Grand Rapids 1971-1972 Bad Manors was a Grand Rapids-based rock band, that put a dose of blues in their music, as well.
- Kim Rush (Lead vocals)
- Jerry Davis (Rhythm guitar, vocals)
- Kirk Zillmer (Lead guitar, vocals)
- Tom Dedinas (Drums)
- John Wood (Bass)
Played at Bucket Pub and other bars at Westgate Bowl, WLAV Raft Race, Lamar Park 4th of July Celebration.
Guitarists Jerry Davis and Kirk Zillmer started the band during the summer of 1971. They recruited John Wood on bass, Tom Dedinas on drums and Kim Rush on vocals. Calvin Weeks worked as the sound man and road manager. He also sat in on bongos on some of our tunes. Kirk and Tom had been in other rock bands, but the rest of us were very inexperienced.
Left to right are Kirk Zillmer, Kim Rush, Tom Dedinas, Jerry Davis, and John Wood peeking through the weeds at the bottom right of the photo
The band played all over Michigan, as far north as Traverse City and as far south as Kalamazoo.
Kirk Zillmer states, “ Kim and I had a mutual love of the blues. Kim’s influence especially rubbed off on the band. Although we played a lot of heavy rock tunes we included some blues from time to time. I persuaded the band to go see Muddy Waters when he played at Grand Valley State College. I thought that if the band saw him play, it might rub off a little on our music.Midway through one of his songs, Jerry leaned over to me and suggested that we were better guitarists than the ones in Muddy’s band. I told him, no, Jerry, you don’t understand. We have not lived the blues like these guys. We might be faster or more slick, but not better. Listen to them play, he’s really playing from the heart. He’s really got soul.I told Jerry that it’s not how many notes you play. Fast and slick is OK, too, but you have to make the guitar talk. He then agreed with me.
I noticed that Muddy certainly had lots of charisma. I thought to myself, if we had an ounce of what he had with his music, we’d be doing fine! I think that seeing Muddy play rubbed off on us to some extent!”
Bad Manors played a very wide variety of gigs. We played concerts, at the bars, weddings, frat parties, ski lodges, and graduation parties and some weird places that we won’t even discuss. We played at the Westgate bowling alley in the Bucket Pub and the Alpine Saloon, a larger room than the Pub. One night the vibrations from our amps broke the long mirror behind the bar at the Bucket Pub. Kim went up to collect the pay at the end of the night and the manager mentioned the broken mirror, but he said that they sold so much booze that night that it would be wrong to dock our pay to replace the mirror!
We played for the WLAV raft race in Grand Rapids. There were thousands of people there. It was a very hot summer day and the band had brought along a couple of pitchers of lemonade spiked with Jack Daniels whiskey. We had them up on stage with us. Gerald Ford was a congressman at that time, soon to become President. He and Miss Michigan made a little speech while we were up on stage. He was kind and cordial with us, and we offered him a drink. After he took a nip, he said, “say fellas, that’s pretty interesting lemonade.” I couldn’t help but think that if he was the President at that time, there would have been bodyguards all over the stage or he would not have been up there!
The crowd was great that day and we really had fun playing for the crowd. Later on that day, our friend John McCain showed up and told us that he was listening to WLAV on the way to the raft race. The disc jockey said that Bad Manors was one of the best bands he had ever heard! He was exaggerating a lot, but we sure appreciated the compliment!
Another notable engagement was at Lamar Park in Wyoming.
We played early afternoon to another large crowd. We packed up quickly and left for Manistee to play at Coral Gables. That job went well, though we were not asked to return. It was a small place and we set up by the front door. Though we might not have been precisely what this club manager wanted, while we were there he called the owner of another Manistee club called the Pines, and told him to come hear us play. He hired us to play at his club that summer. We really liked working for him. He was very generous. We worked there from Wednesday through Sunday. On Monday morning we’d pack up and head back to Grand Rapids, but not before he gave us all a free steak dinner.
