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Sixth Generation song winning Legends Hall of Fame vote

Published 2:46pm Monday, February 11, 2013

With 18 percent of the vote for “This is the Time,” Sixth Generation’s closest competition for “Legendary Song” is another Niles band, Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion, at 4 percent.

With online voting continuing until June 1, artists such as Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles are bunched at 2 percent.

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

“We’re grateful for everyone who’s voted,” drummer Dave Walenga said, “but you don’t stop just because you’re leading.”

More than 365 artists are nominated, including Alice Cooper, Mitch Ryder, Ted Nugent, Madonna, Grand Funk Railroad and that 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.

Dowagiac will be their first stop in May, according to Walenga.

He lives in the Baltimore area and was reveling Tuesday in the Ravens’ Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers.

“We had a great practice in January,” Walenga said. “We started developing new songs that the guys have written for our show. We’ll be back together in another couple of weeks in Virginia. (Guitarist) Steve Blevins gives us another lead singer. With more songs on the table, we’re moving towards a second CD this fall. It’s so interesting for me to sit back and watch these guys. Who knew we had all these songwriters in our midst?”

As for how Sixth Generation is leading the pack, their first CD, released in October, is expanding their fan base internationally.

“We’ve got fans in England. We’re getting airplay in the Liverpool area on Lanky Beat,” an internet radio show keeping alive their style of music, Walenga said.

The band’s appearances in Michigan will be more limited in 2013, he said, because Sixth Generation will be performing monthly in Virginia, though over Labor Day they’ll be in St. Joseph, where they used to enjoy going to hear the Five Emprees at Shadowland Ballroom.

“This is the Time” was recorded in 1967 at Sound Studios in Chicago with sound engineer Stu Black.

Their wistful reprise, “That was the Time,” has 114,000 YouTube views.

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.

“We don’t consider ourselves a cover band,” Walenga said. “We take old songs and rework them. There are very few bands like us, but we’ve got to create space because there’s no place for us. We’ve gone against the grain all the way along. We’re excited and amazed at the guys’ creativeness. Every song has a little different flavor.”

Since reuniting after 40 years and adding Blevins, the sextet played 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” hit 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 for the Full Circle Tour July 16, 2011, at Buchanan American Legion Post 51, where the musicians played what they thought would be their last performance in December 1970.

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

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

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