Sixth Generation returningPublished 6:27pm Tuesday, June 5, 2012
A new guitar player and a new show with more original songs are in store when Sixth Generation returns to Dowagiac Elks Lodge 889 Saturday night at 7:30.
Formed as a Niles garage band in 1966, by early spring 1967, the sextet regularly played Saturday night dances at Skyliner at Five-Mile Corner north of Dowagiac.
Sixth Generation, which rocked the Elks last Oct. 8, shared bills with the Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”), the Buckinghams (“Kind of a Drag,” “Susan” and “Hey Baby”) and the Box Tops (“The Letter” and “Cry Like a Baby”).
On Sept. 9, 1967, their hit “This is the Time” was No. 1 in Niles at the Spin-It Record Shop, where drummer Dave Walenga worked after Tommy James, ahead of Bobby Vee (who played Dowagiac in 1993), The Box Tops, Bobbie Gentry, The Association, Wilson Pickett, The Doors and Van Morrison.
Sixth Generation reunited after a 40-year lull for the Full Circle Tour July 16, 2011, at Buchanan American Legion Post 51, where the band played what they thought would be their final performance in December 1970.
Besides continuing to perform across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, the band was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends hall of fame.
Several band members write songs, such as the boomer anthem recalling their hit, “That was the Time,” which surpassed 50,000 views.
Bassist Paul “The General” Davies still lives in Niles, but his lifelong friend, Walenga, now lives in Linthicum, Md., near new lead guitarist Steve Blevins, who also plays saxophone and flute, and keyboard player Ron Hamrick of Virginia.
Walenga said Tuesday that original guitarist John Dale thought their reunion would be short-lived and retired to fly his airplane and travel.
“We miss him,” Walenga said, but musically, Blevins “gives us so many more options.”
The other two members of the sextet, keyboardist Fred Hulce and lead vocalist and occasional rhythm guitarist Fred Bachman live in the Grand Rapids area.
“We’ve changed 50 percent of the show,” Walenga said, adding such Beatles tunes as “I Saw Her Standing There” and the less well-known George Harrison song, “If I Needed Someone”; “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and “Expressway to Your Heart” by the Soul Survivors and Southside Johnny.
“We don’t want to let the public down,” Walenga said. “We take it seriously while still having a lot of fun. We’re so much better musicians” — playing the equivalent of nine shows over Memorial Day weekend.
They are scheduled to go into the studio July 7 to work on an album.