Michigan rock and roll artist Mitch Ryder will perform at Dogwood Fine Arts Festival next month. The 69-year-old musician has been playing for more than 40 years, with his most recent album, “The Promise,” released in 2012. (Submitted photo)
Michigan rock and roll artist Mitch Ryder will perform at Dogwood Fine Arts Festival next month. The 69-year-old musician has been playing for more than 40 years, with his most recent album, “The Promise,” released in 2012. (Submitted photo)

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Mitch Ryder to cap off 2014 Dogwood Fine Arts Festival

Published 8:19am Friday, April 18, 2014

With 33 albums, four decades of performing, and even an award winning autobiography under his belt, it would be easy to imagine that Michigan rock and roll artist Mitch Ryder would be content with coasting on his past success and taking easy street to retirement.

This year alone though, the 69-year-old musician has lined up 100 tour dates both in the U.S. and in Europe, while continuing to write news songs, pen his first musical and help put together a documentary about one of his recent tours.

Needless to say, the Detroit-native hasn’t taken his foot off the gas just yet.

“I don’t know how to do anything else seriously,” Ryder said. “I really wouldn’t know what else to do if I stopped doing this.”

One of Ryder’s next stops will be Dowagiac, as he will be capping off this year’s Dogwood Fine Arts Festival. Ryder will perform a concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, in the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center.

A tried and true product of the mid-century Detroit music scene, Ryder started his first band, Tempest, while he was still in high school, with the group earning a level of notoriety playing at The Village, soul music club in Detroit. The musician eventually became the front man of a group called Billy Lee & The Rivieras, which was later renamed to Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.

During the mid to late 60s, the group produced a number of popular songs, including “Devil with a Blue Dress On,” “Sock It to Me-Baby” and “Jenny Take a Ride!” Ryder attributes the group’s success to its unique “live party sound,” bringing the atmosphere of a live concert to its studio-recorded albums, he said.

“There was a different kid of energy to it,” Ryder said. “I can’t think of another group at that time that came close to matching the sound of the Detroit Wheels.”

Eventually, Ryder spilt off from the group and pursued a solo career amid growing discontentment with his management, Ryder said.

“I wanted to do more rhythm and blues like my heroes,” Ryder said. “At the time, psychedelic music was in, and rhythm and blues were considered passé, so that was working against me as well.”

Ryder has continued his performing and songwriting career into today, releasing his last album, “The Promise,” in 2012, his first album to see a U.S. release in almost 30 years.

“I still need to write a song that says everything I need to say,” Ryder said. “Once I do that, I can close that chapter in my life.”

Ryder has also branched out into other forms of writing as well, releasing an autobiography, “Devils & Blue Dresses,” in 2011, which received several accolades. He also spent the last several years working on a musical, with the working title “Hide Your Love Away.”

“It’s all a learning process,” Ryder said. “I wrote it because I love musicals and I love challenges. I don’t know if it will succeed or not, but the fun part about being a creative person is creating, trying new things.”

With only a dozen tour dates scheduled this year in Michigan, Ryder said he is excited about coming to Dowagiac and delivering a rockin’ good show for his fellow statesmen, he said.

“I think playing in my backyard of Michigan is treat, it’s always a thrill for me,” he said. “If I make an offhand remark, most of the people in the audience will get it. They probably wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I was performing in a different state.”

“I’m still on the road performing, so they’re going to get a good show,” Ryder added. “If I was doing a lousy job, I wouldn’t be working this much.”

Tickets for the concert cost $25 for premium seating, $20 for the main floor and $15 for the upper level. To order tickets, contact Dogwood Fine Arts Festival at (866) 490-2847 or (269) 782-1115 or visit dogwoodfinearts.org.

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