People got the power

Nov 19, 2008 at 12:00 am

The plan was quite simple: Name the top 50 (or in this case, two more for extra measure) people who gave — or are giving — shape to the current Detroit music scene. Similar annual lessons have been around for years, but most of them tend to focus on "power" in sheer financial terms, as a recent Vanity Fair piece demonstrated. But, hell, the music biz imploded years before the Big Three did, so dollars-and-cents probably mean less now than they ever did. Our contention is that there are also humbler shakers who have enormous impact on local music scenes. We think of power also in terms of creativity, historical significance and impact. Synonyms for the word "power" in the dictionary include authority, clout and control, none of which actually mean the same thing — so impact is ultimately the key.

We polled a few people and this is simply the list we came up with, following a little thinking. It's hardly definitive, aside from being definitively subjective. A lot of names are obviously missing; some may have never crossed our minds; we'd love to hear suggestions or complaints. There were few criteria, although some names were no-brainers. We first decided they had to still live in Detroit ... but that got squashed real fast. We had room for only several artists — it's really hard to whittle it down to 50, uh 52 — so a lot of worthy artists who've helped a lot of other local bands got left off in the end. Iggy Pop still represents Detroit... but he really doesn't have any roots here anymore; ditto Berry Gordy, etc. Russ Gibb would have certainly been here years ago but this is not really a historical list, though it's definitely rock-pop-centric, probably at the expense of a few other genres. Gospel superstar Fred Hammond was on ... and then off ... because no one ended up writing about him. So, again, in the end, it all boils down to impact as a small group of random voters see it.

Lists like this are kinda silly, actually — but, hey, we got the power ... — Bill Holdship


Edward "Punch" Andrews might merit a place on this list even without the Bob Seger association, thanks to his helping give Detroit's first garage era a kick-start with his legendary teen club, the Hideout (also a small label). But when Seger auditioned for Andrews in 1964, it led to a relationship that continues to this day, with Andrews directing every single facet of Seger's career, taking the artist from the small time to superstardom. Some have suggested the two seem almost joined at the hip — and they do have an uncanny connection, with Seger free to pursue his art from Day One. Five full-time employees manage the biz of being Seger at Andrews' longtime Birmingham offices, from handling music publishing to holding Capitol Records accountable for catalog sales. The east side native has turned down other artists over the years — J. Geils and Diana Ross among them — though he did manage the Rockets, Grand Funk Railroad (during their late '90s "comeback" tour), and, most famously, Kid Rock, who parted company with Andrews the day his last album hit No. 1. A spokesperson says the association was never meant to be long term, that the goal was to build Rock's touring audience base over the eight years they worked together (mission accomplished), and that the pair parted amicably. Besides, administering the Seger catalog is a full-time job in and of itself for the man who's also served as producer on most of Seger's world-famous recordings.


Do the trends follow Greg Baise or does Greg Baise follow the trends? Based on the last two decades of his career as a promoter, record store clerk, writer, gadfly and DJ, let's just say that the dude has his finger on the pulse of the underground (and the bubbling-over), and his continued presence on the Detroit music scene is a vital link, keeping our fair city connected to an outside world of wild and woolly musical ideas. Simply put, from his earliest days in the early '90s championing obscure bands at long-lost joints like Zoot's Coffee and Ypsi's Green Room, to his days of injecting adventure into the community as the booker of the Majestic Theatre, straight through to his current tenure of capturing the zeitgeist as a booker at Pontiac's Crofoot, one sees a throughline of true enthusiasm and passion. And as his DJ alter-ego Alpha Soixante, Baise occasionally holds court on the turntables, spinning his fave jams for welcome ears at joints around the city (and, for a time, online at too). To sum it up, if Baise didn't exist, the scene would have needed to invent him.


It's not a stretch to say that, without the production team of the Bass brothers (aka FBT, aka the Funky Bass Brothers), the Eminem phenomenon would've never found its voice. From those earliest indie releases on, the Bass duo was there to help Mathers find his sound. By the time they heard Mathers freestyling on a JLB open-mic spot a decade ago, they were already the de facto in-house production team for Michgander-via-the Planet Funkenstein, George Clinton, taking and applying that funky know-how to Em. They've been with him ever since (even as Dr. Dre has taken much of the production spotlight), scoring Grammys, handling the publishing for some of Em's music and parlaying the resources and attention they've garnered into their own record label, Web Entertainment, which has produced slabs of jams by the brutal horror-core rapper King Gordy as well as revived the recording career of '80s power-pop maestros, the Romantics.


Even though he's young, Black Milk (born Curtis Cross) is just as well-versed in the beginnings of the Detroit rap scene as he is in its future. Getting his start under the tutelage of the late Detroit super-producer J Dilla, the twentysomething learned firsthand what helped establish the city's trademark hip-hop sound: dusty soul samples, interpolations from funk records and hard-hitting drums. After placing beats with such local rap legends as Slum Village and Phat Kat, he started his own career as an emcee to further complement his beat-making abilities. These days, Black is still selling beats to his fellow Detroiters (Elzhi, Slum Village, Royce Da 5'9", Fat Ray), but his clientele has grown to include such multiplatinum-selling stars as Lloyd Banks and Busta Rhymes, highly regarded rap veterans like Pharaohe Monch and GZA (of Wu-Tang Clan), and a slew of others. And though he's still cognizant of his Detroit roots, with his new album Tronic, Black looks to keep the city's — and hip hop's — sound moving forward by adding synthy, futuristic elements to its already proven formula. With his feet planted in the D, but with a wingspan that spreads internationally, Black Milk is taking hip hop back to the future.


Bill Blackwell met Punch Andrews during the summer of 1973, while working as a bouncer at a nightclub. Andrews hired Blackwell to work on getting Bob Seger airplay for "Beautiful Loser" and then to promote a concert on the campus of Michigan State University, where Blackwell served as the head of the university's Pop Entertainment. More than three decades later, Blackwell is still promoting Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band concerts throughout North America as a tour manager. He's also worked with Punch on the Rockets, Grand Funk Railroad and Kid Rock projects. Today, Blackwell also runs Blackbird Productions, a concert promotion and merchandising company. The merchandising division manages concert merchandise sales in 18 different venues throughout the Midwest. "If you look back at our management roster over the last 35 years — Seger, Grand Funk, the Rockets and Kid Rock," he says, "it's a fantasy lineup that I would proudly take into any battle of the bands."


