Writing for the
Ann Arbor Observer
A barn dance with Bob Seger:
The beer at the bottom of Ford Lake
By Mike Gould
I can't make it to Bob Seger's concert at Joe Louis Arena on March 13. But in the mid-1970s, a band I was in did open for him at a barn dance.
It was August 1974; in Washington, Nixon was resigning, and in Washtenaw County, we were rejoicing. I was playing bass with the Martian Entropy Band, and we got a gig to perform in a funky barn on some property overlooking Ford Lake. The lineup was us, the Rabbits, the Rockets, and Bob Seger. Our light show, the Light Opera, also got involved, projecting psychedelia across the dance area from one loft to the other loft, where the stage was set up. The promoter was someone named Whitey, as I recall, and he threw the show together as a bid to get into concert promotion. He printed up some flyers using recycled Fillmore Auditorium poster art [nope, original art with the bands' logos, seen below - I must have confused this poster with another] called it a White House [actually, Dr. White Post, see corrections below] production, and got things moving.
Five dollars a head, all the beer you could drink, and Bob Seger: what's not to like? We arrived early on a Saturday afternoon and set up our gear and lighting apparatus. I then retired to an adjoining lawn, where I fell asleep under a tree. I woke up to discover a monkey grooming my arm. He was a pet of the people who owned the barn, and they had leashed him to the tree while they went about their business. The day was off to a rollicking start. The evening went very well up to a point. The Rabbits, led by Ann Arborite Martin Simmons (who was later to play in my outfit, the Gene Pool Band) opened the show, and we followed.
Half-way through our set Seger's manager told us we had to cut our time, so we didn't get to complete our meticulously-organized set list. With much grousing, we wrapped up and left the stage. Seger followed us, much to the surprise of all, as he was supposed to be headlining. It turned out that he had changed the lineup so he could get back to Detroit before it got late. The light show had projections readied for the Rockets, so Bob came out against a background of NASA slides. Our keyboard player Hugh Hitchcock was so incensed about our having our time cut that he climbed up into the lighting booth and convinced the lightshow to carry on with the slides planned for our set. So there was Bob Seger, wailing away, while in the background, slides of spaceships towing blocks of cheese were sailing back and forth. Seger's manager put a stop to that pretty quick, but it was pretty funny while it lasted.
Seger had a small band at the time and played most of his early hits. Then he did a solo set with just him and a piano. He sang "Railroad Days," a song about growing up in Ann Arbor. I talked to him a bit after his set, the conversation revolving around how bad the monitor speakers were.
After Bob, the Rockets took the stage and amped things up several notches. These guys were rock mainstays in the Detroit area in the 1970s and 1980s and were just hitting their stride at this time. By now the barn was packed. A loud, sweaty time was enjoyed by all. Then the police arrived, and things got even more exciting. It seems that Whitey had neglected to get a permit for dispensing alcohol at the party, and when the police arrived to respond to a noise complaint, it all hit the fan.
I was up in the loft with the light show when someone came running up with a box full of liquor bottles and a request: "Quick! Hide these! The cops are here!" We stashed the bottles in our road cases and looked out the back of the barn to see people madly rolling beer kegs down the hill into Ford Lake. I was later told that the plan was to send divers down the next day to retrieve these; unfortunately, the story went, Ford Lake turned out to be hundreds of feet deep and those barrels are still down there. (Research by the Observer's crack geology team has since discovered a depth of 40 feet, so the barrels are buried in layers of silt, is my guess.) We managed to escape with our gear intact, and enjoyed the booze in the weeks that followed. I think that was it for Whitey's music business career, but I'll always remember that gig as a high point of my rock 'n' roll days.
This story was based on my recollections and those of my former band mates. Hugh J. Hitchcock, the Martian Entropy Band keyboard player and composer, was kind enough to send me his story (most of which didn't make it into my article due to space constraints):
Well, I remember just about everything you wrote (except the monkey!!!)
a friend of mine from Canada named Derek was visiting me that week at the house I lived on at the corner of State and Hill (?) where we had the 'psychedelic dungeon' :) I believe we may have still been practicing there at that time (or hadn't started yet). (those were fun times! remember tripping out with black lights and spattering glow-in-the-dark paint all over everthing and ourselves?)
at any rate Derek and I somehow got to Ford Lake, I think we were in your blue van. I was like 15 years old, and you probably remember I was a bit of a vagabond/ragamuffin so I really didn't have a lot of clothes and I had worn the clothes I planned to perform in. At Ford Lake, in order to load the equipment up into the loft we had to use a hydraulic lift, like the kind they used for small airplanes to load cargo, and after helping to move up the equipment I had gotten some grease on my hands from the lift. So... I went down to Ford Lake where there was a boat landing, the kind that is basically an inclined concrete ramp that ramps down into the water, and I walked down that ramp to rinse my hands off. As I crouched down to put my hands in the water, my feet slipped out from under me due to the ramp being covered with slippery algae and I got completely soaked and covered with this slimy algae and Derek had to help me out of the lake. I was really upset because I had no change of clothes, but resigned myself to doing the gig in my slimy, wet clothes. Real nice!
