Usually, when someone mentions Michigan musicians, what comes to mind are rock and pop performers: Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Stevie Wonder, and a good handful of others. Michigan also has its share of jazz, classical, big band, blues, R&B and other performers, but rock & pop seem to stand out.

Many Michigan teenagers growing up when rock exploded – the 60s and into the 70s – tried their hand at playing and singing. Garage bands popped up in almost every city, suburb, and small town, playing the hits of the day. Bar bands galore performed every weekend at lounges, clubs, dives, hotels, wedding receptions…..the number of bands seemed endless. And yeah, I was one of those guys….playin’ my bass guitar in many of the above-mentioned venues.

That is what’s remembered from the people who were lucky enough to be around back then…but we’re gonna go back even further.

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Sure, every high school in every town and city had a high school band…but not all of ‘em had a town band. You know, like the kind you saw on “The Andy Griffith Show” or any movie where you saw a band playing on a bandstand in a park. Street performers were – and still are – around, crooning & warbling on city sidewalks and street corners for pocket change. There were traveling musicians, novelty musicians, musicians with animals…..they’d show up most anywhere. It wasn’t uncommon to find a solo musician at the train depot, in a grocery store, or even walking through your backyard.

The gallery below shows some town bands, unique performers…and possibly some oddball or trained musicians, going back to the early 1900s.

Old Michigan Musicians: 1865-1952


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