It's been 15 years since the saxophonist became a jazz world sensation with the domestic release of his JC on the Set. In the intervening years, he's a) rarely been without a big label release, b) never been far from the jazz world spotlight, c) never lost his roots in his hometown, and d) almost always given fellow Detroiters a major spot on the bandstand and in the studio. His latest release, Present Tense (Emarcy), ought to boost jazz world awareness of Detroit trumpeter Dwight Adams, as past releases gave platforms to Craig Taborn, Tanni Tabal, Jaribu Shahid and Larry Smith, among others. When he's not on the road, world-traveling jazz star Carter is often to be found hanging out and jamming with the hometown cats.


The Belleville Three (Atkins, May and Saunderson) may have gotten there first in the 1980s — but it's second-waver Carl Craig who makes Detroit Techno a sustainable force in the worldwide dance-music community (as well as continuing to make D-town his home). He produces and spins tracks for the clubs, sure, but he does something rarely attempted in this scene: he makes fucking daringly authentic music, man. Craig has brought jazz, rock, dub and modern classical influences into his productions better than anyone who ever jacked the house with a stack of vinyl, a synth or midi controller. His newest project, a collaboration with Berlin icon Moritz von Oswald, is an ambitious recomposition of music by 19th and 20th century classicists Ravel and Mussorgsky. He recently brought together surviving members of Detroit's Tribe (Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Phil Ranelin) to revisit the space odyssey the group launched in the early 1970s. Respect for C2 is global; his creative trajectory, now approaching 20 years and counting, still rising. Play on, brother!


They seem to write more about national acts coming to the city than they do the local scene, with the exception of the Detroit News' Whitall, whose beat includes local radio and all things Motown Records. Nevertheless, despite the lessened impact daily newspapers may have in this era of the Internets (much to our chagrin), all four of these individuals do wield power as music reporters at dailies in one of the nation's largest cities.


Over the last 12 years, exactly how many bands have schlepped their gear up and down the stairs and freight elevator leading to the former chicken processing plant now occupied by Jim Diamond's Ghetto Recorders? And how would the late '90s and early '00s jams that spread Detroit's rock rep far and wide been enabled without the disheveled Greek Buddha presence of Diamond behind the boards, capturing it all on his trusty reel-to-reel? For a good chunk of time, when you asked a musician at, say, the Magic Stick or Lager House where they were recording, the simplest answer was usually just: "Diamond's." Just like "Ford's." It's fair to say the dude should be co-credited, alongside a handful of others — such as Jack White, Mick Collins and Dan Kroha, Matt Smith, John Szymanski and Tim Purrier, and Steve Shaw and Jeff Meier — as architects of the Detroit "garage rock" sound. And although a high-profile royalties court case with the White Stripes may have left him off some scenesters' Christmas card lists, Diamond still does a brisk business, capturing the raw and cooked sounds of bands from everywhere from Brooklyn to Seattle, as well as discerning locals who dig the relaxed warehouse homeyness of the studio, the one-on-one attention Diamond offers, and the downtown vibe that Ghetto Recorders embodies.


Jack White may have played Elvis Presley in a movie, but Eminem is the Detroiter who's been most compared to the King of Rock during his career, thanks to his excelling in a genre that was once the domain of black folks. Proving there can be much more to white hip hop than Vanilla Ice or even the Beastie Boys, the man born Marshall Mathers is one of the highest-selling rappers of all time, having sold more than 80 million albums worldwide. And years before Detroit became a new hub for motion picture production, Eminem insisted that his semiautobiographical film, 8 Mile, be filmed right here in the city he calls home and has always celebrated via his music. In the process, he won an Oscar for his song, "Lose Yourself," in 2003 — which he added to his slew of Grammys. And, like Kid Rock, he's employed a ton of people from Detroit to work for him, while making many other Detroiters world famous, be it beat-maker Paradime, musician Luis Resto (who was part of the Oscar team for co-writing "Lose Yourself"), his late mentor Proof or Steve King, whose 54 Studios in Ferndale is now known internationally, thanks to Em's work there. He heads his own Shady record label, his own SIRIUS radio station and numerous other entrepreneurial ventures. He heads a charity to give back to disadvantaged kids in the Detroit community. And he remains a true star. Four years away from the pop scene is like an eternity these days — but Eminem has returned with a new autobiography and an upcoming album, Relapse, that already has the industry buzzing. In fact, VIBE magazine just named him "The Best Rapper Alive." And when he headlined Ford Field right before going on hiatus, then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick filmed a special introduction for the superstar ... though we're betting that won't happen again! Still, that's clout! What we like best, though, is that despite all the potshots he's taken from within the city, he remains a loyal defender and champion of Detroit to this day. If we'd ranked this list, Eminem would surely be No. 1 and we'd have probably named him "Powerbroker of the Year."


As the Detroit area's go-to pedal-steel guitar player and a member of local alt-country heroes Blanche, Feeny is part of the area's musical elite. But what really puts him on this list is his role as owner of Tempermill Studios, which is responsible for a long run of terrific recordings, as well as his main manning the launch of Gangplank Records and new indie recordings by the aforementioned Blanche, American Mars, the Friendly Foes and Sunshine Doray. And his co-production credit (with Jack White) on Loretta Lynn's last Grammy-winning LP brought him national prominence.


His nearly 50-artist roster includes at least one granddad of the folk circuit, Tom Paxton, and plenty of the righteous younger generation epitomized by Ani DiFranco. They're mostly in the United States, but also in England, Ireland, Australia and Wales. They've got Jeff Daniels (for concert gigs), not to mention hardcore hero Eddie From Ohio and Detroit's rocking Hard Lessons. But folk is where the roots are, and in 1995, Billboard said of Fleming Artists' predecessor, Fleming-Tamulevich & Associates: "It is the Big Kids on the Block. It not only understands [the modern folk market] better than anyone else, it helped invent it." Founded in 1978 by Fleming, a college administrator-turned-entrepreneur, the group now handles about 2,500 gigs a year with a staff of nine in Ann Arbor, plus a one-man office in Australia. Meanwhile, David Tamulevich, part of the organization from 1982 until about five years ago, remains a heavy-hitter; based in Ann Arbor, he's an agent and vice president for the Root Agency, whose roster includes Arlo Guthrie, the Chieftains and others.


