You are familiar with Bob Seger, aren't you? A stupid question, because in the late 70s he was all over the radio, starting with the "Live Bullet" LP in 1976. But I am not here to praise the later Bob Seger. By now you should have learned that's not my style. Besides, I'm not really a fan of "Ballad" Bob. I call the later Seger that because, with a few exceptions, he sang mainly rock ballads: "Like A Rock," "Night Moves," "Fire Lake" and others of that genre. No, I'm not a fan of much of the later stuff. But the back story of one of his ballads is very interesting.
I'm from Detroit, and back in the day—1967 through about 1972—the city had a thriving rock scene, and Seger was in the middle of it. Glen Frye, Ted Nugent (Amboy Dukes), Suzy Quatro (The Pleasure Seekers), SRC, The Frost (Dick Wagner and the...) Teegarden and Van Winkle and other acts that went on to sign national contracts then fade away. Bob had two things that the others didn't, though. First, a good manager named Punch Andrews; and second—and probably the most important—the will to carry on.
It's not worth it to go through the Seger history file... there probably isn't enough bandwidth available. But once he became a "big thing" in Detroit, he started his own band, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, and had a couple regional hits and a semi-national one. First a regional hit from 1967, "Persecution Smith."
Released on the Hideout label, it was picked up by Cameo/Parkway, as was his semi-national hit, "Heavy Music," also from 1967.
When Cameo/Parkway failed, Andrews and Seger went looking for a new label. Capitol Records picked him up and insisted on a name and personnel change. Thus The Bob Seger System, and a BIG hit in 1968. I shouldn't have to show you the title. We'll let this guy do it.
Ramblin' , Gamblin' Man
Note that there is no guitarist in the lip sync. Seger (on organ in the clip) along with Glen Frey played guitar on the song.
"Ramblin', Gamblin' Man" was a Top 20 single. The LP made the mid 60s on the charts, but the next two albums died, as did an attempt at a solo acoustic album.
So here sits Seger, without a band. He hooks up with Dave Teegarden (drums) and Skip (Van Winkle) Knape (organ). They were joined later by Mike "Monk" Bruce on guitar. You may remember Skip and Dave's "God, Love and Rock And Roll," an overproduced piece of rock Pablum that hit the charts (#22) in 1970, but the Detroit-based, Oklahoma native's fortunes had been in decline, also. Thus the combined group toured… and toured… and toured. All across Seger's base in the Midwest. If there was one thing he didn't give up on were the fans. It was a good band that in 1971 recorded the LP "Smokin' O.P's," from which comes this version of "Let It Rock."
Let It Rock
Note that there is no bass player in the band. Instead, you see Skip Knape pedaling the Hammond B-3. Seger maintained that this band was good for the club owners. He (with Teegarden & Van Winkle backing) would do a set of his material, Tee and Wee would do a set of theirs, and the third set would be new material from the combined band (called The S.T.V. Band) It was, by the way, touring with this band that prompted the Seger chestnut, "Turn The Page."
Turn the Page
The story is a bit muddled. No one knows where the incident happened for sure. Dubuque, Iowa remembers road manager Tom Weschler. Dave Teegarden thinks it was in South Dakota. Seger himself is pretty sure it went down in Eau Clare, Wisconsin. But all agree that it started late one night. The boys were traveling from one gig to another and had pulled over to get a bite to eat. All the band members except Skip Knape had tucked their long hair under their caps. Skip was subjected to a torrent of abuse, all because of that hair. That “Are you a boy or are you a girl?” stuff immortalized in “Turn the Page” was still common back in those days.
The song appeared on Seger's "Back In '72" album, and became a big radio hit with the release of "Live Bullet" in 1976. The sax solo by Alto Reed was allegedly inspired by Tom Weschler. The legend goes that Reed was recording, and Weschler said to him, "Alto, think about it like this: You're in New York City, on the Bowery. It's 3 a.m., there's a light mist coming down, you're all by yourself. Show me what that sounds like." And Reed did. To great effect.
Let's end this missive on a happy note. It's the holiday season, and you're probably getting sick and tired of hearing singers who should know better warbling holiday-themed songs that someone else did so much better many years ago. I work in grocery stores as a merchandiser for a living, and this morning I heard a version of "Run, Run Rudolph" that almost made me stab myself with a can opener. But enough of that. I haven’t in 40 plus years figured out if this 1966 Bob Seger And The Last Heard song is any good or not, but I definitely look forward to hearing it each Christmas time.
Sock It To Me, Santa
May this time of joy find you happy and well.
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