Biking to Detroit’s musical heritage

Detroit has a tremendous history, which makes for some great biking destinations.

Yesterday I rode to 635 Belmont Street just north of Detroit’s Arden Park-East Boston Historic District. This is where Diana Ross grew up until she was 14 and her family moved to the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, those abandoned towers just north of Ford Field.

The Brewster-Douglass projects were also home to Lily Tomlin, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Smokey Robinson. And, Bettye Lavette lived across the alley from Smokey.

Bettye has an amazing story. She recorded a hit single when she was just 16, but little success followed. She spent 40 years trying to make it in the music business. Much of that time was spent in the Locker Room Lounge on Livernois not too far north from the University of Detroit-Mercy campus.

While her fortunes have turned around with her two most recent albums, in this interview, she reflects on her less successful times.

This evening I’m going to a place [in Detroit] called The Locker Room, which is what the “Old Soldiers” song is really about [to me]. I was in there at least two nights a week, whenever I could get a ride. The Spinners hung out in there and sat at the big shot end of the bar, and I sat at the dirty end as they called it. But I would send all of my tabs up to the big shot end [laughs]. I hung there for 10 or 15 years…so often people would come in and say things like “Didn’t you used to be Bettye Lavette?” or “Do you still sing” A lot of love happened there, a lot of drunk happened there, a lot of crying…but I know that I can always go there.

Bettye’s video for “Old Soldiers” was filmed at the Locker Room.

[Yes, the Locker Room Lounge is on the 2009 Beers and Gears ride. We’ll be at the dirty end.]



Those crazy old sports jocks

Jocks strap for cyclists from 1901I spent a good deal of time reading old League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.) Bulletins from the late 1890s and early 1900s. The L.A.W. was the main bicycling group during the time when bikes were king.

Not unexpectedly, I came across some funny old time advertisements, not unlike what you used to see on the tables at Wendy’s restaurants.

But I tend to doubt the ad on the right ever appeared at Wendy’s.

I will give Doctor Meyer’s credit for a minimalist design and detachable sacks, though the latter just doesn’t sound right.

However, I bet the Doctor is being optimistic about the “never irritates” claim. Please tell me the sacks weren’t made from scratchy wool.

Fortunately this wasn’t the only option advertised. This jock from Sharp and Smith was also just a buck.

For me, the main selling point is Major Taylor “and other cracks” wear this brand.

Then again, today’s basic lycra bike shorts work just fine.


Dusty, Perspiring, and Disheveled Women

I came across an old New York Times article from 1898.  It included a debate over whether women should be allowed to join men on 100-mile bicycle rides with the Century Wheelmen of New York.

The Wheelmen decided to ban women and children.

The justifications were flimsy at best, but this snippet on the right is simply unbelievable.  They claim men wouldn’t “respect the dusty, perspiring, and disheveled women seen at the finish of the 100 miles of continuous exertion.”

These men of 1898 wouldn’t respect a woman who just rode a century?  These Wheelmen were never at the finish of a Leadville 100 race.


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