Frigid Pink & Detroit Vibrations

An Interview With Rick Stevers

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, National Music, Artist Feature,   By: Robert 'Bo' White

02nd June, 2016     0

Rick Stevers was just one of the neighborhood kids playing drums in the basement and listening to the funky music on the transistor radio. One day some dude came by and told Rick that he and his band were too good just to play in the basement. So he and his pals tuned up with backyard parties, small clubs and anywhere they could get a gig.

Stevers recalls, “In 1965 we played The Chatterbox in Allen Park for 23 weeks in a row. I didn’t even have a driver’s license then.” By 1967 Stevers and his band mates changed their name to Frigid Pink. He doesn’t mince words about the band’s management, “They were lying, cheating miserable people. They trashed the band and in doing so, we were forever behind the 8-ball. If we had been managed properly we might have been around longer.”

At this point in the band’s career, they went out on the road and started to make some real money. The biggest problem was that the band never knew their percentages for their records or their tours. They knew that the gross percentages were high; it was a lot of money, but to this day the money is still tangled up in disputes, paper trails, litigation and attorney’s fees.

“We just didn’t know that we needed accountants to help us make sense of it all.”  Stevers recalls that in their heyday, the band usually got about $5500 per show though the truth of it all is they had a lot of work to do before they had any hits.

“We made more money before we were famous than after we were famous. We gigged at small bars, clubs and parties, five sets a night every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights! We were getting paid what mid-level touring bands like Paul Revere & the Raiders, Steppenwolf and Buffalo Springfield were getting.”

The money was alot better once Frigid Pink hit the road but they ended up spending more time on tour than at home and loneliness was one of their biggest obstacles. The local fan base thought they were stuck up. Stevers felt he was between a rock and a hard place. “The locals did not know how hard it was for us because we weren’t hanging out and partying with them. They didn’t know that instead of playing for 200 fans in a club. We were out playing for the President of the United States, the Montreal Forum and other places with big crowds.”

Frigid Pink toured relentlessly until the polish wore off. They started performing at bars and other venues like Roller Rinks, Theatres and Concert Halls that held 1000 to 1500 people. Stevers remembers a notable gig with the MC5 and The Up at the Michigan Theatre (later known as the Michigan Palace).

“We did a weekend gig there on Friday and Saturday. We would perform and then W C Fields movies would be shown and then it would repeat and everybody would play again and they would show the movie again in a never ending loop. It went on for two days, it was a major pain in the butt. By this time in our career we had played just about every venue from the Grande, Silverdome, Joe Louis and every place you could think of locally. The Eastown was a cool place but it had that screwy stage with the drummer sitting way up high. It scared the hell out of me every time we performed there because there was nothing to catch you for at least eight feet or so, it was like a free fall with no net!”

The scene seemed to de-evolve with the same acts hitting the same circuit of clubs and venues. Rick knew that Frigid Pink continued to go over well during their tours and they didn’t take a back seat to anyone, even the big acts. “I remember having dates with Steppenwolf down south for a Toys-for-Tots Benefit. There were two shows an afternoon and two shows in the evening. John Kay seemed to be in charge. He never talked with us or even look at us but then we did our first set and we blew them off the stage. It was puzzling.  Steppenwolf worked with small amplifiers and they had a PA company mic their amplifiers, but there was no power to the sound and they were beside themselves. So Kay asked if he could borrow our amplifiers for the next show. We agreed and told him we’re from Detroit and we get along with just about everybody.”

Frigid Pink led then charge for insisting on good equipment. They used BRUCE amps which was a leap in new technology. There was a power amp in the bottom of the speaker cabinet and the control section that went on top of the amplifier. It had a streamlined look and it had 300 watts of power. Back in the day that was real good. 

