He has a voice that sounds as if it’s been marinated in whiskey, scraped by coarse-grade sandpaper, and exposed night after night to the last-call lingering smoke of crowded bars. Which is to say, Mitch Ryder has the perfect pipes for his signature melding of rhythm & blues with rock ’n’ roll, evidenced by his feral wail in “Devil with a Blue Dress On” or the raw grit of “Long Neck Goose.” The Hamtramck-born, Warren-bred singer’s career is documented in It Was All Right: Mitch Ryder’s Life in Music, by James A. Mitchell (Wayne State University Press, $24.95).
Unlike a conventional bio, it focuses on Ryder’s musical vocation, one fraught with several peaks, but far too many valleys. After hitting it big at age 20 with the hard-driving “Jenny Take a Ride,” followed by “Devil,” and the sexually explosive “Sock It to Me — Baby,” Ryder’s career floundered. First, there was the dissolution of his band, the Detroit Wheels, then came misguided management. The singer became so disgusted with the music industry that he worked in a Colorado warehouse for five years. The book also chronicles Ryder’s modest comeback, including a John Mellencamp-produced album and success in Germany. But no matter the dip in fame, the guy born William Levise Jr. in 1945 remains a Detroit original.