The real Queen of Soul (eat your heart out, Tina!) seems to be the butt of too many mean-spirited jokes these days, due to her size (which she good-naturedly poked fun at by covering Mariah Cary's "Touch my Body" during a recent concert). But when it comes to genuine local legends still representing the Motor City and still residing in Detroit, she takes the cake. An eternal symbol of this city's soul, R&B and gospel stranglehold, Aretha can still sell out theaters and arenas from Los Angeles to New York City in no time (especially since those appearances can be sparse due to her fear of flying). She recently placed No. 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's "Greatest Singers of the Rock Era" list, beating out both Ray Charles and Elvis. And you can bet she'll be one of the performers at President Obama's inauguration gala (just as she was for President Clinton's). In fact, Lady Soul recently donated $10,000 to help out a local high school choir that's been invited to Washington, D.C., to perform for the new president during inauguration week and she expressed a desire to perform with the group while there. Martha Reeves may have the local political clout when it comes to soul divas, but when it comes to musical power, the queen still rules.


When someone gets to the point in their career where they're mostly known by an acronym, you know they're a potent brand. Such is certainly the case with Brendan M. Gillen — aka BMG. One measure of power is the connective tissue that an artist or entrepreneur provides to his music community. When that person is a label owner, radio personality, writer and acclaimed electronic artist (the latter is as one-half and founding member of the recording duo Ectomorph), then you got yourself a walking, talking nexus. Because he's been releasing Ectomorph records and unleashing the best and brightest of electro on an unsuspecting world with his Interdimensional Transmissions record label for the past decade, he's bridged the gap between the second wave of Detroit techno to the global diaspora that it birthed. Plus, homeboy recently moved from his longtime home in Ann Arbor to a new palace in Detroit, thus further solidifying the I-94 techno-jam love connection. Many are the roads leading back to BMG. We're lucky to have him in the mix.


The modest Mr. Handyside hemmed and hawed when informed he made this list and even strongly suggested he should be removed. And as a former MT music editor and a current columnist (writing a very important local column), his inclusion may seem incestuous. But as the original founder of the Blowout festival (along with Brian Boyle, now publisher of Model D) and a local rock historian (who knows where the bodies are buried and how to find the skeletons in the closet), how could we possibly leave him off? Plus, he's known, respected and even loved by almost everyone on the local scene (though we'd love him even more if he was better with those damn deadlines!), with the possible exception of one Mr. White. But he doesn't live here anymore, so who cares?


The 58-year-old Detroit native is probably the best-known entertainment lawyer in town, although he started his career as a public defender before hooking up with novelist Elmore Leonard, his first showbiz client, whom he met through his law partner, Brad Schram. When he began repping local producers Mark & Jeff Bass (see above), it led to a relationship with one Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem; one of Hertz's most visible and well-documented cases was a lawsuit involving the rap superstar and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit to block five Internet companies from selling Eminem ringtones online. A founder of the Motor City Music Foundation and that group's annual awards, Hertz's client roster includes artists, producers, record labels, managers and songwriters. If that weren't already enough, he also manages several local bands and artists, including MT faves the Go.


Earning his entrepreneurial stripes as an underground promoter in the DIY raver scene of the 1990s, Jason Huvaere (and his cohorts from Paxahau) built a party empire the old-fashioned way: by developing solid relationships with artists in North America and Europe, professional, efficient events programming, and, most importantly, an intuitive grasp on making the dance floor experience fun for everyone. Huvaere's 21st century business model is as practical as it is savvy. Most Paxahau events are $5, sending a message that experiencing globally rich artistry does not need to be unaffordable. Yes, the Movement Festival, successfully promoted and programmed by Paxahau since 2006, now costs $40 for a weekend pass. But, c'mon, that's more than fair considering you get to see more than 70 local and international performers over a three-day period. Huvaere and Paxahau are also involved in new-economy and creative-class initiatives in Detroit, lending their talents to retooling the cultural landscape. Hell, yes to all of the above, dude(s); keep the bodies rocking.


Forget that she's an expert emcee — arguably the finest one in the country at the moment (hear her DIY debut album, ShapeShifters) — and the fact she does generous favors on an international level for fellow Detroit musicians. No, what you need to know is how Invincible (born Alana Weaver) contributes to the greater good of Detroit and its youth through hip hop and literature. The woman successfully and selflessly mentors kids through the nonprofit group, Detroit Summer, using hip hop in particular as a way to question authority, resist oppression and create change — both personally and as a community. Her success stories with inner-city kids are stacking up, and beyond that, she takes her messages of creating community and change to places as far away as California prisons and the West Bank.


The Jankowski brothers have run the I-Rock nightclub on Harper, one of the best hard rock clubs in the country, for 20 years. Along with brother Adam, the Jankowskis originally opened the bar as a rehearsal space for their band, American Jam, but the spot soon evolved into a club with one of the finest sound systems anywhere. Not only that, but the I-Rock features a memorabilia collection on its walls that could make the Hard Rock Café and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame green with envy. Says Bob Seger sax man Alto Reed: "[It's] the bar that was built by musicians for rock 'n' rollers in the Motor City."


Chris Johnston is a walking example of how an earnest investment of time, enthusiasm and intellect can transform a community. Though he might not swing the kind of weight in the scene that a high-powered lawyer or booking agent might, the co-owner of Woodward Avenue Brewers, the Emory and the upcoming Loving Touch pool hall in Ferndale has created a critical density along Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, to which rockers, artists and creative folk of all stripes flock. More than that, the former guitarist of Lansing alt-rockers 19 Wheels has put his money where his heart is in two critical categories: a) He's the manager of the perennially touring, hardest-working band in Detroit, the Hard Lessons, and b) he's a major prime mover behind the recent smashing success of Ferndale's DIY Fest, which brought together artists, craftspeople, musicians and locally made beers for one whopping good confluence of the creative class in this here town. And, for what it's worth, his wife Krista is behind the recent spate of arresting "Slow" lawn signs that have popped up along the side streets of northwest Ferndale too. With the Johnstons, apparently, it's all for the kids.


