Pathfinder Repository


Detroit Rock History, 1965-1980

This Pathfinder is no longer being actively maintained by ipl.

This is a guide to researching the history of rock music in Detroit, Ann Arbor and southeastern Michigan. The Motor City’s rock and roll legacy includes the Stooges, the MC-5, the Frost, Mitch Ryder, Bob Seger, and—of course!—KISS, among many others. Rock of the Motor City has been heavily influenced by, as well as influential to, Motown and other pop culture movements; more recent generations of rock and pop musicians, from the mainstream Kid Rock and Eminem to the 1980’s underground garage icons the Gories, and current (as of late 2001) indie-rock darlings the White Stripes have hailed from southeastern Michigan as well. This pathfinder is intended to help support research on the rock history of Detroit and southeastern Michigan, and also to give you some tips on researching individual artists.

Research strategies

There are very few books specifically focused on the history of rock music in Detroit. What exists may be found by using some of the following Library of Congress Subject Headings (these can typically be searched in automated library card catalogs).

  • Rock music—1961-1970
  • Rock music—1971-1980
  • Rock music—Detroit
  • Rock musicians—Detroit
  • Rock groups—Detroit

If your library uses the Dewey Decimal System, you may find work in this area under 784, “rock music”, or under 977, “the history of the North-central United States”.

A number of rock music bibliographies and research guides exist, and some of these may prove helpful as well, particularly for research involving the larger historical context of rock and roll.

The Grove Dictionary of Music, published in New York by Grove Press, is considered an important fundamental research tool. It is in thousands of libraries, which is particularly helpful as its enormous size (the most recent edition comes in 29 volumes) makes it a poor candidate for an interlibrary loan.
Sadie, Stanley and John Tyrrell. The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians. New York : Grove, 2001.

Hawksley, Lucinda. The Virgin encyclopedia of rock. Z�: Edition Olms, 1998

Buckley, Jonathan and Jill Furmanovsky. Rock: the rough guide. London : Rough Guides, 1999

Audio, video and archival resources

The Westbound sound of Detroit: The sensational Motor City groups, 1969-75.
Publication: London :; Westbound Records,
Year: 1994
Description: 1 sound disc :; digital ;; 4 3/4 in.

Motor City’s burnin’: Michigan high-energy.
1998: Burbank, California, Alive/Total Energy,

Motor City’s burnin’ 2
1998: Burbank, CA : Total Energy,

John and Leni Sinclair lived and worked in Ann Arbor, MI from the late 1950’s. They were intimately involved with many aspects of the punk and avant-garde art scenes in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Their personal papers and collection of visual materials are available through the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor.

John and Leni Sinclair papers, 1957-1979.
Sinclair, John, 1941-; Sinclair, Leni,; Bursley, Gilbert E., and others
Located at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library

John and Leni Sinclair visual materials series. 1960-1972
Located at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library

Detroit Rock City [motion picture]. New Line Home Video, 1999
A feature film about some young men in Detroit, in the late 1970’s, and their adventures as they try to get into the KISS concert.

Online resources

Detroit and Southeastern Michigan Rock &Roll Heritage
A portal site dedicated to early Detroit rock history.

Detroit Rock and Roll
Also a portal site, this one traces a wider period of time, from approximately 1965 to the present.

John and Leni Sinclair finding aid.
See above for a biographical note on the Sinclairs.

An inelegant but extremely interesting collection of links.

The Virtual Rock Tour of Ann Arbor.
Perhaps more aptly called “The virtual tour of very real Ann Arbor rock history, this website provides color photographs and colorful commentary about historical rock-related sites in Ann Arbor.

Suicide Machines’ Dan Lukacinsky on the legacy of Detroit rock and Detroit sports teams.
The frontman of the Detroit hardcore band Suicide Machines compares Detroit sports and Detroit music.

Fast n’ Bulbous.
A general history of punk, including some discussion of the Stooges’ influence on punk.

Print resources

Very little is available in print specifically about the history of Detroit rock music. There are, however, many guides to the history of Rock that will provide information about individual Detroit artists, or that discuss the Detroit rock scene in passing.

Underground flick
Detroit, Mich. : Underground Flick Magazine
Underground Flick was a short lived magazine published in Detroit in 1969. It was monthly and focused on music as well as underground film.

The wild one : the true story of Iggy Pop
Per Nilsen; Dorothy Sherman
London : Omnibus Press, 1988.

The Mitch Ryder show.
New York : Harrietly, 1960.
A collection of photographs of Mitch Ryder in performance.

The rise and fall of the MC5: Rock music and counterculture politics in the sixties
Cary, Michael D.
This is a dissertation submitted in candidacy at Lehigh University in 1985. It can probably be obtained in print or on microform through the interlibrary loan program at your local library.

Sarig, Roni
The secret history of rock : the most influential bands you’ve never heard of
New York : Billboard Books, 1998
Includes an entire chapter devoted to the Detroit rock scene of the 1970’s.

You may also wish to see an exhibit on Detroit music venue IO, or the pathfinder on Punk and Indie Rock