Main Photo By Mark Maryanovich
'Detroit' was Steve Hunter's first professional album recording.
The 'Detroit' Version Of Rock 'n' Roll (Lou Reed)
During the rehearsal and pre-production stage prior to our going into the studio to record the Detroit album, [producer] Bob Ezrin asked us to bring in whatever songs we wanted to do on the album—especially any original songs. I had tried my hand at writing, but I hadn’t really come up with anything good. I needed more experience. Detroit’s frontperson, Mitch Ryder, brought in a cover tune he liked called “Rock & Roll,” which was written by Lou Reed and performed by the Velvet Underground. He thought we could do a more rockin’ version of the song. For some reason, that thought stuck in my mind.
One evening, Charlie Auringer—one of the staff photographers at Creem magazine—knocked on my door and asked if I would like to come with him to the East Town Theater in downtown Detroit to see Mountain. He was going to shoot the concert, and he had a spare pass. As I was a huge Mountain fan, I jumped at the chance to see them live.
They were incredible! The whole band was on fire, but guitarist Leslie West and his awesome vibrato were over the top. They ended up getting seven encores that night. For one of those encores, Leslie came out by himself, and did this incredibly beautiful Volume-knob stuff that sounded like a cello. He got an amazing tone out of his Gibson Melody Maker and those big Sunn amps. It was without a doubt, one of the best rock and roll shows ever. I was wired and inspired after seeing that great band.
A day or two after seeing Mountain, I was listening to Reed’s version of “Rock & Roll.” I liked it. There was something very cool about the song itself and the lyrics. I grabbed my guitar, learned the changes, and sat playing it over and over trying to come up with some ideas on how to rock it up more, but still keep the essence of the song. And then I had a thought: “I wonder how Mountain would play this song?” All of a sudden, a Mountain-type riff came out, and the whole arrangement simply poured out of me. I was very excited to show it to the guys.
When we played it at rehearsal the next day, and Mitch started singing it, the song came alive with all kinds of power. It was an amazing feeling to hear something I had done actually work, and work better than I had thought it would. Bob loved it. He made a few changes and additions, and the Detroit version of “Rock & Roll” was added to the list of songs to be included on our album.
Now, for the amazing part. After the album was released, Reed himself heard the Detroit version of “Rock & Roll,” and was knocked out. He tracked down Bob Ezrin, said he wanted him to produce his next album, and he wanted me to play on it. The next thing I know, I’m on a plane to London to record Lou’s Berlin—which was just the second album I had worked on. But that’s another story to come.
One more amazing thing: Many years later, I finally got to meet Leslie West. He told me people had come up to him when Detroit’s version of “Rock & Roll” came out, and told him how much they loved Mountain’s new single. I guess I got closer to Mountain than I thought!
Photo Credit Charlie Auringer
Steve's arrangement of Rock 'n' Roll (Lou Reed) by 'Detroit'
Detroit was Steve Hunter's first professional album recording.
He remembers receiving a call from his bass playing friend John Sauter, John, who was playing with Mitch Ryder at the time, told Steve that Mitch was auditioning guitar players and that Steve should go for it.
He had just gotten out of the Army and was living in his hometown of Decatur, Illinois..we wondered how did Steve make the leap from Decatur to Detroit?
It was in the wintertime 'cause it was horrible, the drive there, so it must have been the end of 1970. I was out somewhere with the Light Brigade (band in Decatur, Illinois) and I think I was in a hotel and the phone rang and it was John Sauter. Apparently, he had called Tootie (Steve’s sister) and then Tootie gave him the hotel where I was staying and I said Hey John, Polar Bear (nickname) how you doin? Then he said well listen, I’m playing with Mitch Ryder up in Detroit and I said wow, that’s great.
And he said well you outta come up here, they’re auditioning for guitar players and they haven’t found anybody, I said really? And he said yeah you should come up here quick, I don’t remember when I went up there, but I went up there as soon as I could so I don’t know if I had to get back to Decatur. But I know I left as soon as I could, probably within a day of the phone call. It was an eight hour drive, all I had in the car was the guitar.
What guitar did you bring?
An SG, I had an old SG a 64 or 60 something or other. And I drove all the way up there and I found the place on Cass Avenue, and it was a condemned building. And I don’t remember whether I rang the doorbell, and it was upstairs, so I went upstairs and it looked like it used to be a newspaper building or something cos it had a great big boardroom which is where they rehearsed, huge!
I don’t even know how it all came about, I guess they were expecting me, there were no cell phones so I couldn’t call ahead and say I was on my way, I just told Johnny when I’d get there. And I don’t think I auditioned the day I got there. Somebody called Mitch and Johnny B and said I was in town and I think we set up something for the next day.
And that’s when I walked in the room and saw a Marshall half stack and the only place I had ever seen one was with Jimi Hendrix and Cream. And right then I thought, you know I don’t give a shit whether I get this audition or not, I didn’t even know what an audition was, I had never done one before. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or anything. I just didn’t care, I thought, I’m going to be able to play through a Marshall so lets see what that sounds like. And as soon as I plugged it in and turned it on, whatever the settings were that were on it, it sounded F**** great!
