What you’re looking at is a big collection of rock and roll footnotes.Rockets (or The Rockets) grew out of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels of “Devil With A Blue Dress On” fame. Drummer/vocalist Johnny “Bee” Badanjek and Jim McCarty of the Wheels formed their new band in 1972, adding John Fraga on bass and Marc Marcano on keyboards. A few years later they added front man David Gilbert, who had a short run as lead vocalist on tour for Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes.
This was the lineup that landed a record deal with RSO, home of such non-Detroit rocker fare as The Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, and the Grease and Saturday Night Fever soundtracks. Eric Clapton also had a run on RSO, but for the most part the label was far from blue jeans and slide guitars.
But the Rockets weren’t. These guys played solid, blues-based rock, like their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” from Self-Titled/Turn Up The Radio:
Pretty hot, right? The cut went top 40 when released back in ’79, and that represented the peak of the band’s success.
The album was recorded at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia—home of the Allman Brothers—and featured Muscle Schoals session player David Hood. Remember the line “Well Muscle Shoals has got their Swampers” from Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama?” Hood and company are who is being name checked there.
And speaking of name checking, Rockets dedicated this album to those killed in the Lynyrd Skynrd plane crash: “This album is dedicated with love and respect to our good friends and brothers J.B. Fields, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines.”
So with all of that pedigree, what the heck happened to Rockets? Were they lost on what was essentially a disco label? Were 11 years of grinding it out enough? I don’t know, but by the end of 1983 the band was done.
For a while, at least. Since 2010 some flavor of the Rockets has still been out and about. I don’t see any current tour dates on their website, but at least they have a site, so maybe they’re still out there.
This is the kind of record that you’ll run across in your local charity shop bin, and if you do I say pick it up. These guys rocked, and now you have lots of trivia to share while you’re spinning it. You’re welcome, and happy hunting.