particularly drummer Mark Gougeon) deserved considerable credit for keeping things taunt and focused.  Featuring all original material, songs such as 'Ain't Nobody White', 'We're Gonna Win' and the bluesy 'Red Scar Eyes' were tough, yet surprisingly melodic and commercial.  Had there been any commercial justice in the music business, this is the album that would have returned Ryder to the public eye.  Unfortunately it didn't happen.  


"Look Ma, No Wheels" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Red Scar Eyes  (Mitch Ryder) - 3:56

Wow, talk about starting an album out on a dour note ...      Not sure what foreign television show this was filmed for, but YouTube has a clip of Ryder and company lip-synching the tune.   Ryder certainly seemed to enjoy the beer prop.   rating: *** stars

2.) Back At Work  (Mitch Ryder) - 4:01

Wooooooo    Ryder at his horn propelled  funkiest best !!!   rating: **** stars

3.) Ain't Nobody White   (Kim Levise - Mitch Ryder) - 5:02

Anyone who doubted Ryder still had his killer voice only needed to check out the raw, bluesy 'Ain't Nobody White'.    What a growl of a voice !!!   YouTube has an extended, slightly stoned performance of the song from the German RockPalast series:   rating: **** stars

4.) Bare Your Soul  (Mitch Ryder) - 2:48

One of the album's most commercial tunes, 'Bare Your Soul' sounded like a top-notch Delbert McClinton country-tinged blues-rocker.    One of the album highlights.  rating: **** stars

5.) We're Gonna Win  (Mitch Ryder) - 2:55

And if you didn't think Ryder could carry a truly tuneful song, then check out the wonderfully melodic 'We're Gonna Win'.  This one had a hook that was simply addictive.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Tough Kid  (Mitch Ryder) - 3:10

Well the title certainly captured this mildly punk-ish flavored rocker.  Say what you will, Ryder had the perfect voice for this kind of take-you-down slice of anger and frustration.  One of the album highlights and a wonderful driving tune.   Another track recorded during Ryder's 1979 Rockpalast concert:   rating: **** stars

2.) My Heart Belongs To Me  (Mitch Ryder) - 3:23

Another track where Ryder's blues-rock edge bore more than a passing resemblance to Delbert McClinton.  Since I'm a big McClinton fn, I thought this one was terrific.   rating: *** stars

3.) That's Charm  (Mitch Ryder) - 5:30

Buoyed by some tasty lead guitar, 'That's Charm'  was simultaneously breezy, funny, charming, and slightly ominous.   The best rocker on the album !!!   rating: **** stars

4.) Betty's Too Tight  (Mitch Ryder) - 4:18

Most band's would kill to be able to toss of something this good ...  Another hook you can't shake out of your head.    rating: *** stars

5.) Freezin' In Hell   (Kim Levise - Mitch Ryder) - 5:24

'Freezin' In Hell' has always been my favorite track with Ryder avoiding his usual larynx shredding range for an unexpectedly smooth, almost jazzy crooner attack ...  well at least until he cut lose and threatened to melt you record player stylus.  Possibly even better than the studio version, this clip came from a 2004 performance on Rockpalast.  Ryder was a bit older, reflecting a touch of Robin Trower reflection in the delivery, but quite impressive:  rating: **** stars


A seriously overlooked classic album that should appeal to anyone into McClinton, Mellencamp, or any of those early-'80s Americana acts.  One of the few album's I've uploaded in its entirety to my iPhone.



Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Live Talkies

Company: Line

Catalog: LDLP 8001 DX

Year: 1981

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP with bonus 12" 45; gatefold sleeve; German pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1247

Price:  $30.00



I'm not ashamed to admit I'm proud to be an American, but for the life of me I can't understand American popular tastes.   The fact an all-American treasure like Mitch Ryder was reduced to signing with European labels is enough to make me cry.  The fact this classic album only saw a release by the grace of a German record label underscores something is dramatically wrong with this country.   Mitch Ryder can't get arrested in the States, but Lady Gaga is a mega star ?   Maybe America's golden era is truly over ...


Released by the German Line label (kudos to them), 1981's "Live Talkies" was a double LP set (originally released with a bonus 12" 45).  In spite of the title, the album wasn't a true concert set, rather captured the band apparently practicing for upcoming tour dates in support of the earlier "Look Ma, No Wheels" studio set.  A mixture of R&B covers and Ryder originals, the album also included three tunes off the previous album -  'Tough Kid', 'Red Scar Eyes' and 'Ain't Nobody White'.   Sure, any Ryder  fan was going to have ideas with respect to the track listing (as an example, why no Detroit Wheels hits ?), but in capturing Ryder and company in a rehearsal setting the results were simultaneously loose, but energetic.  Worth hearing just to get a feel for his post-Wheels catalog.  About all I can say is this must have been one hell of a tour.  Too bad I missed it.


