MC5 - History - Part 1 Formed in 1964 by guitarists Wayne Kramer & Fred :Sonic" Smith as the Bounty Hunters they recruited Rob Tyner on vocals (originally wanted to be their manager) who comes up with the name MC5 and recruited Michael Davis (bass) and Dennis Thompson (drums).
The name MC5 was created by Tyner and chosen because it sounds like a car part and also stands for Motor City 5 which is apt because the band emanate from the tough city of Detroit a city famed for its car industry and simmering racial tensions in mid sixties America.
The band endures play offs, battles of the bands and any gig they can get taking an aggressive, competitive edge to these events honing their skills, performance and solidarity but without much success.
However with the burgeoning hippie scene the band's fortunes take a turn for the better when they take on John Sinclair, leader of the Trans Love Commune, as their manager. Sinclair was a major figure Detroit's counter culture and had served two prison terms for marijuana related offenses.
The MC5 had several managers in their history, Bruce Burnish, Sinclair, Jeep Holland, Ronan O'Reilly, and Jon Landau
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Each MC5 record showed a chronological maturity based on growth from our first records to the next one. We went through so many experiences from the bizarre to the sublime. The 5 encountered the dangers of being so politically and musically honest & forthright. Changes we were uncontrollably thrown into, so we morphed like butterflies to survive! We rolled with the haymakers...
Well, what it was, was that I had a friend named Billy Vargo who played guitar, and I'm thinking, how old were we, we were like maybe 15-years-old, and he was the leader of the band. We had three guitars, no bass, and me on drums. And I was doing it, I was playing.
My brother is 10 years older than I am, and he's been a musician all his life. So when he was sixteen, I was six years old, and they had a rock and roll band, practicing music in my basement, the drummer would leave his drums, so four year old, five year old Dennis would run down there and bang on the drums and Mom would yell down there, "Dennis, get off those drums, they're not yours!" But she'd always give me at least 10 minutes, you know?
So I got it from my brother, and at the tender age of twelve years old I was already playing weddings, and by fourteen I was playing clubs with my brother. So anyway, in high school and junior high school, I met the other guys and we had a band.
The band was called The Bounty Hunters, for Steve McQueen back in those days. Wayne played in the Bounty Hunters for a real short time. Wayne taught Fred how to play guitar...Fred Smith. Fred would go over to Wayne's house and Wayne would show him how to play chords, and that's how that happened.
Fred became actually the better rhythm guitar player, by his natural, innate ability.
So I'm in high school, and this is about, we're talking maybe eleventh grade, maybe tenth grade, they formed the MC5, which was Wayne Kramer, Fred Smith, Rob Tyner, Bob Gaspar on drums, who has passed away, and Pat Burrows on bass.
They were in the band for maybe six months, and they aced out and did the Dave Clark Five show at the Ford Auditorium in downtown Detroit.
Well, they started moving into this avant-rock business, where they bought more amps and started getting louder and louder, and Bob Gaspar the drummer was bitching, he says, you know, "I gotta keep slamming these drums so hard, I don't wanna play this way." And Pat Burrows the bass player was gettin' pissed off, and said, "I don't wanna do this crazy stuff." (He was from the James Jamerson school of Motown bass playing). So these guys got disaffected.
So one day Wayne pulls up on his motorcycle at my house, and I'm still in 10th grade, so that's makin' me 15, 16? Somewhere around there...pulls up and says, "Hey, do you wanna play this job we got? Our drummer quit. It's a place called the Crystal Bar." And what it is, is a shot and a beer joint -- it's a dump.
They had flyers made up and everything...the name of the band's the Motor City Five. "Okay, I'll do the job." He shows up on his motorcycle in the middle of the night and [I] went down and did the job for the weekend. We had about three toothless bums just sittin' there. And here we are onstage playing "My Generation" and Yardbirds and Kinks and all.
That's when I joined the Five. -D
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