restricted access Strange Mysterious Sounds: The Demise of Ted Lucas and the Spike-Drivers
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269 I’m not working for any fucking Turk.” That single sentence was one of the most damaging acts of self-sabotage in a music career of otherwise unlimited potential—the music career of Ted Lucas, Detroit’s long-forgotten psychedelic folk pioneer and perhaps the most underappreciated of its countless guitar virtuosos. Ted Lucas made records for only a decade, between 1966 and 1976. Five singles, a full-length album, and a compilation appearance—that was the sum of his musical output as a member of four bands and as a solo artist. At least one single and probably two more albums remain trapped on tapes boxed up in his son’s basement,still unreleased forty years later. The music Ted Lucas composed that did make it out into the world never really found an audience in those turbulent ten years. In the ’60s and ’70s, the only thing more rapid than the evolution of popular music in America was the momentum of its social and cultural growing pains. This tumult produced a ripe breeding ground for counterculture and creativity in the 1960s, and in that, Ted Lucas was intimately engaged as a Detroit music-scene trailblazer. But by the 1970s, embittered by years of watching success elude him, Ted found himself at odds with the recording industry,in a place musically that was both wholly out of touch and boldly ahead of its time. At face value, that line about the Turk was hostile but relatively benign. When considering the context, however—it’s 1967, the Turk is legendary Atlantic Records impresario Ahmet Ertegun, and the xenophobe is Ted Lucas, the leader of a band that was just offered its big break in the form of a generous recording contract—it becomes clear that the remark was anything but benign. In fact, Strange Mysterious Sounds The Demise of Ted Lucas and the Spike-Drivers Mike Dutkewych Ted Lucas, 1965. Photo courtesy of Robin Eichele. “ 270 deTroıT rocks The ’60 s it proved to be the first big tug at the loose threads dangling from Ted Lucas’s promising career. In 2008, forty-one years after Ted Lucas turned down a contract from Atlantic Records on behalf of his band,the Spike-Drivers,I received an email from an acquaintance in Los Angeles.Douglas McGowan, distinguished music collector and proprietor of reissue label Yoga Records, needed a liaison in Detroit for a project he’d finally gotten licensed after years of trying. He offered me a unique opportunity: coordinate with the family of a long-departed and longer-forgotten 1960s Detroit musician and build a digital archive of the massive horde of tapes, photos, documents, and ephemera that he left behind. In exchange, I’d receive a little money, a lot of handson experience exhuming important musical artifacts from an era and a city that I love,and the satisfaction of knowing I was doing a great service for fellow music enthusiasts the world over. Here’s what I didn’t know at the time: Who the hell Ted Lucas was. How highly sought-after his music had become in record collector circles, decades later. What kind of remarkable rollercoaster life story was buried in those dusty journals, photos, and tapes. What a masterpiece his solitary solo album is. I had no meaningful qualifications for a project like this, but I gladly accepted. I learned the fourth thing first and the third thing last, gradually, over the ensuing seven years.That’s the story I’ll attempt to detail here, for the first time. The older of two boys born to hardworking Greek immigrants, Theodore Peter Lucas grew up on the west side of Detroit in the ’40s and ’50s. Though he greatly favored the pursuit of artistic endeavors to the often-arduous long hours the rest of the Lucases spent tending the family business, Ted was nevertheless the apple of his mother’s eye. His titanic personality was dwarfed only by his big Greek smile. As a teenager in the mid-’50s,Ted was a Leiber and Stoller devotee with a particular penchant for their work with the Coasters. That songwriting duo was, as much as anyone, responsible for the early evolution of rock ’n’ roll, composing a staggering number of what are now considered the greatest songs of all time. Though not always apparent in his own work, the early impact they had on Ted’s musical sensibilities ran deep. For as accomplished as he would...


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