My Life As A (One-Night) Rock Star, Part 2

Bryan Gruley
4 min readJan 23, 2023

By Bryan Gruley

One Saturday evening last fall, this band you’ve never heard of — The Ritz — took the stage at a rock-and-roll joint in suburban Detroit. It was our first gig in forty-seven years. “It’s been a long time since I rock-and-rolled,” I sang in the Led Zeppelin classic that opened our show. Twenty tunes later, we finished with Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me.” I told the two hundred people packed into the Token Lounge, “We’ll see you again in 2069.”

Turns out I lied.

The author

When we showed up that October night, my four bandmates and I really weren’t sure what to expect — from the audience or even from ourselves. We’d prepared the best we could with two of us living hundreds of miles from Detroit. We knew the chords and changes and licks and lyrics of the songs we’d first performed together in 1975. And, man, I had my cowbell parts down. But what would happen when we actually got up in front of a roomful of people?

I’ll tell you what: We had a fucking blast.

I almost didn’t make it. A few days before the show, my wife and I evacuated our home on Florida’s Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ian barreled toward us. We’d just made the Atlantic shore when Ian swerved south, sparing our area. Now I had to get my butt to Detroit, half a country away with no flights out of Florida. I drove 550 miles to catch a plane in Atlanta. Soon I was sitting with Ritz guitarists Pete Klein and Fred Nemenski at Pete’s kitchen table near Detroit, going through our setlist unplugged: Aerosmith, Bowie, Bruce, Stones, Doors, Mott, Mitch Ryder, Peter Green, etc.

Pete Klein

We were three of five guys who formed the Ritz to play an epically loud, raucous, drunken show in the summer of ’75 before going our separate ways to college and jobs and so-called real life. Most of us didn’t see each other for forty years. We decided to reunite after I bumped into Fred at a high school reunion in 2019. Covid postponed our plans, but finally we booked the Token and sold tickets for twelve bucks apiece — about what it cost to see Jethro Tull back in the day.

--

--

Bryan Gruley

Storyteller since 2nd grade at St. Gemma Elementary in Detroit. Pulitzer winner, Edgar finalist, lifelong journalist, author of 5 novels. www.bryangruley.com.