Call him a neo-soulman, hip hop's answer to Al Jarreau, "modern Motown" — but definitely call him ambitious. Once homeless, Kem Owens graduated to waiting tables and singing at weddings, eventually financing his debut release, 2002's Kemistry — subsequently picked up by Motown and reissued — which went gold. Album II was followed by a 20-city tour featuring American Idol's Fantasia as an opening act. Kem remains based in the Detroit area (he may be Lathrup Village's biggest star), with local management. He tours extensively, employs a hometown band and crew, and, we're told, makes a point of pulling his wardrobe from local boutiques. And when he's not on the road making music, he's often on the road as a motivational speaker, making an example of his own rags-to-riches saga. Expectations are high for a third release in 2009.


Love him or hate him, the man born Bob Richie 37 years ago in Romeo is one of the three most famous faces currently representing the latest wave of hit music from Detroit. After all, the dude's sold 25 million records! He's also one of the greatest musical genre-straddlers of today; he, of course, started out as a rock-rapper, but is currently scheduled to be one of the headliners at next spring's Stagecoach Festival in California (the country version of Coachella). He even seems to have some "political clout" — it was reported that Sarah Palin and one of John McCain's daughters bonded over their admiration of the Kid's music — and he's of course campaigned for both McCain and Bush (every generation has its own Ted Nugent, we suppose, even if Bob likes to think he has more in common with Bob Seger, whom he inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame several years ago). Plus, he employs a shitload of Detroiters in this bad economy, and even recently started a Wayne State University scholarship in his own name, which he's funding via his clothing line. The Kid also continues to celebrate all things Detroit (his latest video famously explores downtown landmarks), although some have questioned his loyalty since — following a local interview in which he stated he'd never sign with an out-of-state agency — he parted ways with longtime manager Punch Andrews the very day his new Rock 'N' Roll Jesus hit No. 1 on the charts and signed with a Nashville firm.


When planning this list, we ruled that MT staffers were ineligible. Thus, Eve's inclusion here may raise a few eyebrows ... but the plain fact is that she's not an official staffer and she absolutely needs to be on any such list. After six years with the MT editorial department, the Royal Oak native (who's spent the majority of her adult life in Detroit and Hamtramck) left to form Norwegian Blue, a boutique PR firm that counts Hi-Fi Hand Grenades, Dan Miller and downtown Hamtramck (!) among its clients. But what really puts her on the list of local powerbrokers is her role as current producer-booker of our own Blowout Music Festival. Come the winter months and damn near every musician in the vicinity wants to be Ms. Doster-Knepp's "friend." Plus, she knows more about the local scene and its history — especially the late '90s garage rock explosion — than almost anyone we know, which always makes her a valuable resource.


Cincinnati native Chris Koltay is the kind of dude who, were the city realistic about its promotional materials, would be on a poster for Detroit. A devout music fan, he loved the sounds coming out of Detroit at the turn of the millennium. Knowing he had skills at recording and bringing out the best in bands, he saw a niche in a Detroit music scene that was a wee bit balkanized at the time, bought a cheap joint in an up-and-coming neighborhood, fixed it up as a labor of love, craft and money, and hung a shingle outside. He promptly began making friends via his gregarious attitude, while influencing people with the recordings he was making. Koltay's High Bias Studios sits across the street from Corktown hotspot LJ's (oh, and that little barbecue restaurant; what's its name again?). Early in his tenure there, one could find him mingling at the bar where he'd spy an errant musician nursing a Bud. Koltay would then move in and insist that said musician check out his studio. His enthusiasm was irresistible. So, now, three years into his experiment, it's a compliment to both his networking and production skills that his CV now merits remarks such as "He's the new Jim Diamond" from downtown musicians. And that CV includes records by such stalwarts and up-and-comers as the Rescue, SSM, Magic Shop, Lee Marvin Computer Arm, Daniel Johnson and many others.


Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., Live Nation — which formed in 2005 as a spin-off of Clear Channel Communications — is a powerful force in any major city, and Detroit is no different. These are the folks responsible for bringing all the big (and even some of the smaller "hip") shows to the community. The organization's Detroit operations are headed by Clark, VP of marketing North Central, who oversees all the marketing for Michigan, Ohio and Indiana (and who played a helluva drum kit in the Dave Clark Five — we kid, we kid!), Frank, who does all the club and theater marketing for the area, and Franks (like Bill Blackwell, he's another former head of MSU's Pop Entertainment), president of North Central, who's termed the "Big Kahuna" by associates and is responsible for booking all of the really big shows — Springsteen, Madonna, Coldplay, etc. — into the sheds and arenas.


Harpos Concert Theatre is one of the best metal clubs in the nation, and has been for eons now. A classic movie palace built in 1939, it was converted into a nightclub in the '70s and quickly became the local venue of choice for hard rockers, ranging from Rory Gallagher to the black metal groups. McCausland has owned and booked the large room since the early '90s. As a result, he probably has more clout with local headbangers and thrashers than almost anyone else in the Motor City.


Tally Hall, the first official signing on Ann Arbor's Quack! Media, was recently featured on a business video blog, which claimed that the A2 quintet is "re-inventing the music business." No small claim, to be sure. Tally Hall is now making money for Atlantic Records, but the outfit's guileless "We're business-savvy showpeople! Let's put on a show!" attitude springs from its heritage as part of the Quack! media hothouse, which sprang from the creative energy and business acumen of founder Al McWilliams. Since founding Quack! in 2003, primarily as a video production house, McWilliams has since gone on to blur the lines between media — Quack! is truly multimedia, signing and releasing music, videos and promotional product from a west side-centric talent pool that's a who's-who of the current musical landscape, including the Great Lakes Myth Society, the Hard Lessons and — in what might be his greatest coup, music-scene-wise — the entire Suburban Sprawl label. With the Sub Sprawl move alone, he provided the resources for a gang of talented and creative kids — who had previously made-do with DIY resources and tip money — to record, release, distribute and, most importantly, promote some of the Detroit area's best indie exports. Recently notable releases by bands like Javelins, Child Bite and Pop Project have created a reason to celebrate that has, in turn, had an energizing ripple effect on Suburban Sprawl-friendly outfits like New Grenada, Friendly Foes and other collections of folks who make the kids swoon. So, let's take a moment to pay a little attention to the man behind the curtain, shall we?


