When original guitarist Jim McCarty decided in 2011 to quit the legendary Detroit rock band The Rockets, the brief reunion seemed over. McCarty and drummer, songwriter and co-founder Johnny “Bee” Badanjek were members of Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels, and later formed The Rockets, a Midwest, heartland rock and roll band that could never quite hit the heights of a guy like Bob Seger. Cleveland has the Michael Stanley Band. Detroit had The Rockets
A few years ago, the two enlisted frontman Jim Edwards, and made a comeback. Live shows, but no albums. Until now. The great Gary Graff, a longtime Detroit area music writer does a terrific job telling the story of the new record. Worth a read. The first studio release in 30 years is a four song E.P. called Greetings From Detroit
They played a show on Saturday, Dec. 28, at the Fillmore Detroit, debuting the material.
There once was, and is again, a rock and roll band from Detroit called The Rockets. A helluva rock band. No big hits, but Detroit rock radio embraced them, and they were local heroes from 1972 until they faded away in 1983.
The pedigree that made them noteworthy were two leaders that were driving forces behind the Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Johnny (Bee) Badanjek (drums) and Jim McCarty (guitar) both fueled the R&B rock and roll craziness of Ryder’s sound, and, as musicians do, eventually left the band to do their own thing.
They became the Rockets.
You could have dubbed them “Kings of the Openers”; they opened for the big rock bands of the time – and not just in Detroit. They traveled with KISS, Seger, ZZ Top, among many. But they never could get any bigger than that. Never had a big radio hit beyond the Motor City. But even the band’s later stuff , like “Rollin’ By The Record Machine” elicited a vintage Bob Seger energy.
With lead vocalist Dave Gilbert, the Rockets reached their biggest success in 1979 with a Top 40 hit doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. The hard partying Gilbert ended up taking a job hanging drywall, and died in 2001 at age 49.
Badanjek is one of rocks truly great drummers. And McCarty an engaging, gritty rock guitarist. They had continued to play music, just not together. That changed when they formed the Motor City Music Review in 2009, a Motown/rock and roll cover-type band. Then into a band called the Hell Drivers, with new frontman Jim Edwards. Things started to happen.