as I recall we went on after the Rabbits... and we had meticulously created a set list, choosing each of our magnificent original works with care and the sequence they were to be played for maximum effect (I say this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek :). I remember about ten minutes into our show, right in the middle of our third selection, Bob's stage manager came up to us and told you (you being basically the 'leader') that we had to quit playing in 5 minutes because Bob "needed his beauty sleep" or some such rudeness. So... we had to cut our set severely short and missed out on playing (what I thought were) our best numbers. So... I was completely in a state of frustration at that point.
So we cleared the stage, within about 15 minutes Bob Seger took the stage and I will say it was quite impressive, their rock & rool rhythm section really cooked and Bob was a fiery focal point, and the whole barnful of party-goers were really in an excited entertained state. That didn't stop me from feeling quite resentful towards the MEB's rejection and quick exit. So the next part of the story -- I don't remember if you, Mike were involved in this or not, but -- Derek and I went up into the loft where Light Opera had all the projection equipment set up, and we somehow got Wayne (not sure if it was Wayne or someone else) to show some of our special custom slides behind Bob Seger.
So, while Bob was singing "Against the Wind" and "Beautiful Losers" or whatever he was singing, there were images of the starship Enterprise towing a banner that said "The Martian Entropy Band" followed by images of a Klingon warship pulling a banner with a picture of a piece of cheese. This was all huge bright and big as life right there behind Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! Derek and I were rolling on the floor laughing, it was such a fine payback for getting shorted on our time!!!!! Finally Bob's stage manager made it up to the loft and said "what the f- is going on? get that sh-t off of there!" so we were forced to stop.
But for me that was the highlight of the gig. I do remember them rolling the kegs into the water but in general I was really glad to get out of there and get some clean clothes on.
Once the article saw print, I received some nice additional information:
Steve Kolman provided this lovely image of the ticket!
... I just wanted to comment on the article in the march 2007 observer. I lived at the farm on ford lake during this party with two other room-mates. The name of the production company associated with whitey was "Whitepost productions" not "whitehouse". My friend, Steven J. Post who passed away on November 1, 1992, was the partner to Whitey during this period.
Just a little history about my friend. The property at the corner of Textile road and Bridge road was originally used by the Lake family to build "Lake Pontoon Boats". During this period, the Post Family lived in the Farm house on the property. Steven grew up here and later in Manchester, Mi. He went to LIncoln High School and later became a stained glass business owner in Depot Town, Ypsilanti. It was because of the association with the current owners of the property, that we were able to move into this farm house.
Steve was a very vibriant person who was later nicknamed by Peter Lawson of Ann Arbor as Monsiere. His plunge into promotions was fueled by Whitey"s interest in live documentation of concerts and which later became "Caught in the Act".
I just didn't want history to write out Steve Post (who by the way owned "Dykewonder" the pigtailed McCock Monkey you mentioned). The monkey was previously owned by Faizzy "The renowned Pizza parlor owner seen many times with Mohammad Ali and such in the late 80's and 90's.
Thank you for the great article you wrote and I hope you continue to document old times in the 70's and 80's around town. Sincerely yours,
Steve Kolman (Birdman)
It's with some pride that I read your missive on our party on Textile Rd. A friend of mine forwarded your article to me; lots of memories go with living at that house. A few additions might be of interest to you (or not). Bob Whitall partnered with one of my house-mates Steve Post and they called their enterprise Whitepost. Bob's sister was the rock and roll reviewer for the Detroit Free Press at the time.
Although MI law did not require a special permit to have beer at a party, it only applied if there were less than seven kegs. I know we were way above that (I think about 20 kegs were purchased).
We made sure we had our lawyer present and when the State Police arrived and took Steve into the back seat, the lawyer had him out in no time.
We had thrown several parties of lesser size, mostly at Martin Place in Ypsi. There was a little hall there and we would get beer and a band. For about two bucks you could get loaded and listen to music. We always did OK with those. We hired the Rockets and other local bands. Later we rented the Boblo boat and I think we hired the Kids to play. That was a pretty good one too.
Michael W. Moore
Once I found out that Whitey was Robert Jr. Whithal, I contacted him and he provided me with a scan of the poster, seen below. Robert is editor of Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine, and I've known him for years; just didn't know he was Whitey. Small world!
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