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Blast From The Past

Blast from the past: Grand Rapids’ rock and pop legends to play Sunday mega-benefit (video, podcast)

The all-day We Do Care Charity Music Extravaganza will spotlight 16 of West Michigan’s music pioneers, including The Eschelons, The Quests, Johnny Boggs, Lyn & The Invaders and more.

Revisiting Rock's Heyday: We Do Care charity benefit organizer Kim Rush and singer-keyboard player Johnny Boggs, aka Jonathan B. (Photo/Anna Sinkevics)

Revisiting Rock’s Heyday: We Do Care charity benefit organizer Kim Rush and singer-keyboard player Johnny Boggs, aka Jonathan B. (Photo/Anna Sinkevics)


Playing the emerging rock ’n’ roll circuit as a teen in the early ’60s, Grand Rapids singer and keyboard player Johnny Boggs (aka Jonathan B.) figured he had really hit the jackpot.

“Gee, I can play music, get free Coca-Cola, get paid and dance with the girls,” he recalls. “That got me kind of hooked.”

So much so that Boggs made it a career for 18 years, cranking out rock and Top 40 pop music, crisscrossing Michigan and, eventually, North America, with bands such as Tom Carter & The Ramrods, The Rhythm Rockers, The Soundsations and Daze End, as well as playing as a solo act.

It’s a familiar tale for many budding stars during the heyday of the ’50 and ’60s music scene in the Grand Rapids area, a time when many acts – like The Quests, The Eschelons, Lin’ Nowicki, Ruth Ann Scott and more – scored regional hits and played nightclubs, dances, armories and pavilions for eager young audiences.

The Eschelons

The Eschelons

On Sunday, many of those bands will relive those heady times, re-creating their influential music during a day-long benefit featuring some acts who will reunite for the first time in decades.

Headed up, in part, by local music historian Kim Rush, the We Do Care Charity Music Extravaganza will take place from noon to 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Wyoming’s Knights of Columbus Hall, 5830 Clyde Park Ave. SW, raising funds for the Comstock Park-based We Do Care organization which aids families of children with cancer.

Rush, a musician who along with Doug Taylor has spearheaded the West Michigan Music Hysterical Society website that documents the history of the area’s music scene, said the all-day event “started out as a jam” but quickly blossomed into a full-fledged concert because bands started “coming out of the woodwork” offering to play.

Not only that, all the bands are donating their time for the cause. Admission to the show is free, but We Do Care will collect donations from concertgoers, with raffles and CD sales expected to boost fund-raising efforts. For more about this charity run by volunteers, visit its Facebook page.

“There are many musicians that will play at this concert that have been performing locally for many years and have deep and influential histories,” Rush said. “There should be music for most everyone to enjoy, although as you’d expect, these experienced musicians generally range in age from their mid-50s up to their 80s.”

And that means a dizzying mix of music: pop, jazz, Motown/R&B, doo wop, dance music and all variations of rock.

The Trace

The Trace

Starting with a reunion performance at noon by Bad Manor (which played the WLAV raft race in 1972), Sunday’s lineup includes: The Eschelons, The Trace, The Quests, Lin’ Otherlyn Nowicki, Ruth Ann Scott, Boggs (aka Jonathan B.), Mona and Kristi Sallie, Blues 101, The Hazz Benz, Lyn & The Invaders, The 6 Pak, The Knights, The Old Rangers with Joe McCargar, Ann Godfrey, The Larsen Brothers Band and The Steve Edge Band. Keith Seccombe of Me & Dem Guys and Big Al Vendetti of The Kingtones will serve as emcees.

“There have been and still are so many musicians in this area. It would literally take weeks of concerts to showcase a good portion of all of this talent,” noted Rush, who joked that the unpredictable nature of the jam-packed event makes it “like going to the Mystery Spot.”

He conceded there was “a willingness I did not expect” from bands eager to perform, making Sunday’s event a truly unique, one-time-only opportunity to catch iconic performers of the past on one stage. A cash bar and concessions will be available, with seating for up to 500 people.

For Boggs, Sunday’s show represents an opportunity to re-start his music career after about three years, with songs that now lean toward country and easy listening originals. As Jonathan B., he’s recorded numerous singles and four albums, and he played one of his songs, “Star-Studded Tennessee Night,” during this week’s Local Spins Live appearance on News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW). You can listen to a podcast of the show here and watch a video of his performance at the bottom of this post.

“I’m putting myself back on the market,” says Boggs, who started on accordion when he was 8 years old, joined the Ramrods rock band as a young teen playing dances across the state, and racked up his first nightclub gig at 17 (when he “wasn’t legal”) at the Shamrock in Grand Rapids.

He considers his “claim to fame” in Grand Rapids as his stint with Daze End in the late 1960s, playing six nights a week at the Parkway Tropics when it was a rock ’n’ roll club with go-go girls, not strippers.

And like many of those performing on Sunday, he’s excited about getting back on stage and giving West Michigan music lovers a taste of those days of yore.

Rush noted some musicians are traveling from as far away as Florida, Georgia and Ohio to play Sunday’s benefit.

“We didn’t have to twist anyone’s arm in order to get anyone to play,” he said. “The enthusiasm of the planning committee for this event has lifted this concert up and given it life.”

Jonathan B. (aka Johnny Boggs), ‘Star-Studded Tennessee Night,’ Local Spins Live (4:04)

Email John Sinkevics at jsinkevics@gmail.com.
Copyright 2013, Spins on Music

FS ~ 5/2/2013 – 5/5/2013

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