You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:56 a.m.

Bob Seger reflects on growing up in Ann Arbor, looks forward to concert at EMU

By Bob Needham


Bob Seger performs in Grand Rapids earlier this year. The rocker, who grew up in Ann Arbor, comes back to Washtenaw County for a concert at Eastern Michigan University on Wednesday.

Darren Breen | The Grand Rapids Press

Note: Story has been updated to remove an inaccurate reference.

Bob Seger, who went from his Ann Arbor roots in the 1960s to international fame as a rock star in the '70s and beyond, returns to his home area Wednesday for a concert at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center.

It's been decades since Seger last performed in Washtenaw County, so anticipation is running high for the EMU show. The singer, songwriter, musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee recently spoke on the phone to — covering everything from his teen hangouts to the appeal of life in Michigan to the digital release of his back catalog.

Q. If you don’t mind, I’d like to start off by asking about your time in Ann Arbor. I’ve seen different birth places listed for you …

A. I was born in Detroit, at Henry Ford Hospital … I’m kind of proud of this fact, that my son was born in Detroit too … We’re both Detroit kids.

Q. And you moved to Ann Arbor around age 5?

A. Yeah, around age 4 or 5, and we lived on Packard … a couple blocks down from the Blue Front. We used to go there all the time, my brother and I … At one time there was a grocery store there where my mom and I would go, and my dad … Ralph’s, I think it was called, but it’s not the Ralph’s chain. …

We moved to California for six months, and then we came back. My dad wanted to try to get a job in California. … He didn’t find the job he wanted, so we moved back, and we moved to Wellington Court, which is off Cambridge, lived there for a while. Then my dad left, when I was 10, and we moved to ... Sheehan Street, and that’s where I went to high school. And then I lived on White, and then I lived on Packard again for a very short time, then I lived on the East Side two different places. …

I remember the low point when my dad was gone: We lived on Third Street in a front room, and I take people there sometimes. I took Ken Elder, my old buddy from Ann Arbor, there and said, “This is where I lived, dude.” We didn’t even have a bathroom. We had one room and bunk beds, and we shared the downstairs bathroom with another lady. …

Q. Do you remember where and when you got your first guitar?

A. Yeah, my friend Bill Clark, from high school, gave me a guitar that his parents had given him, and he didn’t like playing guitar. He said, “Will you just take this thing?” (laughs) And he gave it to me.

I learned on ukulele, on Wellington Court, when I was 10 years old. I learned from my dad, and I started playing on a ukulele. When I saw the George Harrison (documentary recently produced by Martin Scorsese), man, that’s how I learned too. But I learned on a bass ukulele, slightly bigger than a normal ukulele, and it had a little bit bigger sound. And I remember playing Elvis songs, Buddy Holly songs, stuff like that.

Q. What kind of a kid were you in high school?

A. I was all As in eighth grade, and then in high school, my dad was gone now, and I got into music, so my grades dropped. … I did graduate! …

I was playing on weekends in fraternity parties. I was working at the Brown Jug delivering pizza during the week, and I was also working at Wild’s Men’s Store. I’d get out early from school and work a co-op job, because we all had to work, my mother, my brother and I. That’s when we were living on Pauline, which is right by the U of M stadium … .

Seger stats

  • Born: May 6, 1945, in Detroit.
  • Education: Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer), graduated 1963.
  • First single under his own name: “East Side Story,” 1966.
  • First album: “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” 1969.
  • Key albums: “Live Bullet,” 1976; “Night Moves,” 1976; “Stranger in Town,” 1978; “Against The Wind,” 1980; “The Distance,” 1982.
  • Collections: “Greatest Hits,” 1994; “Greatest Hits 2,” 2003.
  • Digital availability: “Live Bullet” and “Nine Tonight” now available on iTunes.
  • Upcoming: “Ultimate Hits,” 2-disc set including several rarities, set for release Nov. 21.
  • Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame : 2004.
  • Last public appearance in town: Presentation of National Grammy Signature School Award to Pioneer High School, 2006.
  • Homecoming concert: Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center; Frankie Ballard opens. Good seats recently released; tickets available at or the box office.
Q. Was there much of an Ann Arbor music scene at that time?

A. Well, I wrote “Mainstreet” about Washboard Willie playing down on Ann Street. There was a club there — I can’t remember the name of the club, but it was just off of Main Street, and Washboard Willie used to play there all the time, and a lot of students would go down there. And of course I was young and I couldn’t go in, and I’d stand outside and listen. He played great R&B and blues.

Q. Are there any other specific Ann Arbor ties to any of your songs that people might not be aware of?

A. “Night Moves” is a huge one. “Night Moves” is about the “grassers” that we’d hold out near Zeeb Road. … My friend Richie Gregory from high school—he just passed away, unfortunately—He had a car with a record player in it—one of those upside-down record players. And we would play our records and turn on the lights and have what’s called a “grasser.” That’s what we called the parties back then, grassers. A bunch of teenagers—we’d go out there with cars and shine our lights and dance and listen to the records.