Stevers has a good memory of the events that led to the formation of Frigid Pink. “We originally had a group consisting of local musicians that were primarily just knocking around with no real intent of playing professionally. At about this time Gary Thompson walked into the Chatterbox  and talked to my old man. Thompson told him that we had four guys that are better than anyone you have onstage. So we tried them out and they were phenomenal. We worked them into the group and gradually let go of the members that weren’t making the grade. There was a time when we had Thompson before Beaudry and we had a great singer by the name of Billy O’ Riley but eventually we had to let several of the musicians go until we had the nucleus of the four original members of Frigid Pink.”

Frigid Pink was an instant hit in the burgeoning teen/young adult market. It helped that Frigid Pink’s first album was near perfect with memorable classics such as Tell Me Why and Drivin’ Blues but the monster hit was a hard rock cover of House of the Rising Sun. It sold over a million copies.

The second album entitled Defrosted was an incredible step forward with Gary Thompson and Tom Beaudry (aka Kelly Green) writing most of the songs including the peace anthem Sing a Song for Freedom. Rick agreed, “Sing a Song For Freedom sounded very good live. We did not get too many royalties from that song in the states but to this day I still get royalties for that song from European countries forty years later. It got a lot of airplay overseas! Our version of Heartbreak Hotel sold more than 750,000 copies. Gary Phillips was our keyboard player at the time. Elvis liked our version and he sent us a Christmas card every year until his death.”

Stevers gives the inside skinny about how House of the Rising Sun evolved into the powerhouse it became. “I played like I felt it. I only practiced it once or twice with just Gary our guitar player. We didn’t think much would come of it, it was just filler that we could use onstage. But we were in the studio and we still had a block of time to record something so the engineer asked if we had anything else and I told him that we were working on this one cover song House of the Rising Sun. So we counted off 1,2,3 go and the bassist did the bottom and the guitarist started riffin’ and we did it in one take!”

Stevers reminisces about his time in the big top. “We played a lot of cool places like the After Dark Club in Tonawanda in New York; The Magic Bus in Akron was in the middle of a neighborhood. We would pass all these homes and in the middle of it was this huge club sitting there like it belonged. By 1972 Thompson and Beaudry quit. We had just finished our record. If Beaudry would have kept quiet we all would have made big money. We had a record that our London label just released called “Music for the People.” It was probably our best record to date and we were progressing in our sound in the last two years. We experimented with background singers including Dawn from Tony Orlando & Dawn fame. The last couple of things we did had no heavy guitar feedback or loudness. In the late seventies we were on the road a lot but we never made it to the studio.”

The name Frigid Pink was kept in the spotlight from 1972 to 1982, releasing two fine albums, Earth Omen and Pink on the Inside with no original members except for Rick Stevers. There were several iterations of the band including one lineup in the late seventies in which Saginaw native Bryant Brewer provided keyboard work.

Frigid Pink did perform once at Daniels Den in Saginaw including a show on May 17th1968. They were paid $180.00.

Frigid Pink’s final performance in Saginaw was on Wednesday April 1st1970 in which they were paid $1000, a hefty raise based on the three big hits of the band. Tom Beaudry signed the 1970 contract. Mike Quatro signed the 1968 contract and Frank Patrick, the owner of Daniels Den sealed it with his signatures.

It was an end to an era and Frigid Pink was caught in the crossfire of sagging sales, an eroding fan base, and a crisis of confidence. There was no one left to replicate the creative spark between Beaudry and Thompson. It all ended in a whimper of acrimony and distrust. What was once so full of promise is now a distant memory shrouded in grey.

Still, our hearts turn to spring and the same is true for Frigid Pink. Stevers resurrected the band; the phoenix arose from the ashes of Beaudry and Thompson and a new life began again for Stevers and Frigid Pink. Their new album Made in Detroit is a monster! Stevers and the band were asked to participate in Record Store Day at Melodies and Memories in Eastpointe. They signed autographs and posters for over six hours. The band even did two sets of acoustic versions of their songs.

Go to frigidpink.com and check out their new song “Shine

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