Pitche Blende Reunites: Legendary Michigan Band Slated to Perform at White's Bar Saturday July 13th for Dick Wagner's 4th Annual Rock 'n Roll Barbecue
By Robert E. Martin
Jinny and Laurie Seaman circa 1971 with Pitche Blende
It is no secret back in the late 1960s and early 1970s Michigan was a simmering hotbed of music & politics. Groundbreaking musicians from the MC5 to Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, and Dick Wagner & the Frost were attaining national notoriety while routinely performing in clubs throughout the Mid-Michigan area, and teenagers everywhere were forming 'garage bands' with hopes of cashing in on the fun.
Unlike today and with the exception of Suzi Quatro, back in the early 1970s there was not a glut of female rock 'n roll musicians saturating the market. And precisely at the time women were redefining their roles within American society, Saginaw was fortunate to give birth to a group known as Pitche Blende.
Consisting of sisters Laurie and Jinny Seaman, Dennis Malenfant, Tom Morris, Dan Quinan and Mike Volker, the group evolved and rose from the broken pieces of an earlier band featuring Jinny known as The Purple Gang. Managed & spearheaded by the Seaman's mother Jean (whom from personal experience I can attest was one of the hippest Mom's in the tri-cities), Pitche Blende rapidly became the perfect band for the perfect time, forsaking contrite three minute songs in favor of a more exploratory sound along the lines of more progressive bands such as Traffic.
At the center of the spotlight was Laurie, a 16-year old vocalist with a soaring vocal range that hit you like lightning, yet was also capable of capturing the tone and ambiance of a soft summer day. As a classmate of Laurie's at Arthur Hill High, I can recall how she stood out from the crowd of cheerleaders and sorority girls at school - walking into class with purple Lennon sunglasses and a microdot-floral miniskirt, she exuded a coolness that was approachable and a talent that was undeniable.
Years later, as Laurie's career progressed, she managed to join arms with some of the biggest names and groups in show business, performing in the mid to late 1980s with The Buckinghams and later joining John Phillips and Denny Doherety with The Mamas & the Papas.
And now 30 years later, thanks to Bo White and Dick Wagner, Laurie and original members from Pitche Blende will be performing live at White's Bar this upcoming Sunday, July 14th as part of Dick Wagner's 4th Annual Michigan Rock "n Roll Barbecue.
Running from 1 to 9 PM, this exceptional event will also feature performances by The Dick Wagner Band, The Mark Arshak Band featuring Pete Woodman, The Donny Hartman Band, along with the Purple Gang/Pitche Blende reunion.
Recently I spoke with Laurie about both the reunion and her current outlook on the music scene.
Review: So what to your mind was Pitche Blende all about?
Laurie: That's a good question. Basically, it grew out of The Purple Gang, which was having problems finding drummers. One day after finding Mike Volker, they were rehearsing downstairs in the basement. Dennis wanted me to try this song out and everything just connected and came together.
One day I was busted by my parents for doing some crazy thing or another, so Mom thought what a great idea it would be to have Tom and Laurie in the band. Actually, I'm not certain if that's how I ended up in the band, but that's what I recall. My Mom thought it would be a good way to keep me off the streets and involved with something positive in life.
At that time I'd played guitar, bass, and piano, but never access to thinking I had any type of singing voice.
Review: How long would you say Pitche Blende lasted?
Laurie: Things moved quickly. We were pretty innovative at the time because we took pop music and turned a twist into it. Dennis was very creative in that area. We had a lot of original music and released a record called My World Has Stopped that got some radio play at the time. Funny enough, the flip side of that record was a song titled simply Stop.
We toured around Michigan a lot. I can't remember how many times we opened for groups like Bob Seger and Alice Cooper.
The Frost was huge back then and I idolized that band. Gordy Garris used to come knocking on the door when he was ice skating in the park and we adored him. And Dick Wagner was gracious and nice, always encouraging my sister and I.
There were two or three summers that I totally recall these huge rock festivals. We would perform and there would be these incredible groups backstage. I have so many stories from that period, just from being an observer.
Review: So what happened to the other members of the band?
Laurie: This reunion will consist of all the original members except Tom Morris and Dan Quinan. Dan lives up in Grass Valley in California and is happily hanging out in Death Valley and Tom I was able to locate about a year ago living in Florida, but I don't think he's doing much musically. We just decided to re-group as a four-piece instead of making this into some big comeback production.
Review: Is it true that Meatloaf was living in your basement for awhile?
Laurie: (laugher). No, that's rumor. He used to come to our house and was performing with his band Popcorn Blizzard a lot in Saginaw at the time. He blew into town and wowed the whole city. I remember he had this amazing voice and never wore shoes. But yes, he definitely frequented the scene at home.
My Mom was very nurturing. She was in her 40s at the time and wanted to see her kids be big in music. As our manager she would network and stay in tune with what was happening and dressed the part the best she could. She tried to 'stay young' in that aspect of drawing younger people towards her. She hit some bumps and made some mistakes, but everybody loved her and called her 'Ma'.
Review: What are you up to musically right now apart from this reunion show?
Laurie: Right now a lot is going on. I have a band that I play with in California called The Living Stones and we'll be heading to Idaho towards the end of July and then moving on to New York City for this Post-911 concert. My husband and I just built a recording studio and I'm also involved with a Gospel band. Plus I teach music in elementary school, which is an amazing thing in itself.
Pitche Blende will be performing at Dick Wagner's 4th Annual Michigan Rock 'n Roll Barbecue on Saturday, July 13th. The event is at White's Bar and runs from 1-9 PM. Also performing will be The Dick Wagner Band, The Mark Arshak Band featuring Pete Woodman, and The Donny Hartman Band.