There was a time it seemed like almost every person in Detroit was in a band or at least knew somebody in a band. These days, almost everyone has a blog. These run from really good to mundane, from helpful to hideous (Lenny Bruce who?), from self-worthy to self-entitled to self-indulgent (a fave is the guy who took an out-of-context shot at one of our reviews for being narcissistic — without actually using that word — following a post about his bowel habits, later followed by a photo of his bare, black-and-blue, 350-pound butt following a fall). But we live in an era in which every single thought simply must be expressed instantaneously, no matter how profound or hateful — and it's the smarmy anonymous (as in cowardly) comments everywhere these days that are lowering the bar on genuine discourse. Some of these sites do have impact, though, by fostering a scene. Sometimes the tastes may be questionable, and unsubstantiated rumors get printed as fact. But tries hard to list every gig by every Detroit rock band, while filtering area gossip. And Deastro, at least, owes much of his local rise to two of the seemingly most popular bloggers, who've recently teamed up to create, though technical difficulties have plagued its early history thus far.


It's dudes like Steve Nawara who give the word "scene" a good name. The man — once simply known as Disco during his days holding down the low end in the Wildbunch-Electric Six — has gone on to establish his own name as a player doing and keeping time in such core rock city outfits as Rocket 455 and the Detroit Cobras. Last year, he and a few like-minded friends started the country-blue-rock 'n' roll-awesome outfit, the Magic Shop, which is releasing its debut 45 on the resuscitated Italy Records label this month. In a musical community that can sometimes get a wee bit jaded and a wee bit balkanized, Nawara has been a beacon of agnostic Switzerland-like optimism, impeccable musical taste and leadership in the Detroit music scene and beard-growing community. That connectivity and optimism led him to take a stab at starting a record label — and an online-only record label (at first) at that! The Beehive Recording Company — the label and home studio Nawara founded a couple years ago — has released jams by artists as diverse as blues-rockers Cuckold and cheeky rap-ironist esQuire. All that's great, but perhaps nothing encapsulates the Nawara zeitgeist as concisely as the jams he spins weekly at Corktown's LJ's lounge under the moniker DJ Anytime & his Incredible Pop Machine. Far from the hard-bitten rock you might expect from someone with his onstage CV, Nawara gathers scenesters, hipsters and other-sters like flies to honey, with a mix of pop gems, left-field bubblegum, dance music and whatever the hell else he feels like playing. Every Wednesday, Nawara assures that LJ's is the place you need to be. Now that's power.


The Troy-based entertainment lawyer's name may be a tad less known locally than Howard Hertz's — but Novak has no less clout when it comes to representing the stars. The Wayne State Law School graduate represents a wide range of talents, including Bob Seger, Ted Nugent (he's probably already earned a spot in heaven having to deal with that one!), Kid Rock and WRIF 101.1 FM radio hosts Drew & Mike. Novak reps producers, venues and radio talent, both here and nationwide, and as the lawyer of record for the original Paxahau Promotions Group when that company founded the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (which evolved into Movement), his clout expands beyond just the rock and radio markets.


Amid the constant ebb and flow of incoming freshmen from around the country that refresh the Ann Arbor music scene every year, it's hard to sort the tourists from the tenured, the goonies from the townies. It's no problem to start up a band with a bunch of dudes from Oakland, Calif., Long Island or Brooklyn, N.Y., and then settle into a New York City loft when you've graduated. It's quite the other thing to stick around town and become part of the culture. So it is that Jeremy and Brian Peters of Quite Scientific have broken through the clutter of "me-too" to form an organic record label, releasing the works of local talents. It's a label born from passion and purpose. And it's a label that gives a shit about its aesthetics, packaging, distribution and, naturally and primarily, the music. The boys behind Quite Scientific have, over the course of just a couple of years, established a track record that has led them to New York's massive CMJ festival, as well as accolades and kudos from an ever-growing legion of fans and supporters. And they've done it by sticking to their mission statement of only putting out jams they really, truly care about, made by artists they love even outside the studio. Idealistic? Yep. Admirable? You betcha! Long may they experiment.


As the longtime promoter of the Bohemian National Home, Peterson has brought avant-garde jazz, rock, noise pop and experimental music to the Detroit area that the city may have otherwise missed out on, ranging from a reunited Mission of Burma to nationally renowned pianist Matthew Shipp. For the past three years, his Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music has been an annual "don't miss" event for those seeking more adventurous sounds. Due to a disagreement with his business partner, the 35-year-old Peterson — an excellent avant-garde bassist in his own right — was forced to stop booking shows at the official Bohemian Home, proper. But he simply moved his shows to the CAID and other venues without missing a beat.


Detroit is still a very important market for breaking national acts — and WRIF remains a powerhouse in that arena. Thus, as RIFF's program director, in addition to hosting his own popular midday on-air show, Podell, aka "The Doc of Rock," is a human powerhouse with clout that extends far outside the city. A longtime veteran of Detroit radio, the east side Detroit native also remains a big fan of the local scene, giving various D- town acts a boost on his station for decades now.


Big, free, outdoor music fests in the Detroit area can trace their roots to the Montreux-Detroit International Jazz Festival's 1980 kickoff. To survive against the competition it sired, the granddad fest has had to reinvent itself several times. In recent years, Carhartt clothing heir Gretchen Valade bailed the festival out financially, and former exec director Frank Malfitano repositioned it geographically to expand beyond the confines of Hart Plaza. Since 2007, exec director Pontremoli has reinvigorated the jazz component and scaled back the nonjazz offerings from mega-acts like Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin to the more compatible likes of Bettye LaVette and the Derek Trucks Band. A former classical violinist, she learned the festival ropes with Tri-C Jazz Festival (in her hometown of Cleveland) before joining the Detroit fest staff in 2005.


While his production style isn't as easily traceable to what's widely considered Detroit's trademark sound, Denaun Porter — widely known as "Mr. Porter" — is still one of the city's most important and successful beat makers. He got his start crafting quirky soundbeds for his groupmates in the Eminem-led D12, but after producing the infectious "P.I.M.P." single from 50 Cent's seminal 2003 album Get Rich or Die Tryin', the floodgates would open. Known as a versatile go-to option for both gritty or playful beats and a catchy chorus (whether it's rap or sung) to match, hip-hop's top dogs — Snoop Dogg, the Game, Busta Rhymes, Method Man — have all enlisted Mr. Porter's services, both for viable radio singles or album builders.


