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Mt. Pleasant – Force was a 4-piece hard rock band based out of Mt Pleasant Michigan that evolved from the earlier 5-piece band Phoenix. Counting the early days when the members were students at CMU, Force spanned nearly a decade from 1973 to 1982 with the last few years touring heavily as a support band for national acts under the management of Warren Wyatt.

Force Poster

FORCE band members:

  • Bobby Friss (Guitar, vocals)
  • Skeeter (Shelly) Ferrell (Drums)
  • Tommy Minelli (Guitar, vocals)
  • Brian (Budman) Budzinski (Bass, vocals)

Former band members:

  • John Baker (Bass, vocals)
  • Greg Beeman (Keys, vocals)
  • George Blanz (Keys, vocals)
  • Dave Wilk (Keys, vocals)
  • Bill Greening (Keys, vocals)

The History:

Force lived and rehearsed in an old abandoned church in Mt Pleasant that became well known as a party house and musician hangout. The band built a strong following and was known for a very ambitious live performance, a wall of white Marshall stacks, heavy production and pyrotechnics. The band was in high demand at the leading Michigan clubs during those years and enjoyed playing the Tanz Haus, Silver Dollar, The Wayside, West Bank, Danny J’s, Russo’s, Paulo’s, The Rafters, The Coral Gables, The Rock Saloon, The Heaven club, 300 Bowl, The Main Act, The Whitehouse, The Playground, The Creek Saloon and many others. By the late 70’s a shift toward songwriting brought new opportunities to showcase for record labels and attracted the attention of Michigan super-talent (Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Kiss, Aerosmith) Dick Wagner who stepped in as the band’s producer as well as co-writing material with the band’s frontman Bobby Friss. Endorsements from BC Rich guitars and Electrovoice speakers soon followed. In 1980 an EP was recorded in Boston with Wagner at the helm but failed to get record label attention. The following year guitar ace Pat Travers heard the band and offered to take over the production duties and another 8 songs were tracked at Triiad Studios in Ft Lauderdale. The band continued a relentless touring schedule of over 300 dates a year throughout the Midwest, South, Canada and Eastern Seaboard states including a showcase at The Ritz in New York City as they evolved into a headliner in small to medium size venues as well as an opening act at civic centers and arenas with Eddie Money, Hall and Oates, Joan Jett, Pat Travers, Molly Hatchet, Three Dog Night, Survivor, Canned Heat, Blackfoot and others. Despite the band’s popularity the frustration of never signing with a major record label along with the fatigue of touring led the band to call it quits in late 1982, possibly at the most successful point in their career. The original four members reunited once in 2000 to play a fundraiser for an injured fan and fellow musician Ed Baird and a large crowd turned out at Mt Pleasant’s “The Wayside” bar to see the show. 

The Aftermath:

All four bandmates have continued to stay in contact over the years. Bobby Friss has enjoyed a very successful solo career after forming a new band with ex-Blindman’s Bluff members and ex-Pat Travers guitarist Jerry Riggs.  Skeeter Ferrell and Brian “Budman” Budzinski reunited to tour with Lansing based band “Brat!” through the 80’s and Tommy Minelli bought a Mt Pleasant bar and music venue “Rubbles” where he continues to play with his own band. 

Force 1

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Force Concert















3 Responses to Force

  1. Mark Lippert says:

    I’m trying to catalog my hundreds of concert tickets. Doing ok, but I’ve got a torn ticket from a Head East Show that I think Force warmed up for. March 10, 1980. Anyone have any idea of the location? Memory pretty fuxxy from those days 🙂

  2. Skeeter (Shelly) Ferrell says:

    Hey Bob! I was the drummer for Force, and it’s predecessor “Phoenix”, from 1973 to 1982. We played the Creek a lot, that was a great room.
    There is a fun Facebook page dedicated to the band’s travels and our members, it’s called “Phoenix, Force, Bobby Friss Band and Beyond”. Hope you join our page, you’ll see a lot of old pictures, tour itineraries, etc!

  3. Bob says:

    Did you guys play the Creek in Big Rapids in 1977-78? One of my finest memories as the band opened up with Head East, Never been any reason.

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