One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about delving into music history and local charts is finding regional hits. If you stick to the Billboard Top 10 or even Top 20, you are missing out on a lot of great music.
A bit of context is necessary. Once upon a time, kids, radio stations enjoyed the freedom to play pretty much whatever they wanted. Granted, playing hit records equaled more ratings (and therefore more money for the guy in the corner office), but every so often they’d throw a bone to local kids who got together in someone’s garage, made a demo, and captured the attention of an A&R man at a record label. Growing up in and around Chicago I had heard of the local heroes there: The Buckinghams, The New Colony Six, the Cryan Shames, the American Breed, and so on.
I was delighted to discover similar music surprises when I moved to Michigan in 2007. I was brought to Grand Rapids to fix Oldies WFGR, which was running the typical Top 300 Greatest Hits Of All Time In An Endless Loop Provided By Satellite format. We blew that up, widened the list, and then did a little bit of homework. I was fortunate enough to be able to bring Bob Stickroe into the fold at the station. Bob and I had worked together at WODJ in the late 90s, and he’s the type of musical savant who can tell you how high a song got on the local charts without looking. Bob provided me with the data I used in my dissertation on local charts, and I owe him for that.
Shortly after we got the format fixed we delved into specialty weekends. I learned from Kevin Robinson at WJMK that there’s a whole lot of quarter hours going unclaimed on the weekends, and that Oldies radio, if it can make an excuse to go deep and spotlight special songs, can grab a good share of those listeners. One of the first special weekends we did at WFGR was a Made In Michigan Weekend, where we dug out bunches of these records. I’ll spotlight several of them in the coming weeks. The listener response was immediate, and many of the musicians still lived in the area (or their kids and grandkids did) and thanked us for remembering them.
This one is by the Unrelated Segments, a band from Taylor, Michigan. Taylor is a Detroit suburb that, if you’ve ever flown to Detroit or at least changed planes there, you’ve been to. The band originally recorded for the HBR label, and got one shot on Liberty Records. The band got airplay on Keener 13 in Detroit and in Toledo, and opened for several big name acts – among them, the Spencer Davis Group, the MC5, and a few guys who called themselves The Who. “Where You Gonna Go” is a prime example of garage sweetness with a punk feel and a middle eight that sounds not unlike Britpop from a few years earlier. It’s a politely angry record: who can’t relate, especially at eighteen, to lyrics like “Workin’ for a man you hate/Eight to five each day,” feeling frustrated with your life? The music was an escape for so many of these local bands whose members did work a day job, hoping that their avocation would take them away from all of it.
As is often the case with local bands, the success was limited and short-lived. Draft boards had a knack for breaking up bands in the late 1960s, as did moving to college and giving up the music for a more stable career. The Unrelated Segments were no exception, disbanding in 1968. Fortunately, if you dig a bit, you can find a fantastic wealth of music that local radio stations should be playing instead of sticking to “Brown Eyed Girl” for the seventeenth time each day.
Turn up the speakers as high as they will go, and click here.