Once an aspiring rapper known as Paul Bunyan, Detroit native Rosenberg began his career as a personal injury lawyer in NYC after graduating from Mercy School of Law at the University of Detroit. That was before he returned to his first ambition — namely, entertainment law — and started reaching out to artists in his hometown. One of those artists, Eminem, sent him the bare bones of what would become The Slim Shady EP, and the duly impressed Rosenberg offered to represent the aspiring hip hopper. Today, Rosenberg continues that relationship with the superstar and is now president of Shady Records, manager of Shady Ltd. (Em's clothing line) and the president and CEO of Goliath Artists Inc., which includes Em's custom SIRIUS radio station and numerous other entrepreneurial ventures. How powerful is he overall? Well, put it this way: Only two rap acts in history have won an Oscar ... and Rosenberg manages both of 'em!


He may give new meaning to the word "graybeard" these days — but Seger still symbolizes Detroit to the rest of the world probably more than anyone else still living in the city, this side of Aretha. Plus, as he demonstrated just two years ago, all he has to do is simply give manager Punch Andrews the word, and he can immediately sell out arenas all over the world, delivering shows with an energy and intensity unmatched by many half his age. He also remains a strong reflection of Detroit's rock past, when one became a musician simply because they had to be a musician, not because they were looking to become "rock stars." Just look at how many years it took him to break through nationally after being a local cult figure for decades. But, hey, Bob, the world is still waiting for that compilation of recordings from your early garage rock era.


When you actually take a measure of the music scene in Detroit, there are perhaps too many venues for bands to play. But, over the past 15 years, no matter what joints pop up as de rigeur hotspot, the Majestic Theatre complex looms large in both the consumer's and touring band's imagination. Whereas St. Andrew's Hall was once the place where local rockers graduated to a national profile, the Magic Stick now offers those diplomas. The Zainea family has done an admirable job of keeping their doors and minds open to the local music community, and it has been rewarded in kind. But as much as omnipresent owners Dave and Joe Zainea are crucial to the joint's appeal, the musical end has had a lucky streak that extends from bookers and promoters, from Model D publisher Brian Boyle through the über-plugged-in Jason Schusterbauer and Greg Baise (see his entry elsewhere). After Baise's departure, one might have expected a drop-off in Magic Stick-ness on the scene. Enter one Ramona Shureb, who cut her teeth on Detroit's (largely unsung) hardcore and aggressive rock scene in the '90s, and has been making the scene as a promoter and evangelist for the rock underground ever since. (Hell, she even did a stint with Live Nation.) Since taking the reins at the Stick (and Garden Bowl and Majestic), the energetic thirtysomething Shureb has kept the door open to Detroit's indie underground, featuring its best and brightest and giving opening spots to an admirable flow of touring acts.


If "power" means making lots of money and forcing people to do things (a definition we definitely don't agree with), then Sinclair certainly doesn't belong here. But as a symbol of Detroit's countercultural legacy, Sinclair is the man and the one who's still recognized worldwide. He'll forever be remembered due to his association with the MC5, although he managed many younger local bands in the '80s and just recently rocked out — both onstage and on CD — with local experimental youngsters Pinkeye. Besides, how many local people — legends or not — have had a song written about them, with their name as the title, by a former Beatle? Granted, he calls Amsterdam "home" these days — but it's awfully hard to miss Sinclair, since he seems to be here more than he's not.


Detroit is becoming a hub for internationally and nationally recognized hip hop, but the guys in Slum Village were the pioneers that got it all started. Originally, the trio of producer-MC J Dilla (who died of lupus in February 2006), T3 and Baatin, SV made noise in the underground rap scene with Dilla's soulful, laid-back grooves and the trio's stylish, playful rhymes. Dilla would leave the group to pursue what would be a successful career as a solo producer, but the group kept it moving by enlisting other talented beatmakers in the city, like Karreim Riggins and B.R. Gunna (the duo of currently successful solo producers Black Milk and Young RJ). During the construction of their third album, Detroit Deli, they welcomed new member Elzhi, whose technical lyrical skills rounded out Slum's style-over-substance approach. And after the release of Trinity: Past, Present and Future, health problems would force Baatin to leave the group. But since their self-titled disc in 2005 reestablished momentum, the duo of Elzhi and T3 continues to be one of the city's most powerful rap acts, with steady international live shows, Elzhi's budding reputation as one of the most talented lyricists in the industry, and another SV album in the works.


Matthew Smith is one of those guys who's always present, but isn't: You only know he's here because his fingerprints are everywhere. Not only does he lead the power-pop nihilists Outrageous Cherry, the Americana-y Volebeats and prog-freakouts THTX, he's an expert studio knob-twirler (see albums by Denise James, the Cuts and the Go, among many others) and song doctor. Kevin Ayers is a fan. Hell, no less than producer-starmaker-opportunist-songwriter-genius-weirdo Kim Fowley has likened Smith's skills in the studio to Nick Lowe in his prime. The Hamtramck-raised Smith has fans in some of the most unlikely places in the world, from Chile to France, from Japan to the UK. The guy has attached local songwriters to labels and labels to local bands. Plus, he's a local rock historian of the highest order ... and he recorded and produced Nathaniel Mayer's final album, following that up by backing the late Detroit legend on tour.


As co-owner of midtown Detroit's well-appointed and lovely Northern Lights Lounge — and as acting president of the New Center Council — Michael Solaka is a local music force, and might not even know it. When he took over the Tamdem bar and helped it to become a local nightclub (and venue) powerhouse that successfully blended rap, hip hop, electronic and rock 'n' roll under a single roof, who knew it'd become this elite club, a desirable place to perform, to be seen and to engage in social intercourse? As the New Center Council prez, Solaka oversees the annual CityFest (formerly TasteFest), which is the city's biggest, best and most prestigious summer festival. The unforgettable quote: Solaka once said, "It's about your wits in this town." Truer words cannot be spoken.