Q. In addition to the places you’ve already mentioned, did you have any other favorite hangouts?

A. Well, Everett’s Drive-In, when it was there. A & W. Those were our two hangouts. Everett’s Drive-In was on Stadium, and A & W was on Stadium, and the cars would go do the figure eight, constantly go back and forth. (laughs) ...

Q. You live in Oakland County now, right?

A. Yeah, I’ve been living in Oakland County since I was 21.

Q. What is it about southeast Michigan that’s kept you here all these years when you could have gone anywhere?

A. Well, I should say, at least once every two years I go to Ann Arbor. And I love going on a football day, and I go on my motorcycle or something, and see all the U of M regalia everywhere, and go by the Blue Front, and go by the Union, and go by all the places I hung out.

Q. What’s kept you in Michigan?

A. Friends, family. My brother lives in Traverse City; he’s the last of my immediate family, he and I.

You know, I’ve always loved the Great Lakes. I love to boat. I’ve always loved what we call “Up North.” I’ve had a place up there for 35 years, north of Harbor Springs, and I’ve lived there longer than any house, ever, that I’ve owned.

Q. Do you remember the last time you played a concert in Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti?

A. Well, it would have been Crisler (Arena) … I think Bruce got up with me, Bruce Springsteen, and sang with me. I’ve got a cassette tape of it. We did pretty good! (laughs) And then I have another one of me getting up with him at Crisler as well (in 1980) … We did “Thunder Road.”

Q. Any special surprises in store for the show at EMU?

A. ... Yeah, we’ve got a couple surprises, but I don’t want to give them away!

Q. Did you specifically try to get a show in Washtenaw County on this batch of dates, or was that just a happy accident?

A. I did, I did. We needed to get two days ahead of time, whatever venue we were in, and EMU was the only place we could get that from. We had to have two days ahead of time because we have a brand new PA and a brand new sound mixer. We upgraded our PA to a thing called a line array, which is a better system than we had last time. If you saw the McCartney show in Detroit, it’s the same system. …. And the Kid Rock show outdoors in Detroit, he had line array. It’s just a great system, and I asked for it and we got it, but with that comes a new sound mixer to run it.

Q. Without giving anything away, what kind of mix of songs are you looking at on this round of dates?

A. We got some new stuff. We tried real hard to put “Like a Rock” in there, but it wouldn’t work. We have a new guitar player, Kenny Greenberg, from Nashville, and he’s really great, and we worked up “Like a Rock” and he played it great, but the last two choruses were just a little too high for me. My road drummer, Don Brewer—this is his fifth tour—said “maybe you ought not to do this one.” Certain songs just really tear up my voice, just wreck me for the whole set. I could hit the notes, but it was going to be such a strain I said, “OK, we won’t do that one.” …

We definitely have some new stuff in there.

Q. You’ve got the new hits collection coming out soon; when can we look forward to the new studio album?

A. Probably next fall. When I’m done with the whole tour, on (Dec.) 30th—our last gig is Vegas, on the 30th—then I’m going to take January, February and March and dedicate it completely to writing.

I’ve got half the thing done now. I’ve got six (songs) that I really like, and I just need another six. I think over that time period I should be able to come up with them, and then I’ll cut them in April and we’ll try to put it out in the fall.

Q. People are obviously really glad to have your stuff coming to iTunes. Is that ultimately going to be your entire catalog?

A. Ultimately, yes. Ultimately. ... They release it piecemeal, because to release it all at one time, which some artists have done, you get a real big rush right at the beginning and then it just falls away. I think my management likes the idea of releasing it a little at a time.

Q. Why did it take until now for that to happen?

A. It was negotiations. We had a certain price that we had priced in for years at Capitol, and iTunes balked at it, and finally we got our way.

Q. Every now and then, people around town will still say, “You know what would be great? A Bob Seger concert at Michigan Stadium”—

A. Oh, yeah, and when Bill Martin was AD (U-M athletic director) — We’re both sailors, so we’re good friends — Bill wanted me to do it, every year he’d call me, and I really wanted to do it. But it was summer, and Brewer always plays with Grand Funk in the summer, so I’ve gotta get a different drummer, and it’s just a movie. Because he’s got his own band. And I love playing with Don; I don’t think I could play with anybody else. He’s just such a rock, on the drums. That’s why we never did it. That would have been a killer show. That would have been fun.

Q. Any chance it might yet happen someday in the future?

A. I don’t know, because Brewer’s always playing with Grand Funk. (laughs) Even this tour, we’ve already done 48 hours of rehearsals—eight six-hour days. To get that out ahead just for one show — You see what I mean? It’s hard to get people to make the time for that.

Related coverage:
Looking back at a dozen favorite Bob Seger tracks
EMU Convocation Center continues development as vital concert venue



Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 2:44 a.m.

If he wants to play in the summer he should think about using Kid Rock's drummer, he has a grasp of the sound as proven here. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Scratch that, why don't they just do a show at the Big House together and we can all have a good time.


Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

How about a concert out on Firelake!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 5:42 a.m.

Maybe Mr. Seger could do a joint concert with Grand Funk at the Big House in the summer. Wouldn't that be great?


