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The Night They Burned Old Dixie Down…

As remembered by Dr. Greg Hormone 02/23/02


White Mud Blues Band had just closed the Crows Nest East in July 1969. The 15-20 man band was loud, powerful, and creative that night… We smashed everything in sight! St. Clair Shores Michigan would never be the same for most of us punks.

We knew, that night, that our days were numbered. We weren’t even famous to begin with. We were just a bunch of punks from St. Clair Shores who banded together to cause some chaos, loud music, and have some fun along the way. We succeeded in the chaos, the fun and loud music that night in July, and more. How we got there, is another story...

Some weeks earlier, before the show at the Crows Nest East, a few of the members of the band had pitched in with a Viet Nam Vet Junkie, named Michael Perry and purchased a 1966 Ford Econoline Van. Since Mike was the only one among us old enough to hold the title to the truck, it was legally his, although we felt different. Mike drove off with our truck and ended up in jail a few days later for who knows what. While he was in jail, White Mud stopped by the place he was staying to "borrow" our truck for the transportation of our amps and other equipment. Mike wouldn’t mind, he would be busy lifting weights and playing his harmonica…

White Mud "borrowed" a lot of things that weekend…

But the truck confiscation was to be an adventure in itself…

Jerry Rodriguez drove a "recon" team out to Sterling Heights in his new 1968 Dodge Charger to retrieve the truck. (He traded in the Edsel for a nicer ride)

Jerry demanded the usual $10.00 for gas. As always, we politely told him to fuck off and die! He still occasionally asks for the ten dollars and I still tell him to "bill me" 

White Mud's VanMartin Preece was our team leader, and as we jumped into the Ford van, he jammed a screwdriver into the ignition on the dashboard and gave it a twist. Click, Vvvvrooom and off we went!

Since we had now taken custody of our new band van, it was only fitting that we paint it up for the occasion, and advertise the band. Walt Galkowski (Batanicle) found some of his dads old house paint in the garage, and a stick (couldn’t find a paintbrush) so off we went on both sides of the van…

I sort of remember one side getting painted by hand (literally, finger painted) with "White Mud" in barely legible letters. The paint never, never never really dried, so as time passed, we each took turns accidentally leaning into the gooey sticky paint on each side of the van until you could no longer read the name.Fish Fly

Eventually as the fish flies and the dirt began to stick into the paint, we added cigarette butts and clots of hair etc… our logo took on an artistic presence and along with the painted out back windows, the van was truly morphing into a classic band wagon of the 60’s.   

Martin Preece was mysteriously appointed as the designated "Impaired Driver" and managed to jam the gear shift in such a way that we lost reverse, as a functioning feature of the truck sometime as we were leaving the old White Mud swimming hole at Jefferson and 11 ½ mile. The swimming hole is another story for later…

From that point on, we seemed to collectively assault the truck in a vengeful spirit toward Mike Perry for not letting us get our money’s worth out of the investment in the first place! When the truck ran out of gas, we blamed the damned instrument gauge for not being more effective at warning us, so a swift blow to the instrument panel turned into a frenzy and when the smoke cleared, the dash board resembled a plane crash.

We drove around collecting band equipment for the Crows Nest Gig the next day, and as we did, we were increasingly amazed with Martin’s ability to smash into mailboxes, shopping carts, small cars, and buildings without ever killing or seriously injuring any of us!

I marveled at Martin’s talent for turning a corner on two wheels with a van full of amps, drums, and at least 7 guys stoned out of their minds without spilling anything. 

Finally, the big day came and we unloaded the last amp from the back of the White Mud van into the Crows Nest East. The White Mud van was parked in front of the Nest until the concert was over later that night.

By one o’clock am, the famous Crows Nest East Concert was over, and we left the Nest with all of our gear locked securely inside, until the next day when we would return to clean up the damage.

As we piled into the van to go get a bite to eat at The Golden Nugget ( one of our favorite haunts) Our chauffer Martin suggested that we do some performance test driving in the parking lot of the Shores Shopping Center where the Crows Nest East was located.

We fired up a joint, and discussed the art of stunt driving as we passed the Doobie around the truck. It was Martin’s idea so he went first. He jammed the screwdriver into the ignition and started it up...

After a half dozen thrill filled laps around the perimeter of the parking lot, almost spilling the van in a roll twice, he retired and surrendered the wheel to Rodriguez (another motor vehicle statistic waiting to happen) I silently asked myself why I was wiling to be in the van at all.

White Mud's Van after paintingAfter several (8-9) more near death laps around the lot, we stopped to laugh and consider what was next. The van stalled. Our collective creative thinking went right into action. Next, we took turns urinating in the back of the truck.

