The unsung heart and soul of the Motor City rock & roll scene, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels' blue-eyed R&B attack boasted a gritty passion and incendiary energy matched by few artists on either side of the color line. Born William Levise, Jr. in Hamtramck, Michigan on February 26, 1945, Ryder sang with a local black quartet dubbed the Peps as a teen, but suffered so much racial harassment that he soon left the group to form his own combo, Billy Lee & the Rivieras. While opening for the Dave Clark Five during a 1965 date, the Rivieras came to the notice of producer Bob Crewe, who immediately signed the group and, according to legend, rechristened the singer Mitch Ryder after randomly selecting the name from a phone book. Backed by the peerless Detroit Wheels -- originally guitarists James McCarty and Joe Cubert, bassist Earl Elliot, and drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek -- Ryder reached the Top Ten in early 1966 with "Jenny Take a Ride"; the single, a frenzied combination of Little Richard's "Jenny Jenny" and Chuck Willis' "C.C. Rider," remains one of the quintessential moments in blue-eyed soul, its breathless intensity setting the tone for the remainder of the band's output.