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

For more information on Grand Funk Railroad consult your local library!

Hot Sam

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

I think Donnie could handle it:-)


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

In case Bob's interested the place he refers to was Clint's Club. Washboard Willie often played there. It was largely and African-American hangout, but everybody was welcome!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Bob Seger thanks.


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

Beth: Are the tix still available? I'm interested


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:55 a.m.

Yes. Please email me at Thanks!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

Sure are. Email me at so we can discuss.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:48 p.m.

I have 2 single tickets for the Ypsi show . . . planned on driving up from Virginia but now can't make the trip. If anyone is interested, I will sell them for my cost + what it costs to get them to you. Section 125, row 7, seat 9 and section 126, row 10, seat 2. I know that it is going to be an AWESOME show . . . so bummed I can't make the trip!!!!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:12 a.m.

I'm interested in these tix, are they still available?


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

This was indeed a great interview! I used to work with a lady who said Bob played her senior prom in Livonia in the early 60s. I guess it was quite a big deal at the school even when he was that young. We'll never see times like that again where live music is that big on a local level what with the internet, smartphones, and general lack of interest by kids in anything that I think is important. Now what time is Matlock on? Also, where's my hemorroid cream?


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

Love Bob Seger, but hate the sleeveless look on an older guy. Great interview!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

For a guy of that age? He could still look good and wear a sleeveless. Otherwise, I agree, cover the arms.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

I love the sound of your theroy Bob. Extending in an all around degree of free flow will hear a exellent exhibiting experience. Seger, you make A Rock n Roll music box a practical pleasing participation. While a eventiful show of &quot;Euphonies&quot; the BEST. See you at EMU.

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

What a great guy. Loved growing up listening to his music on A2's very own WIQB 102.9!


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

Would love to see him again. Saw him at Crisler when I was about 13 years old. We snuck in a couple of bottles of Tequila, I remember. My first concert ever. I never realized he moved around so much. Being an East Ann Arborite, I'd love to know where he lived on the east side. His music, so much a part of my childhood. Older friends claimed to have gone parties where he had played. But not me, I was too young.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

October 3, 1980 first night of the River tour, Bob joined Bruce on stage...still have my stubs attached to an autographed pic from the show!!! Awesome night, 31 years ago!!!!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:59 a.m.

I fondly remember that Bruce had already played TR earlier in the show, but played it again at Bob's request. Seems like yesterday. Think I'll head to youtube and give it a listen...


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

The minute this guy announces a concert tickets are already sold out. I would have loved to have known he was coming. But then getting tickets would have been sold out for that one too. Love his music and I too lived near the Blue Front and do remember Raphs market that had to die for lox and bagels. Maybe next time, but who knows, maybe next time he will be sold out as well. Great article though.

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

Pete, the site says tickets are only available on the Upper Level and all tickets are $73.00 each.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

I have 2 single tickets . . . planned on driving up from Virginia to see the show and now can't make the trip. If you are interested, I will sell them for my cost + what it costs to get them to you. Section 125, row 7, seat 9 and section 126, row 10, seat 2. I know that it is going to be an AWESOME show . . . so bummed I can't make the trip!!!!

Pete Outlaw

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

@jns that's been a popular assumption but unfortunately since the economy is so bad and because Bob played so many shows in Michigan lower canada &amp; ohio on his spring leg thoughts are that he may have flooded his own local market. there isn't one show that is listed as sold out, including EMU. so if $73 is even too much as Marilyn posted here you can still get an upper level seat for around $43. since this is a small and intimate venue no seat is a bad seat there. so go get your tix folks :) I'm coming from Jersey just to be a part of the only Michigan show on this 2nd leg for Bob. if EMU ticketing site doesn't work... call Ticketmaster (800) 745- 3000 and ask for &quot;representative&quot; when voice mail message comes on.. then on next prompt say &quot;specific event&quot; they'll connect you and you can ask for tickets by price range and they'll go over specific sections. TM phone has helped other get tickets that weren't showing up online. also if you can afford $80-100 there's even floor seats available.. SO go get em :)

Marilyn Wilkie

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Looks like you can still buy tickets at the link - <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> . We can't afford $73 a ticket though.

Marilyn Wilkie

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

Excellent interview! Bob was talking about Clint's Club down on Ann Street. Long gone. It's great that he brought up all the old times I remember too. I hadn't thought about Ralph's Market in years, or grassers. Goo times. I'm pretty sure I know who he wrote Night Moves about too. lol (definitely not me)

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

Great interview! Thanks!


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:04 a.m.

I would have loved to been able to see Mr. Seger in Ypsilanti. I seen him years back at Pine Knob before DTE. I believe was six shows and I was at everyone of them. I had seen a couple bands there and it sounded good. You readers might have heard of Toby Keith and the opening band was a little band called Rascal Flats very new then. Won ticket from VFW and a Local Radio Station called WICD I Think. The &quot;Suds&quot; Maybe. Have a good show Sir. and everyone. Enjoy.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:31 a.m.

Why not use Johnny B for your drummer? Fastest right foot in the business.