Right out of the shoot, and I think it was Mitch, or somebody said “Do you know any Cream tunes” so I said, yeah, I know Crossroads, so we jammed on Crossroads, and then I think we did some Hendrix, and Bob was there (Bob Ezrin?) Yeah Bob was there, Bob came in a little bit later that afternoon, after everybody else and he heard it, (and that was the first time you had met him?) Yeah, I didn’t know who he was, I didn’t know they had an album deal, I didn’t know he was a producer and he was going to produce it, I didn’t know any of that.
I thought he was just some other part of the organization, and um…. they liked it.
And they said well can you move up here? And I say well yeah whatever. I’ll need to go home and get some stuff, yeah sure (they said) can you be back here (I think ) it was by the weekend I don’t remember what day it was, just sometime before the weekend, so we can start rehearsing. Sure, so I drove all the way back to Decatur, threw in some clothes and shit I didn’t bring anything else up with me really, drove all the way back to Detroit and they gave me a room in this condemned building. (So was the half stack theirs or had they hired it?) No, that was theirs; that was back in the days when you could buy a Marshall half stack for $250, it was cheap then. So they owned like a couple.
The first gig I did with them, somebody else had the half stack I didn’t get to use it, I used a Twin, and the Twin had two giant SRO 12’s in it (Speakers) it sounded great but it wasn’t loud enough, they sounded F**** great though. I was standing in front of it thinking man, this sounds better than the Marshall does but it wasn’t nearly loud enough. So they went out and bought me another Marshall. I just used it, it wasn’t mine but that’s it really, the rest of it’s a blur.
August 2016: Recently found during a clear out in the house, the Army jacket Steve wore on that Peace Rally
This was the jacket issued to him when he was drafted in 69.
Photo Credit Charlie Auringer
Detroit With Mitch Ryder
This Article Appeared In The Detroit N Roll Magazine on 3.10.2014
Long Neck Goose 3:22
Is It You (Or Is It Me) 4:06
Box Of Old Roses 2:45
It Ain't Easy 3:49
Rock 'N' Roll 6:17
Let It Rock 3:24
Gimme Shelter 4:58
I Found A Love 6:31
Lead Vocals – Mitch Ryder
Lead Guitar – Steve Hunter
Guitar – Brett Tuggle
Keyboards – Harry Phillips
Keyboards [Additional], Harmonica – Boot Hill
Bass [Additional] – John Sauter
Bass, Vocals – W.R. Cooke
Congas, Tambourine – Dirty Ed
Drums, Vocals – John (The Bee) Badanjak
Producer – Bob Ezrin
Engineer [Recording] – Dave Greene
Remix – Brian Christian
I just remember I tried to quit smoking, and that was a terribly wrong place to try to quit smoking, and the day I’d gone the longest without smoking, this arrangement for Rock and Roll (Lou Reed song) came to me like a shot, the whole thing. (Wow! it was like your head cleared) I guess so, it must have cleared up for a second, and the whole Rock and Roll thing came out. So, we went up to rehearsal next day, and I told the guys, I said, you know I kind got an idea for this Rock and Roll cos they wanted to do the tune.
They had played the tune for me, on a cassette or on a record, I think it was probably on a record cos we didn’t have cassettes yet. And I thought, well I don’t know, it sounds kind of folky, the way Lou Did it, it was kinda folky, and they wanted to rock it up. And I just remember the first thing that entered my mind was I wonder how Mountain would do this tune if they were doing it, and the whole arrangement came after that.
So I went up and showed it to them, and they F**** loved it, I could tell, but Detroit people never say anything like “oh that’s great man!” which is one of the reasons I like them, they don’t hype you like LA, over the top. In Detroit they say, yeah this is cool.
I could tell when Mitch was singing it that he loved it just the way he’d sing it, he just punched it out and it sounded great! Then Bob heard it, he said, “what the F*** is that!” and I said well, you know, it’s my arrangement of Rock and Roll; he loved it.
It must have been pretty tough going from Decatur to Detroit?
You know, I was so young and naïve it made no difference to me, I just thought, Oh cool I’m going to playing with Mitch Ryder. I was 21 maybe 22, I didn’t give a shit about any of that stuff.
(Note: Steve’s arrangement of Lou Reed’s ‘Rock and Roll’ was to later catch Lou’s attention and along with Bob Ezrin, that is how Steve came to do his second ever album; Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin’)
1971 with Mitch Ryder and Detroit. I love this picture.
This was the largest anti war demonstration against the Viet Nam war since the beginning of the protests.
As you can see there are a lot of people there….an estimated 200,000 at the foot of the Washington Monument!
I had been out of the army myself for about a year and a half when this picture was taken.
I decided to trash up my uniform and wear it on stage that day (far left) We followed the Beach Boys. It was quite a day! steve