One of the unsung acts of the burgeoning ’60s rock scene in the American Midwest, The Prime Movers Blues Band are finally getting their due with their first ever official release – a self-titled collection to be released in November.
Founded by brothers Michael and Dan Erlewine in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1965, The Prime Movers became an unbelievable breeding ground for local talent. Michael’s vocals and Dan’s skillful guitar already made for a potent front end of the band, steeped in a deep affection for Chicago-style blues. The band also featured keyboardist Robert Sheff, who’d later record under the name “Blue” Gene Tyranny on avant-garde records by Laurie Anderson and John Cage.
Most intriguingly, perhaps, was the band’s second drummer: James Osterberg, a young Michigander fresh out of his first band, The Iguanas. The group was known on the frat circuit, a scene the Erlewine brothers had little interest in; when he sat behind the kit of The Prime Movers, the duo jokingly called him “Iguana” – then, inevitably, “Iggy” for short. By the end of the decade, when The Prime Movers wound down, Osterberg changed his stage name to Iggy Pop, and fronted a proto-punk upstart called The Stooges. (Sheff and Osterberg weren’t the only future notable rock names in the band’s roster, either: Iggy’s replacement was J.C. Crawford, who’d later become a “spiritual advisor” and emcee for Detroit’s MC5. It’s him urging the crowd to Kick Out The Jams on the group’s live debut of the same name.)
Through the back end of the ’60s, The Prime Movers presided over Ann Arbor’s scene, helping organize what would become the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival and sharing bills with everyone from The Contours and The Shangri-Las to Jerry Garcia and Cream. They never scored a formal record deal, turning down a contract with Motown because they didn’t want the label to dictate what they could play. Though the group was essentially defunct by the ’70s, the Erlewine brothers continued to impact music: Dan became a well-known guitar maker, while Michael founded the exhaustive AllMusic Guide.
And now, The Prime Movers Blues Band, comprised of self-made band recordings, will be released November 29. Michael Erlewine has written exhaustive liner notes for the release, which includes more than an hour of music, mostly covers of blues standards like “Every Day I Have The Blues” and “I’m a Man” (which features the future Iggy Pop on vocals). Fans of Chicago blues or the scene that birthed the Midwest rock explosion after the British Invasion will want to check this out – so pre-order it at the links below!
- Endless Blues
- Everyday I Have The Blues
- Walkin’ By Myself
- Yonder’s Wall
- You Better Watch Yourself
- Rock Me Baby
- Orange Driver
- Walking Through The Park
- All These Blues
- I’m a Man
All tracks previously unreleased except 7 and 10, from Third Man Records single TMR 394, 2017. Track 10 also released on Gimme Danger: Music From The Motion Picture (Rhino R2 558845, 2017).