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Ponderosa Stomps Detroit With Eclectic Lineup

04/29/2010
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The music fanatics behind the Ponderosa Stomp have long championed the myriad sounds of the Motor City; on July 31st they partner with Lincoln Center to bring audiences The Detroit Breakdown, a multi-genre tribute to the city's musical heritage.

Sixties garage icons Mitch Ryder and ? and the Mysterians, iconoclastic rockers The Gories and Death, nomadic bluesman Eddie Kirkland, stirring soul singers Melvin Davis and Spyder Turner, Motown hitmakers the Velvelettes and Dennis Coffey and R&B all stars the Party Stompers will bring their multi-faceted talents to the Lincoln Center Out of Doors' "Roots of American Music" day-long program, with performances on the Hearst Plaza Stage by day and Damrosch Park Bandshell in the evening.

There has long been an air of musical magic in Detroit, resulting in artists of the highest caliber springing from the city in the years following Henry Ford's automotive revolution. As Irish, Poles, African-Americans, Italians and Latinos took their places side by side on the city's assembly lines, the co-mingling of cultural backgrounds produced an artistic renaissance of both chart-toppers and cult legends that -- despite the hard times the city has recently suffered -- continues to reverberate to this day.

When Motown put Detroit on the map, it was with an internationally influential sound best exemplified by pioneering girl group the Velvelettes, whose hits "Needle In A Haystack" and "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" defined the very core of swinging sixties culture. Meanwhile, the Motor City underground thrived with countless smaller labels, most notably Fortune Records, who released dazzling singles by soul men Melvin Davis and Spyder Turner, as well as blues guitarist Eddie Kirkland. While Turner and Davis would go on to score chart-topping hits with "Stand By Me" and "You've Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)" respectively, Kirkland (whose career began in the early '40s alongside another Fortune artist, John Lee Hooker) became Otis Redding's bandleader, continuing to record for labels such as Stax, King, LuPine and Delmark. Meanwhile, guitar-slinging Funk Brother Dennis Coffey -- soon to make history with the funk masterpiece "Scopio" -- was defining hits like the Temptations' "Cloud Nine" and the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing."

With this heady musical mixture as a launching pad, the area's garage scene exploded. In 1966 alone, Mitch Ryder's high-octane soul shouting hit the top of the charts with "Devil With a Blue Dress" and Latino rockers ? and the Mysterians barreled to number one with the enigmatic million seller "96 Tears." The widely-hailed Stooges and MC5 would soon follow in their footsteps, and in turn, the torch would again be passed. Death, formed in 1971, were a quartet of black teenagers whose hard rocking proto-punk was the inevitable outcome of the racial cross-pollination long evident in the Detroit music scene. A recent reissue garnered rave reviews in the New York Times, re-igniting the band and the audience they were never afforded during their heyday. (again, the last sentence perhaps could be axed).
The following decade birthed yet another ahead-of-its-time aggregation in the Gories. Equally inspired by the the blues, R&B and garage punk pioneers who had come before them, their deconstructionalist approach may have been too incendiary for its time, but their influence -- Jack White has long named them as a prime inspiration to the White Stripes -- has been positively arresting on local, national and international levels.

The Detroit Breakdown showcases the spiritual continuum and musical progression that has long served as the hallmark of a true artistic metropolis. Having partnered with Lincoln Center for a successful series of shows last summer, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation's tribute to Detroit comes at a time when the city's staggering economic challenges have reached the forefront in the media. "Detroit's various musical eras all feed from each other and continue to influence music around the world," says Stomp spokesman Ira Padnos. "We felt it only right that they should be honored and celebrated by as storied an institution as Lincoln Center."

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