What do Lynyrd Skynyrd and Cactus have in common? Turns out to be more than I ever knew, until doing some rock and roll, in-the-weeds research. It’s not that often any more that I come across some hard rock history that I didn’t already know, but here’s one that’s news to me.
A friend and I were recently chatting on Facebook about the great early ‘70’s hard rock band Cactus. I knew singer Rusty Day (left in this cover photo) had done one album with Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes before joining Cactus. But my discovery comes after Cactus. In the wake of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels breaking up, Ryder had formed a new band called Detroit with Steve Hunter on guitar – I just listened to their self-titled Detroit LP a few weeks back. Anyway, along comes Lou Reed and producer Bob Ezrin who, in 1973, poach Hunter from Detroit to team up with guitarist Dick Wagner who’d been in Ursa Major (just listened to that one, too 😊 ). That would eventually result in Reed’s fabulous guitar albums Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live. Back in Michigan, Ryder soon gives up on Detroit after developing voice problems. But the remaining guys in Detroit decide to soldier on and recruit Rusty Day to sing, the singer having just left Cactus. And on guitar they bring in Steve Gaines, still a few years from joining Lynyrd Skynyrd. This was news to me – I had no idea Gaines had ever worked Michigan; I thought he’d always been in the Oklahoma area. You can learn something every day! Of course, in the long run things didn’t work out well for Gaines or Day. Steve died in the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash in 1977, along with his sister Cassie. Day died in 1982, shot dead in a triple murder apparently over a drug deal gone bad. Feel free to use all of this info in your daily conversations!