R.J. Spangler's a manager, a producer, a drummer and an arranger, and damn skilled at it all. He co-founded the Sun Messengers in 1980, and has his R.J.'s Rhythm Rockers still cooking. He has helped to resurrect careers, from singer Alberta Adams and pioneering guitarist Johnnie Bassett (that's him on Tamla's first million-seller, Smokey's "Shop Around") to vocalists Joe Weaver and Odessa Harris. He has been up for a prestigious W.C. Handy award (for Best Instrumentalist — Drummer) and his patented shuffle beat is known the world over. He's a foremost R&B revivalist and his Detroit music connections run deep and wide, both here and around the globe.


Ever since he moved to Detroit as a child, Nick Speed has always been proud of the city's music scene — from the soul of Motown Records to the national electronic scene that got its start here — and everything in between. So as a hip-hop producer in the area, he's always aimed to make his work a worthy addition to Detroit's legacy and to school others in the city's importance. Getting his start as the musical mind behind 925 Colony — the trio of him, Elzhi (of Slum Village) and Magestik Legend — Speed put in extensive work around the city before a beat CD he had circulated around New York found its way onto the desk of D-Prosper, A&R for rap superstar 50 Cent's G-Unit Records. Speed inked a deal as an in-house producer with the label and got Sha Money XL, former president of the label, to manage him. Since then, Speed has been landing beats on albums from 50, his fellow G-Unit member Lloyd Banks, popular "conscious" rapper Talib Kweli and more. And Hot Soup, his summertime '08 release with Motor City rapper Danny Brown, pays homage to the city by making all of its production incorporate elements from Detroit's extensive, historical musical palette of soul, electronic and house. With both solo and collaborative projects in the works — including a beat tape made out of sound splices from YouTube videos — Nick Speed is doing his part to make sure that Detroit stays relevant in the music world.


Sure, the elegant, glam rock-tinged Stirling Silver could regale us with his stories of hanging with the Faces and David Bowie back in the day. But what that doesn't explain is how this guy has helped so many local musicians in so many different ways, either on a quasi-management level or simply through word of mouth. He's done much to aid the beginning careers of many (from Audra Kubat to Molly Jean Brown) simply because he can. Until this month, he was a constant at Jacoby's upstairs, where, with partner Sue Static, he booked the cream of Detroit rock. The man knows everyone — he's pals with both Kid Rock and Meg White — proven by those numbers stored away in his little black book. Moreover, who knew this dude could sing? Watch for his Jim Diamond- and Eddie Baranek-helmed debut album, due any day now.


Al Sutton — and his Rustbelt studio — has been the rock of Detroit rock studios for longer than many of the newest scene entrants have been out of diapers. Sutton produced Big Chief's debut for Sub Pop in 1991, and studio production partner Eric Hoegemeyer was playing drums in Charm Farm around that time. Since 1990, Rustbelt has been a brand name, an open-minded home for a wildly diverse bands (from ska to funk, from punk to blues, including indie obscure gems hitmakers like Sponge). It was the scene-defining 1996 Detroit Rust City compilation, though, that became Rustbelt's calling card. There was a Kid Rock track on the comp, leading to an ongoing relationship after first receiving huge sonic dividends from Rock's monster debut release for Atlantic Records, Devil Without a Cause. Since then, Rock has returned to the Royal Oak studio, bringing newfound talent and protégés through the studio doors too. Oh, yeah, that '96 comp came out on a Huntington Woods start-up label called Small Stone. Thousands of records sold later, Rustbelt is still Small Stone's studio-of-choice for recording, mixing and tweaking heavy music that spreads that Detroit soul around the globe.


About three years ago, Ghostly International label head Sam Valenti probably sat back and realized that he was one of those rare business folk who had achieved his five-year plan. The label that started in 1999 with the economically inauspicious occasion of Valenti having to ship boxes of his first release back from an apartment in London, England, where he was flopping, has over the past decade evolved into a multinational cultural force. And it's all headquartered right here in southeast Michigan. Valenti, the namesake of Masco's honcho Sam Valenti III, would seem to have had an easy row to hoe. But money isn't everything. The roadside is littered with shitty labels started by well-to-do kids. Valenti's acumen and discipline, combined with his unfailing sense of taste, style and marketing savvy, have made Ghostly (and its sister imprint Spectral) an iconic destination for folks around the globe who dig the finest in head-, foot- and soul-stirring electronic-based music. Whether it's the "boy-cat-bird" visuals or the surprisingly diverse selection of artists, ranging from the minimalist techno of Matthew Dear, Brooklyn's Michna, London minimalpopsters the Chap, D-town buzz kid Deastro and beyond, Valenti has accomplished his goal of becoming the Midwest's version of Factory, Felt and other brand-name indie labels upon which his musical taste was weaned. And he's done it in a way that has embraced the community from which it sprang. Not bad for a business that started with a freshman Valenti wandering into a basement, partially wondering why no one was paying attention to a then-unknown Matthew Dear. C'est le musique.


Unlike certain other local stars who've gone on to international fame and fortune, Was (born Don Fagenson) believes it's his duty and responsibility to keep giving back to the Detroit music community. He keeps his eyes and ears on the local scene — and, most recently, he presented the awesome Detroit Super Session at last summer's Concert of Colors fest, in addition to filming and recording a slew of Detroit locals, from Black Merda to the Go to the Sisters Lucas, for his Wasmopolitan website. All this in addition to still being one of the most sought-after producers in the world. And Was (Not Was) — the Detroit-centric group he heads with "brother" David Was (né Weiss) — still stands as one of the most visible and recognized Motor City musical components, especially in the UK, even if most of its members call Los Angeles "home" these days.


There was some debate as to whether the man born John Anthony Gillis 33 years ago (right here in Detroit, as his biggest fans and family members are always keen to point out) deserved inclusion on this list. After all, he now makes Nashville his home. That would not be a big deal, though, if it wasn't also true that he hasn't had much positive to say about his hometown's music scene — the one that gave him his start — in years. Still, White was, is and remains the face of Detroit's garage rock scene and almost single-handedly took the genre to the heights of international dominance via the White Stripes. Plus, if power involves being able to get things done, White's power extends way beyond the confines of Detroit these days, although his specter hangs over this city — which isn't always necessarily a good thing, since it conceivably led to the trend of loads of bands thinking they can become "rock stars" overnight before even beginning to pay their dues. That old Detroit journeyman ethic has suffered as a result. Nevertheless, he really can't be blamed for that, even if, just like in the good old days, there are still people in this town who'd probably sell their souls to the devil simply for the possibility that they might get to work with the dude who's worked with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys (?!) during the last several years.


