Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan - On Record!

[NOTE TO NEWCOMERS: This was my first post to this blog; for historical purposes, I've left it the way I wrote it, even though certain things have changed along the way.]

Greetings, fellow earthlings. Welcome to U.P. GROOVES! - my attempt to chronicle every commercially-released record, released on or before December 1986, with a connection to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan. (Why the cut-off date? See below.) If a record involved at least one U.P. native and/or resident in its making, or was recorded in the U.P., or mentions the U.P. in its lyrics or title, it qualifies for mention in U.P. GROOVES!

This blog is actually a "back-up" for my U.P. GROOVES! website, which (at this writing) can still be accesssed at

U.P. GROOVES! is an outgrowth of my being (a) a U.P. native and lifelong resident, and (b) a lifelong record collector. I first conceived the project in the mid-1980's, around the time Michigan was preparing to celebrate its sesquicentennial; it was originally going to be an album of records by U.P. rock bands - sort of a U.P. equivalent of "Nuggets" or "Pebbles." I soon discovered, however, that in order to even get started on the project, I'd have to do "primary research" - meaning, I'd have to go out there, track down all the people involved in making these records (at least the ones I could find), and interview them. I was willing, but I wasn't able - I had neither the funds nor the transportation to do all that, and the project went to sleep.

I still don't have the funds or the transportation to do all these interviews. But now I have somethng I never had back then - the internet. In 2000, I began using the 'net to track down some of the people I needed to talk to, and along the way discovered fellow collectors who knew even more about U.P. records than I did.

Now U.P. GROOVES! actually stands a chance of being more than just a "gleam in my eye." It has already expanded beyond its original rock-only focus, and now covers all genres of popular music. And its ultimate objective? First, once I've gotten enough info, I plan to write a series of articles for U.P. papers and magazines; if these go well, I'll expand the project into a book. But, of course, my ultimate goal is to see the info I gather used to create a legitimate CD (or CD series) re-releasing these tracks, or at least the very best of them.The U.P. has always taken great pride in its artistic, popular-culture creations, especially when the "outside world" appreciates them - "Anatomy of a Murder," Ernest Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," etc. Yet it's let its "native-born" records go unchronicled and unheralded - in this project, I hope to rectify that, and give the U.P. something else in which to take pride.

Now, why the cut-off date of December 1986? Because that's when the musical-comedy group Da Yoopers, formed by Jim DeCaire and Joe Potila, released their first single, "Rusty Chevrolet." (For those who've never heard it, it's a Christmas song about a wild ride through a U.P. winter in a disintegrating Chevy.) When Da Yoopers came along, an era came to an end - the era I'm chronicling in U.P. GROOVES! In this era - the U.P. GROOVES! era, if you will - when a U.P. musical act released a commercial record, it was real news - a true rarity - a surprise - an event. When a U.P. act made and put out a commercial record, people really sat up and took notice - "Wow! Some of OUR people did that? Holy Wah!" It was an era of local singers and bands in isolated, far-flung areas, far distant from any recording-industry center, yet who still managed to make a record that they could actually sell to their friends and fans, maybe get played on the radio, perhaps get them some attention outside their own narrow base, and - definitely - show to the world and say, "Hey! That's me/us! I/We made this!"

In some indefinable way, after Da Yoopers began and established themselves, that era ended. Da Yoopers' label, You Guys Records, is the first U.P. record label to last more than a couple of years (at this writing, it's almost 20 years old); and Da Yoopers are the first U.P. musical act to get extensive airplay on national radio (mostly on the Dr. Demento show). Somehow, with Da Yoopers unwittingly leading the way, it became easier - less of a rarity - for U.P. musical acts to make records (and now CDs), and get some attention outside their local areas. Mind you, it's still an event when a U.P. act makes a commercial CD - just not as BIG an event. (I'm not criticizing it, nor am I putting down Da Yoopers - they've been supportive of U.P. GROOVES! up to now. I'm just telling it the way I see it - you may disagree.)

As I continue to transfer info from the site to this blog (reorganizing some of it along the way), I hope you'll continue to tune in, and if you have some relevant comments or info, don't hesitate to post them.

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