Mike Marino Asks:.. “When A Canadian Rock Station and a Hash Pipe Meet In a Head On Collision – Free Concerts in a Biker Park?”

1973…Dee-troit radio was a mixture of formats and talent. The Drake-Chenault Big Boss Jocks to Casey Kasem Top 40 shmaltz. The AM airwaves were a congested freeway of screaming Pukers as we refer to the “old school” of over enunciation and pseudo-hip chatter that not only came from somewhere deep in the cave of ego, dark and forbidding, but was delivered faster than bullets from a machine gunning killer of the old Detroit Purple Gang during prohibition.

The FM dial was different. It was laid back, the format was the anti-format Christ where The New York Dolls and Frank Zappa could could co-mingle and somehow segue flawlessly into each other, an ocean wave pounding the surf, with water and sand becoming one indistinguishable mass. WABX, home of Dave Dixon and the other Air Aces as they were called, formed their own wing command and ruled the airwaves reminiscent of the Flying Tigers over China in 1938. FM was the black sheep of the broadcasting family and AM thought nothing could breach their walls. They got smug..they got lazy and eventually they dropped their drawers and bent over and took it in the AM ass.

I worked for one of the legendary FM stations of the era at the dawn of Detroit Rock and Roll FM Radio. CJOM. A Canadian bastard child unfettered by the Gestapo tactics of the FCC. Which by the way we always pronounced phonetically as FUCK.

I was living in Detroit and now working for a radio station across the river in Windsor, Ontario where words like “eh” permeated the subconscious until it sounded absolutely normal. I say it to this day and proud to say, “eh”, eh? CJOM was governed by a much looser CRTC, but was more forgiving as to what was said on the air.

For example our morning newscaster one day was talking about Nixon getting caught in one of his many delusional lies. Instead of say that…our newscaster started the newscast off with “President Nixon Fucks up again!” Ah yes I knew I had found a radio home worthy of my middle finger attitude towards American Politics.

CJOM eventually hit the bell in ratings and we were soon sponsoring just about every concert in the Motor City. New York Dolls, Aerosmith, Kiss, Seger, David Bowie, Elton John, Tim Buckley, Queen, Roxy Music, Van Morrison, Todd Rundgren, J. Geils, and the MC5. All shows that I also had the good fortune to MC and get blasted back stage.

I ran into one of our listeners who was an inventor of sorts and he came up with an item called the Toot and Toke Whistle. It was a metal whistle with a screw in Hash Bowl do you could blow it at concerts instead of flicking your Bic and by placing your finger over the air vent you could inhale your favorite herb or tiny brick of hashish in screen. …it was perfect for our station as a give away while others were giving away bumper stickers.

I arranged a meet with the Program Director, the Station Manager, myself and our inveterate inventor..the suits went bonkers and we ordered thousands and labels to stick on the sides that proclaimed to the concert going world..CJOM…Cream Magazine teamed up with us and for the next six months I was backstage at every concert in town passing this out to everyone from Alice Cooper to BTO to David Bowie. They would also be tossed out to the audience by radio staff members as I took care of the backstage mayhem, and perhaps added to it.

The next phase in CJOM’s takeover of Detroit was to sponsor Free Concerts in Rouge Park on summer weekends. I ran into a young promoter, Chuck Petersen and between us we worked the scheduling for a summer series of free concerts that featured the best of Detroit’s local bar bands from Salem Witchcraft to Toby Redd. We also had groups further up the food chain in Detroit such as Frigid Pink.

Salem Witchcraft Band Setting Up for a free concert and of course Giving a Rock and Roll Greeting ​to yours truly 

I arranged for security and tapped into friendships I had made with the local motorcycle gang, the Devils Disciples especially one who became good friends named …Timber Wolf..ok, George was his real name but it took some getting used to when he’d call the station.

During one of the shows I was on stage in Rouge Park in between acts as the next act was getting ready. We had a flimsy snow fence as barrier between the stage and the crowd and both myself and our biker “security” had been enjoying a bottle of wine behind the dressing room (U-Haul truck) and some fine Motor City weed.

I made it to the stage for the obligatory announcements to kill time when an overenthusiastic reveler decided to breach the fencing and lept to the stage and tried to grab the mic from my hand. In a flash Timberwolf and the drummer from Toby Redd flew out of nowhere, subdued the music lover and two other bikers then hauled him away..where and what they did to him I don’t know nor cared to ask. The show went on.

After the second weekend free concert I was at the Rock and Roll Farm Bar as usual, and during the break went next door with Bob Seger who was playing there that night. (in those days he was strictly local!)

We hit a small burger joint and had some between sets…ah burger and fries. I asked if he could do the Free Concerts. He smiled and said normally he would, but he had just signed a contract with a new record company and was going out to the West Coast for some Hollywood Nights and wouldn’t be in town.

Bob had broken through the local wall and was about to explode nationally and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Beautiful Loser album. A more charming down to earth rock and roller is hard to find. But man..what a show that would have been. Later when Bob was back in Detroit at Cobo Hall where the live Bullet album was recorded..it was a backstage party and a half…Detroit!! .just give some of that old time rock and roll..and a toot and toke whistle slightly used.

Mike Marino has made his “roadhead” bones and enjoy’s nothing better than a greasy, unfolded map on the seat of the car…a bag of beef jerky and smoked fish and a cream soda to wash it all down as the highway and the steel belts play a meloldy of asphalt. Originally a product of the Motor City, Mike has lived in on the streets and on the beach in Hawaii, as well as in Haight Ashbury and the North Beach neighborhoods in San Francisco. Mike is also founder of the Experimental Theater Workshop, The Spare Change Artists Project, adn the Dung Zen Sustainable Living Project. He is primarily though a freelance magazine writer of pop culture, car culture, travel and history for numerous publications and he enjoys Hawaiian shirts, classic cars, Ed Wood Movies, fuzzy dice and hula dashboard ornaments as well as a good Hemmingway cigar, Corona beer, hiking and backpacking and rummaging through flea markets and auto junkyards.

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