Archived Story

Local Legends’ songs in running

Published 8:33pm Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Sixth Generation rocks out at Dowagiac Elks Lodge 889.

Sixth Generation’s “This is the Time” leads another Niles notable, Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” on this year’s Michigan Rock and Roll Legends ballot to select “Legendary Songs” for 2013.

Vote for up to five tunes by June 1 at

More than than 365 artists are nominated, including Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Mitch Ryder, Ted Nugent, Madonna, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Grand Funk Railroad, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Aretha Franklin and a group of Niles high school juniors and seniors who formed a garage band that played Skyliner dances frequently at Five-Mile Corner north of Dowagiac.

At the same time voters can determine which acts are inducted into the online Legends Hall of Fame, which included Sixth Generation in 2011.

“This is the Time” was recorded in 1967 at Sound Studios in Chicago with sound engineer Stu Black at the controls, according to drummer Dave Walenga.

Since reuniting and adding a new guitar player, the sextet played in Niles’ Riverfront Park amphitheater Aug. 30; Buchanan, including an Orchard Hills Country Club Halloween party Oct. 13 for release of their album; and twice at Dowagiac Elks Lodge 889.

In their heyday, Sixth Generation 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, “This is the Time” was No. 1 in Niles at Spin-It Record Shop, where Walenga worked after 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 its final performance in December 1970.

The band continues to perform across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

Several members write songs, such as the boomer anthem recalling their hit, “That was the Time.”

Bassist Paul “The General” Davies still lives in Niles. His lifelong friend, Walenga, lives in Linthicum, Md., near new lead guitarist Steve Blevins, who also plays saxophone and flute, and keyboard player Ron Hamrick of Virginia.

The other two members, keyboardist Fred Hulce and lead vocalist and occasional rhythm guitarist Fred Bachman live in the Grand Rapids area.

Wistful new material, including the boomer anthem “That was the Time,” stand the band apart from “cover” artists.

Sixth Generation is not “My Generation.”

“We’re not the Who,” Walenga quipped last summer from behind his kit. “We’re proud we didn’t die before we got old.”

Another original number besides “Glad We didn’t Die Before We Got Old” which acknowledges the march of time is “I Can’t Believe I Made It Blues,” featuring Davies, who said in an interview last September, “We’re a Sixties rock band. The music we write is in that style of tapping your feet and dancing a bit. We’re not trying to be hip or change the world. The Stones are still going strong in their 70s. You’re as young as you feel.”



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