His business complex was located on the main road coming into Manistee. On the south end was the nightclub. Next to it was a Kentucky Fried Chicken place, and then his fancy restaurant was on the north end of the buildings.
The owner also owned a motel on Lake Michigan and put us up for free in this place. We thought we were really something! Kirk brought a record player to the motel and he was the only one that was accustomed to getting out of bed early. Kim and Kirk had some blues LPs and Kirk was bent on turning everyone on to them. One was a Howlin’ Wolf LP with his early hits. We also had cases of Mogen David wine that we brought with us.
The owner of the Pines had us pick up seafood for his restaurant from Superior Fisheries. We’d throw the box of fish and shrimp, etc. in the trunk of Tom’s Plymouth and head up to Manistee on Wednesday. One time it was really hot and we were all riding in Tom’s car on the way up. We were listening to an 8-track tape by Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker called “Hooker and Heat.” Before long, we began to pick up on the odor of the fish from the trunk, but just kept rolling along, laughing our heads off.
Kim and Kirk decided to write our own boogie, similar to John Lee Hooker’s style. We sometimes stretched this out between fifteen minutes and a half hour, giving everyone a chance to solo. It also gave us an opportunity to try out crazy stuff one stage, like Tom taking out 4’ florescent bulbs from the light fixtures and breaking them on Kim’s head. Tom suffered from high blood pressure and if he drank he was liable to do anything, but normally Tom was as very polite and restrained. The first night that Kim rehearsed with us, we all hung around afterwards. Tom poured beer into Jerry’s new Guild 12 string guitar and picked up Jerry and John and held them up in his hands! It’s a wonder Kim came back after that. He got freaked out and left after a while. But Tom is a great guy with a huge heart, and lots of fun. Tom worked hard to keep us employed.
Another thing that Tom did one night at the Pines during one of these long drawn out songs was quite amazing. He had two windows open behind him on stage. Without anyone except Kim noticing, Tom had to quit playing as he slipped outside through the window. Kim took over on drums and Tom did not come back for fifteen minutes! It got so darn hot in the bar that Tom had taken his shirt off. These long songs included baboon noises, feedback, and Calvin would join us with his long fingernails on the bongos. The crowd liked the change in pace and some invited the people at Coral Gables to come and watch us. It was unbelievable.
On Sundays we would play and host a jam session which allowed local musicians to come up and play. There was another rock band in Manistee that was good and very popular, and the people from Manistee enjoyed seeing them play at the Pines.
The KFC was connected to the bar by a hallway that was attached to the main entrance to the building. It reminded us of a small town with a general store with a bait shop, but instead they were peddling chicken. We would eat fried chicken and drink beer as we watched the other bands play and WE got paid for it! While we had that job we knew we had it made, but it was sure nice while it lasted!
Tom Dedinas was a friend of a booking agent. They used to party on his yacht in Holland. This agent got us numerous jobs. One of those jobs was at a bar on South Division called Papa Joe’s. A woman kept threatening Kim with violence, telling him to turn down the volume level for the band, or else! The owner asked us to come back, but a weekend of that was enough for Kim and he refused to go back.
Another job was at Coral, Michigan, at a ski lodge. We had a friend named Chuck that would help us move the equipment and really enjoyed the band’s music, so he traveled with us for a while. That night, Chuck was high on something, and when we first started playing he was dancing all over and making up his own bizarre moves to the music. He was about the only one dancing, but the rest of the crowd was very unresponsive during the first set. After a while, almost everyone in the place was dancing and having fun, and Chuck was having the time of his life. We couldn’t believe the change in the mood of the crowd that night.
One night at practice on Clay Street, Iggie Pop of Iggie and the Stooges stopped by to hear us play, according to Tom Dedinas. Kim does not recall this but does not doubt it, because he would not have known who that was back then, and it would have meant nothing to him.
Looking back, the band truly had a great blend of rock and blues music. We did write a couple songs called Green Eyes and Peaches, but never recorded anything. We were content to be a band of very young performing musicians, playing for the fun of it.