Mystery of the Flying Wedge

by Alina Simone with Gary Johnson

Alina Simone’s Madonnaland, was selected by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top Ten Music Books of 2016. It was also the very best Michigan rock and roll book of that year as it examined fame and its aftermath through the stories of its three main subjects: Madonna the most successful female recording artist in history; Question Mark and the Mysterians, a Mexican-American band known around the world for their # 1 hit “96 Tears”; and the Flying Wedge, a here-to-fore unknown band, that recorded one of the Michigan’s most mysterious and collectible 45s in 1972.

Simone’s account of the reluctance of Madonna’s hometown, Bay City, Michigan, to appropriately recognize one of the world’s most famous women and the reasons behind it is fascinating. The same goes for the city’s continued acceptance of a little-known song with racially insensitive lyrics as its official anthem rather than the chart-topping hit that was both written and recorded in Bay City in 1966.

But according to the reviewer in the New York Times, the highlight of Madonnaland was the final chapter which documented the author’s doggedness in pursuing the unusual story of one of Michigan rock and roll’s most curious recordings. Because of her persistence and ability to track down leads, Simone was finally able to get a handle on the four-decade-long mystery of the Flying Wedge; and her detective work would help lead to the rerelease of the band's rare single in 2017.

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Best Albums Of 2017: Two Views

For the 9th consecutive year, two music loving septuagenarians set out to prove that “you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll” by sharing what they consider to be the greatest albums of 2017.

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"5,000 Ways" Revisits Detroit's Glory Days

Although I confess that I wasn’t born in Detroit and I haven’t read many books about the city, I find it hard to believe that there could be a more beautiful and interesting publication on the market than 5,000 Ways You Know You’re From Detroit by Chris Edwards and Elaine Weeks. Subtitled Recollections & Images From The Baby Boomer Years, the 480-page coffee table book focuses on a 50-year period from roughly 1930 to 1980 when Detroit was thriving as one of the nation’s most important cities.

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Fats Domino: 25 Favorite Recordings

Antoine “Fats” Domino was one of my early rock and roll heroes. During my younger years in the 50's and early 60's, I purchased mostly singles. My record collection was dominated by the 78s and 45s of my favorite artists of the rock and roll’s first decade: Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly along with the Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and, of course, Fats Domino.

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Springsteen Pt. 5 - Born In The USA

During the year-long River Tour, Bruce Springsteen had become very interested in America's history; a subject that he said bored him in school. He read several acclaimed books on the topic that seemed to hold some of the essential pieces to a question he was posing in some of his songs; what does it mean to be an American?

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Rick Nelson Pt. 4: "The Crash"

In 1976 Rick Nelson’s new manager, Greg McDonald, landed him a new recording contract with Epic Records. He also learned from the Nelson family’s longtime representatives that Rick was in financial trouble. McDonald discovered that Rick’s music career with the Stone Canyon Band had actually lost money over the years and he was nearly broke.

Despite not earning, Rick’s family had an extravagant lifestyle: enjoying expensive vacations, buying sports cars, extensive renovations to homes, and reckless spending by both Rick and Kris. Neither had much financial sense, purchases were always paid for by business managers. Rick didn’t even write a check until he was in his 40’s.

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Rick Nelson Pt. 3: "Stone Canyon Days"

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the genre known as country rock began. During rock and roll’s first decade, recordings by country artists including Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Marty Robbins, to name just a few, were regularly found on Billboard’s Hot 100. That seemed to change somewhat after the British Invasion, but the Beatles had recorded a number of country covers including Carl Perkins’ “Honey Don’t” and Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally”, as well as original compositions like “I’ll Cry Instead”, and “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” as early as 1964. In 1966, the Rolling Stones included their first country song, “High and Dry”, on the Aftermath album. That same year, Bob Dylan recorded almost the entire Blonde on Blonde album in Nashville, using some of country music’s top studio musicians.

Rick Nelson’s two country music albums, Bright Lights and Country Music from 1966 and Country Fever from 1967 would seem to have put him at the cutting edge, but that was not the case. Rick was no longer part of the music mainstream, and neither of the albums charted. His only glimpse of success from his country music experiment was his cover of Doug Kershaw’s “Louisiana Man”. The single reached # 76 on Billboard’s Country Music Chart, but the credit for being one of the originators of country rock would, for the most part, go to others.

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