Everybody in the local music scene seems to know Willy. While managing Car City Records and hosting a WDET music show, Wilson organized his own music festival, Gutterfest, at the Magic Stick, beginning in 1996, and running for several more years. The fest presented local greats who more or less fell into the "garage" category, from the Go, the White Stripes and the Dirtbombs to Gino Washington, ? & the Mysterians, and a reunion of the surviving members of Sonic's Rendezvous Band. As a result, he was there right at the forefront of the Detroit garage renaissance, just as it began its trek to world domination. Those gigs — a few were held at the legendary, now-defunct Gold Dollar — led to Magic Bag owner Jeremy Haberman hiring Wilson to do the Ferndale club's publicity and to basically handle day-to-day operations.


Like the aforementioned James Carter, Whitaker came through the middle- and high-school-age group Bird-Trane-Sco-Now. Whitaker became one of the most in-demand bassists in New York (he's on 100-plus discs), with high-profile gigs including with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (Wynton Marsalis' big project), all while staying based in Detroit. We figure he's really a power guy when you add in his posts a) directing jazz studies at Michigan State University and heading the university-based Professors of Jazz, and b) as conductor and music director of the civic jazz ensembles at the DSO.


Discovered by Andrae "Godfather of Contemporary Gospel" Crouch, the four brothers in the Winans became hitmakers in the early 1980s. In the wake of their continued success, the same followed for others of the 10 Winans siblings (notably Bebe, Cece and David), and later spouses and children. The success has mainly been in gospel, but there've been significant spillovers into secular R&B as well, with Winans emerging as triple threats as writers, producers and performers. While much of the family has extended to other parts of the country, several remain prominently hereabouts, including the Rev. Marvin L. Winans (of the original Winans, currently pastor of Perfecting Church in Detroit and host of a Sunday morning radio show, "Rhythm & Praise" on Mix 92.3) and his ex-wife Vickie (whose voice has graced her own hits and an Art Van radio commercial); their sons include Mario (who topped R&B charts with "I Don't Wanna Know" a couple years ago, featuring P. Diddy) and Marvin Winans Jr. (who released his debut CD, Image of a Man, in September).


These folks, too, served ...

This performer-DJ-publicist-booker-bartender gets a mention beyond other local bloggers because a) her blog's on the Detroit News site, where she reports, um, news; and b) she sometimes goes to those other blogs to correct misleading information, despite the smarmy commenters.

In an age where everyone has a blog, everyone wants to be Lester, whether they know it or not — though the very thought probably has him rolling, wherever he might be.

His catholic underground enthusiasm, as expressed via his Cass Records' consistent run of vinyl releases, keeps us all plugged into that same DIY touring underground ethic Blackwell so accurately captures on his blog Tremble Under Boomlights ( as the second most visible member of the Dirtbombs.

David Dunbar Buick has taken his lumps on the scene he helped foster with releases by the White Stripes, Hentchmen, Greenhornes, Rocket 455 and Whirlwind Heat, among others, but the city is a better place now that he's re-launched Italy Records.

A lot of her PR clients are national indie acts, but Carr holds local clout as publicist for CityFest, founder of the Hamtramck Music Awards and coordinator of Facebook's local Live Nation group.

If this dude needs an introduction, then you should go right out and get as many records by the Gories, the Dirtbombs, the King Sound Quartet and Blacktop as you can find. This guy is the Detroit music scene's resident renaissance rocker and perhaps should be a cultural advisor to the next mayor.

Warren Defever (His Name is Alive) was making groundbreaking music in his Livonia bedroom before many of you even realized there was life outside the Top 40, and as one-third of the UFO Factory art space team and head of his own record label, Silver Mountain, Defever has evolved into a curious kind of adulthood where he's in control of a media universe of his and his friends' making.

With last summer's CAID raid, they managed to do what one of the most corrupt mayors in history and even President Bush sending their peers to death or dismemberment in a stupid war couldn't do — namely, they got young people angry and active.

Names like Gary Grimshaw, Mark Arminski, Carl Lundgren and many in the new breed have put Detroit on the worldwide cultural musical map as much as anybody from this city.

He influenced, worked with and inspired everyone who's anyone in Detroit hip hop, with work so groundbreaking and ahead of the curve, it's still taking time to digest all his accomplishments, especially with new tracks featuring Dilla beats still surfacing.

As head of X! Records, he puts out releases by bands he believes in (or bands that he is in), promotes them via grass-roots efforts, and generally takes care with each release, all of which has led to annual fests of noise and fun.

Ferndale's Carey Gustafson is, quite simply, an exemplar of the DIY spirit, organizing folks around her, whether as a co-founder of Handmade Detroit, a member of the group that launched the DIY Fest, as a prime mover behind the annual Zombie Dance Party or as a member of the band Serenity Court.

After months of rebuilding his collection and preparing a new space, the founder of the now-legendary (and original) Funk Night dance parties and his People Records is back and perhaps better than ever in new Woodward Avenue digs. Come one, come all. Listen, mingle, chill and shop till your jaw drops.

When MOCAD opened its doors a few years ago, it had a huge task: brand itself as a place that mattered. So MOCAD turned to Hernandez, a dude who knows how to present the edge with special performances by some of the city's newest and brightest underground soundmakers and many other one-off events.

"Super publicists" are what you find in New York, London and Los Angeles, generally not Detroit. But Lee, a former touring musician, makes it work here, with his hand in everything from the Jazz Fest to the annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival and numerous ports in between.

Mount Clemens may be a tad far outside the city for our list purposes, but as the founder (with partner Kevin Cassidy) of that city's Stars & Stripes festival, which his Funfest Productions books, and owner of the Emerald Theatre, one of the finest local venues outside D-town, Nieporte hits a double whammy.

Signaling a generational change in the Detroit musical weather, with kids dressing up and getting their dance on to weirdo Blurbs by Chris Handyside, W. Kim Heron, Bill Holdship, William E. Ketchum III, Brian Smith and Walter Wasacz. Send comments to [email protected]