"Live Talkies" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) It's All Over Now  (Bobby Womack) - 6:45

While this version won't make you forget the Bobby Womack original, Ryder and company do this soul classic justice by slowing it down and adding a slightly ominous edge to the tune.   One of those songs that gets even better when cranked up through a good pair of speakers - Mark Gougeon's' burping bass simply plows through anything in its way.   rating: **** stars

2.) Corporate Song (It's Not for Me)   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:43

While I liked this slinky rock tune, but the lyrics for 'Corporate Song' reminded me of a bad B-52s tune.   Not sure who was handling the counter-vocals, but they sure sourced like Fred Schneider.   rating: *** stars

3.) Bang Bang  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 3:55

Razor sharp band with Ryder running on all cylinders.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)

1.) Subterranean Homesick Blues   (Bob Dylan) - 5:13

I wonder how many covers there are of this tune ...  Both Dylan and Ryder should be proud of this garage-rock tooled up version.    Ryder at his snarling best with a nice fuzz solo from  rating: *** stars

2.) Wicked Messenger  (Bob Dylan) - 3:51

Apparently inspired by Proverbs 13.17 (Dylan was heavily into Bible study at the time), if you've ever heard the original (off of 1967's "John Wesley Harding"), you'd be hard pressed to recognize Ryder's cover.  The original's acoustic folk sound was jettisoned in favor of a blazing, ferocious rock arrangement ...  One of the album highlights.

3.) Er Is Nicht Mein President   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 6:01

Set to a reggae rhythm, Ryder's German wasn't great, but his opinion of Ronald Regan was abundantly clear - the title translated as "he is not my president" .   rating: *** stars


(side 3)

1.) Take Me To the River   (Al Green) - 5:18

You wouldn't have thought slowing this one down to a crawl would have been a smart thing to do, but Ryder managed to inject a weird, ominous edge to the song.   Don't think you'd want your daughter (or son) going down to the river with this crowd.   rating: **** stars

2.) Tough Kid   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:51

One of the tunes off the "Look Ma, No Wheels" album, the studio version of 'Tough Kids' was a mildly punk-ish flavored rocker.  The live version crushes the studio version.  Say what you will, Ryder had the perfect voice for this kind of take-you-down slice of anger and frustration.  One of the album highlights and a wonderful driving tune.   The band performed the tune during a 1979 performance on the German Rockpalast television show:   rating: **** stars

3.) Red Scar Eyes   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:58

Another track off of "Look Ma, No Wheels", the studio version was pretty ominous, but the live version is truly frightening.  Not sure what foreign television show this was filmed for, but YouTube has a clip of Ryder and company lip-synching the tune.   Ryder certainly seemed to enjoy the beer prop.   rating: **** stars


(side 4) 

1.) Liberty  (Wells - Steve Cropper - William S. Levise) - 5:21

Originally recorded for 1969's "The Detroit-Memphis Experiment", Liberty was an interesting look back, but hardly the "oldies" track I would have picked.  Nice enough job, but why pick a track that virtually nobody in the audience would have heard ?   rating: *** stars

2.) Ain't Nobody White   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 5:22

The third "Look Ma, No Wheels" composition, anyone who doubted Ryder still had his killer voice only needed to check out the raw, bluesy 'Ain't Nobody White'.    What a growl of a voice and the live version was even tougher than the studio take  !!!   YouTube has an extended, slightly stoned performance of the song from the German RockPalast series:   rating: **** stars

3.) Nice and Easy   (Mitch Ryder - Gabriel) - 5:44

'Nice and Easy' had previously been released as a German 45:




- 1978's 'Nice and Easy' b/w 'Passions Wheel' (Line catalog number 6.12 465)

 Not a particularly melodic or entertaining rocker.   rating: *** stars


(side 5)

1.) Long Tall Sally/I'm Gonna Be a Wheels Someday  (Johnson - Penniman - Blackwell / Bartholomew - Fats Domino - Hayes) - 3:03 

Bland oldies medley.  rating: ** stars


(side 6)

1.) True Love   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 5:36

The tune originally appeared on Ryder's 198's "Naked But Not Dead" LP.  The live version featured a ponderous reggae arrangement that never really kicked into gear.  Curiously the original was credited to Ryder and Peter Chatman.   This version dropped Chatman.   rating: ** stars  



Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Never Kick a Sleeping Dog

Company: Riva

Catalog: RVL 7503

Year: 1983

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor cover wear; includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 113