Rudy (Rocket Bonepula) Zontini suggested that maybe that van needed some coaxing, so we all piled out and began climbing up onto the top of the van dancing on the roof until the roof caved in about six inches. Then, we hopped down and began ramming shopping carts into the van from all directions. "Cmon Mutherfucker!"

The frenzy built into a tribal chant and we began hurling shopping carts into the van, airborne from 10 feet. Next kicking and smashing the windows out of the van and then the headlights and the tail lights with the tire iron and other tools.

By now it was 2:30 am in the quiet little town of Saint Clair Shores, Michigan. We stopped what we were doing almost as dynamically as we stopped our songs together during the concert…Better!.. Way better in fact…

In the distant edge of the parking lot entrance, the 13 mile road entrance, we saw the shadow of an old Chevy Impala. It was the #1 cruiser of Poncho and some of the boys from the Vigilantes, a local gang.

It just sat with the lights off, but the motor was running. They had been watching us have our fun. Slowly, the 60 Impala pulled up alongside of us. We knew that the Vigilantes did not take too well to a party unless they were invited.

"What’s goin on man?" Poncho asked.

We need a push, we cant get it started…someone said. (Big Mistake!...)

"No Problemo." Poncho said. And then he backed up about 40 feet in the dark of the Shores Shopping Center parking lot.

I think we were all out of the van by this time, which was a good thing…

Poncho’s Impala hit the van at about 30 miles per hour, enough to send it halfway across the parking lot. He smiled and drove off with his boys laughing.

Somehow,  we managed to get the now, smaller van started. We went to eat, and then we went home. We were dropped off one at a time. The impact of the evenings events left us all kind of numb, combined with the concert and other excitement of the evening, we were all ready to call it a night.

Like Geronimo, and other great warriors, even White Mud calls it quits after a while…

The only other remarkable event I remember from that night was the way we dropped off Waterballoon at home. It was a Chinese fire drill, no stopping. He had to jump while the van rolled past his house, but since he was reluctant, I think he was pushed out of the van onto his lawn at about 20 miles per hour. Balloon lived, but he was pissed for a few days.                 

The next day was like, a New Years Day hangover combined with the fear of having accidentally committed a crime the night before, that one could not remember. We all collected at the Nest and reviewed the events of the prior evening…

We went to Walt’s house to review the tape recording of the concert. It was recorded too close to the speakers so it was mostly like running sandpaper over the heads of the machine at full volume, even though we listened to the playback with the volume turned almost all the way down, The impact of White Mud's energy rivaled that of the MC5,  but not quite as pretty. 

Our version of The Supremes Baby Love was so freaking loud and bad... Well, it had us laughing so hard that we hurt. Classic Detroit rock!

The van was actually, still drivable if you could call it that…no lights, no glass, no reverse, no windshield, fish flies and cigarette butts stuck to the eternally sticky paint on each side of the still mobile wreck. It smelled like a kennel!

We eventually collected our equipment and returned it to whoever would have it. Then it was time to return the truck to Mike Perry’s digs in Sterling Heights. Martin Preece and Rudy Zontini got in the van, and the rest of us got in Rodriguez’s Charger.

As we rolled into Sterling Heights to return the van, The local LAW pulled Martin and Rudy over and arrested them on the spot! The rest of us smartly retreated from the scene of the crime as quick as we could, to consider how to save our buddies!

The next few days were sort of a blur as you might guess... White Mud was hurt and personally wounded that the city of Sterling Heights would treat local rock stars with such disdain as to arrest them for stealing their own van! Mutherfuckers!  

We had just done for the Detroit area, what few had done. How many people had heard of Sterling Heights until White Mud was arrested in their town for stealing what was (technically) their own truck? We put that city on the map of the world! Humble as we were, we ambled into the Sterling Heights Police Department.

They would be sorry they ever met us... They later said so.

 When the "criminal investigation" began, White Mud members who were "detained" during the return of the Van to Mike Perry, sat in for questioning with the Sterling Heights detectives. The stories they got were...in the words of one detective, such a morass of %&#$%@@ that he wanted to have us all sent to a foreign country and banished from the state of Michigan for the rest of our lives.

The judge who heard the entire story with visible pain in his eyes, finally sent us away with the warning that we should avoid the city of Sterling Heights even if we needed hospitalization! 

White Mud vowed (not in the presence of the judge) that we would never privilege Sterling Heights with a concert without a public apology, and basically that was the end of it. Rocket Bonep and Martin were pushed out of the courthouse doors and as they hit the curb, we picked them up, and headed for The Golden Nugget for breakfast and to make plans for another concert that would never happen.

Again, I ain't lyin on this!... check the records.

Dr. Greg Hormone-

Detroit Rock lives through our history! 1966-1970