It Was All Right
James A. Mitchell
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Buy *It Was All Right: Mitch Ryder's Life in Music* by James A. Mitchell online

It Was All Right: Mitch Ryder's Life in Music
James A. Mitchell
Wayne State University Press
248 pages
March 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Mitch Ryder is one of those strange footnotes in rock and roll history: He realized several hits in "Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly" and Jenny Take a Ride," but he could never make the crossover from blues/R&B singer to a legit rock star.

Born in Hamtramck, Michigan as William Levise, Jr., in 1945, Ryder became a mainstay of the regional rock scene. He ultimately connected with big-time producer/writer Bob Crewe, the man responsible for bringing multiple hits to the Four Seasons by co-writing "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Walk Like a Man." Crewe was mesmerized by Mitch's combination of white funk/black R&B.

A product of the '60s, Ryder grew up amidst the madness of Vietnam. Three members of The Detroit Wheels - Mitch's band - were eligible for the draft: bass player Earl Elliott, guitarist Joe Kubert - and the singer himself. Married with a child on the way, he received a deferment. The Wheels did break up, and that story and many more are here revealed: Hanging out at Bob Dylan recording sessions; substance abuse; the fallout from a horribly managed career; the brief taste of success: "After I'm gone, if somebody legitimately and honestly looks at my career, they'll see an artist who struggled to grow and achieve," Ryder sums up in the final chapter. "I've gotten fulfillment out of my music, and that's all you can really ask for."

That struggle, that growth in his music, and his terrible fall from grace make up this honest accounting of one of America's least-known greatest singers.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2009

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