Price:  $15.00


I'm not sure what inspired it, but the early 1980s saw a slew of big stars reach back and lend 'helping hands' to '50s and '60s stars they'd long admired.  Bruce Springsteen focused his attention of resurrecting Gary U.S. Bonds career, Tom Petty lent a helping hand to Del Shannon. Stevie Winwood reached out to Marianne Faithful.  And in the case of Mitch Ryder, John Cougar Mellencamp stepped in.  Produced by Mellencamp (his recording an touring band also provided support throughout the album), 1983's "Never Kick a Sleeping Dog" was simply one of the best 'comeback' albums of the era.  It certain didn't hurt that Ryder's instantly recognizable voice retained all of it's edge and power.   He simply shredded tracks like 'When You were Mine' and 'The Thrill of It All'.   The collaboration also benefited from the fact Mellencamp's own sound matched up well with Ryder's rugged working collar roots.  Had this been recorded a couple of years later, it's doubtful the two would have found so much common ground.  So I pretty much enjoyed every one of these nine tracks (even the new wave-ish 'Code Dancing'). In fact my only complaint/caution on this one stemmed from the fact on a couple of tracks like 'B.I.G.T.I.M.E' and 'Come Again'  Mellencamp appeared to try a little too hard to wrap Ryder in his trademarked sound.

"Never Kick a Sleeping Dog" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) B.I.G.T.I.M.E.   (Keith Syke) - 3:00

Baring more than a passing resemblance to Mellencamp's mid-1980 blue-collar recording catalog, 'B.I.G.T.I.M.E.' was a first-rate rocker.  Ryder sounded fantastic on this one, but the song's secret weapon was actually drummer Kenny Arnoff who sounded like he was literally on fire.  YouTube has a Ryder-Mellencamp performance of the song at the American Music Awards:   rating: **** stars

2.) When You Were Mine   (Prince) - 3:50

Hard to believe that Prince wrote 'When You Were Mine', but this roughed-up arrangement of the song made for a near perfect song.  Highly commercial, but retaining a gritty edge, it was the kind of song that was perfect for Ryder and it served to return him to the pop charts for the first time in 15 years (# 87).  To this day I can't hear the song without starting to bop along.   YouTube has a clip of the accompanying MTV video:  rating: ***** stars

3.) A Thrill's a Thrill   (Bill Amesbury) - 3:55

A dark and slightly ominous duet with Marianne Faithful (herself still enjoying a career resurgence thanks to Stevie Winwood),, 'A Thrill's a Thrill' was a wonderful showcase these two rock and roll survivors.  True, Ryder sounded like a choirgirl compared to Faithful's wreck of a voice, but the result was still one of the best performances on the album.   rating: **** stars

4.) Come Again   (John Cougar Mellencamp - Mitch Ryder) - 3:14

Co-written by Ryder and Mellencamp, 'Come Again' sounded very much like a Mellencamp outtake.  A commercial rocker, the song certainly wasn't bad, but Ryder's own identity was somewhat lost on this one.   rating: ** stars

5.) Cry To Me   (Burt Russell) - 4:21

The mid-tempo rocker 'Cry To Me' managed to merge a '60s flavor with Mellencamp's then-state of the art production.   With kudos to keyboardist Harry Phillips, the result was one of Ryder's best performances.  He literally oozed blued-eyed soul on this one.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) The Thrill of It All   (Mitch Ryder - M Williams) - 3:36

Yeah, the opening guitar figure had '80s stamped all over, but I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff and when the killer title track chorus kicked in all was forgiven.  Perhaps even strong than 'When You were Mine', 'The Thrill of It All' is the song that should have re-ignited Ryder's career.  Every time I hear this one I feel the need to visit a dive bar and have a cold beer.   rating: **** stars

2.) Stand   (Mitch Ryder - K. Levise) - 3:33

Yes, it was insidiously catch, but like 'Come Again', 'Stand' suffered from a bit too much Mellencamp and not enough Ryder.  Okay, okay I'll admit the song's rattling around in my head.  rating: **** stars

3.) Rue de Trahir   (John Cougar Mellencamp) -  3:30

Even though Mellencamp wrote it, Ryder managed to take creative possession of the blistering 'Rue de Trahir'.  Once again, Arnoff's drumming nearly stole the show.   rating: **** stars

4.) Code Dancing   (Mitch Ryder - K. Levise) - 4:50

I'll have to admit I originally though 'Code Dancing' was too new wave-ish for Ryder, but it's become one of my favorite songs non the LP.  It is too new wave-ish, but Ryder makes it his song.  rating: *** stars 


As mentioned, the Prince cover was tapped as a single, appearing in both 45 rpm and 12" formats:

- 1983's 'When You Were Mine' b/w 'Stand' (Riva catalog number R 213)

- 1983's 'When You Were Mine' b/w 'When You Were Mine' (Riva catalog number MK 244)


A fantastic album that's been sadly overlooked.





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Got Change for a Million?

Company: Line

Catalog: 6.24578 AP 

Year: 1981

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed, original German pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3174

Price:  $50.00


Americans audiences should lower their collective heads in shame when the recognize Mitch Ryder was forced to spend the early '80s struggling to keep his career alive in what was then West Germany and the rest of Europe.  The good news is the time spent as an expatriate saw the release of album's like 1981's "Got Change for a Million?".  (The title was reportedly inspired by an episode where the band tried to pay a bar tab with an old 1,000,000 Reichsmark bill (which was worth nothing).


Co-produced by Ryder and Tom Conner, "Got Change for a Million?" was largely recorded in Germany's Delta Studios (two songs done in Detroit).  The set was apparently recorded live with little  post-production clean-up.  If true, that makes these nine performances even more impressive.  Side one of the album was a rarity in that all four tracks were superb, showcasing Ryder's instantly recognizable growl on a no-frills collection of blues-tinged rockers.  Hard to pick a highlight since all four tracks were strong - perhaps the remake of the Ryder's own ominous 'Red Scar Eyes', or maybe the Delbert McClinton-styled 'My Heart Belongs To Me'.  Side two was almost as good; a quality clean sweep being spoiled by the throwaway, reggae flavored  anti-Ronald Reagan diatribe 'Ich bin aus America'. The theme didn't bother me, but the lame reggae melody did.   Interestingly, my two favorite performances were the two songs recorded in Detroit's Sound Studio ('Bare Your Soul' and 'We're Gonna Win').  


For whatever reason, the album didn't see a US release until 2000 when the small J-Bird released it in CD format (J-Bird catalog number 6 1748 80330-2).   

"Got Change for a Million?" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) My Heart Belongs To Me  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 2:58    rating: **** stars

Hum, the rollicking 'My Heart Belongs To Me' found Ryder turning in the kind of performance a guy like Delbert McClinton could only dream about.  The lyrics were hysterical.   Killer opener.

2.) Back At Work  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:30    rating: **** stars

Okay, the life-is-tough-as-a-rocker lyrics and Ryder's enthusiastic endorsement of illicit activities were a bit pedestrian, but kicked along by Billy Csernits' bubbly synthesizer riff and some nice Wayne Gabriel guitar, 'Back At Work' was a first-rate slice of funk-rock.  

3.) That's Charm  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 5:28    rating: **** stars

Try sitting still through this one.  Interesting how Ryder sets a mood with a minimum of words.  Dylan would throw a thesis at a woman he was trying to seduce; Ryder attacks the same scenario with little more than a haiku.  If you did a cost-benefit analysis on the different approaches, Ryder would win by a country mile.   Fantastic Wayne Gabriel lead guitar on this one.   YouTube has a Feb 2014 clip of a then 69 year old Ryder playing the tune in the small Schwarzer Adler (Black Eagle) club in Rheinberg, Germany club.  The German band Engerling provides support: 

4.) Red Scar Eyes  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:26

Originally included on Ryder's 1981 "Look Ma, No Wheels" set, this studio version was pretty ominous, (though the live version on "Live Talkies" was truly frightening).  Not sure what foreign television show this was filmed for, but YouTube has a clip of Ryder and company lip-synching the tune.   Ryder certainly seemed to enjoy the beer prop.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Bang Bang
  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 3:59   rating: **** stars

Every time I hear the opening gurgling synthesizer, it reminds me of the UK-German band Lake.  Regardless, 'Bang Bang' was a razor sharp slice of anti-war commentary with Ryder and company running on all cylinders.

2.) Betty's Too Tight   (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:31   rating: **** stars

Awesome, straight-ahead rocker that showcased Ryder's special voice.  'Betty's Too Tight' was the kind of song that wounded right at home in the middle of a bar band set.  Kudos to Wilson Owens for his amazing drumming on this one.  By the way, the title refrain always makes me smile.

3.) Ich bin aus America  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 4:30  rating: ** stars

' Ich bin aus America' was the album's one modest disappointment.  The non-too-subtle stab at Ronald Reagan didn't particularly bother me (makes you wonder what Ryder would think about Donald Trump), but the clumsy German chorus and the reggae melody were both lacking.

4.) Bare Your Soul  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 2:58    rating: **** stars

One of two songs recorded in Detroit, 'Bare Your Soul' was an awesome, straight-ahead rocker that showcased Ryder's special voice.  'Bare Your Soul' was my pick for the album's standout performance.  Musically it wasn't anything special, but Ryder's lusting delivery seldom sounded as good..  No dad in his right mind would let this guy within a mile of their daughters.  And here's an audience taped clip of a 71 year old Ryder performing 'Bare Your Soul' at a 2016 performance at the small REX Club in Bensheim Germany: 

5.) We're Gonna Win  (Mitch Ryder - William S. Levise) - 2:50   rating: **** stars

The poppy melody and bouncy backing vocals made 'We're Gonna Win' the album's most outright commercial track.  Should have been tapped as a single.