Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whiz Kids - Whiz Kids (1974)

This Ann Arbor based duo's back story is a pretty mysterious one.  Based on what I could gather, the band was formed sometime in the late 60's by multi-instrumentalist Pat McCaffrey and percussionist Ken Michalik.  The band's sound was distinct in that no guitars or basses were present.  McCaffrey often would play organ pedals and analog synths in their place.  By 1970, they were supporting the likes of Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station, Savage Grace, J. Geils Band and Spirit in and around southeast Michigan.  Eventually, the band hooked up with Ann Arbor music impresario Al Nalli and their first recorded effort was released via his label, Kasaba Records, in 1971.  That single, "Take" b/w "Big Cigar Blues" is now highly collectible.

By 1972, Whiz Kids were headlining their own gigs in prominent area venues like Primo Showbar, Grande-Rivera Theater and The Suds Factory.  In 1973 the band entered Pampa Studios and Glen Arbor Roller Mills to record their sole full-length effort.  The eponymously titled record featured McCaffrey and Michalik in all of their two-man glory, sans guitar and bass.  Whiz Kids embarked on extensive gigging in the region, often stopping for extended residencies at Chances Are and The Second Chance.  The band continued to function until the mid-70's, at one point augmenting the lineup with guitar and bass.  Their activities beyond 1976 are hazy at best, but the band (in a mostly revamped configuration) returned to the scene in late 1981 and continued through early 1984 before finally dissolving.

McCaffrey would briefly hook up with Bob Seger's band before doing session work on a number of major label releases through the 80's before embarking on a career in the corporate entertainment business with his newly dubbed showband, Pat McCaffrey and the Whiz Kids Band.  He continues this career today.  Michalik, on the other hand, took his talents into the Ann Arbor Public School system, working as a music teacher, where he resides to this day.

I know this rarity hasn't exactly set the collector community on fire, but I find a lot to love about this unique sounding record.  There's something funky about these songs.  There are plenty of hooks to be found here and even a few pseudo rockers.  Standouts include "Judas", "Start All Over Again", "Poison" and the addictive funky ZZ Top cover, "(Ride My) Chevrolet".  Make no mistake, this isn't some scorching hot and heavy indie release, but the cavernous ambience and tight performances make this an interesting listen.  Perhaps a little on the vanilla side of things, Whiz Kids will still certainly win some fans with this sole effort.  Standby as efforts are being made to secure a copy of the rare single from 1971.  I'll be posting it here once I've landed one!


cosmo kidd said...


Anonymous said...

Hi, great to see you back!! I bought this one years ago but didn't like it...maybe it's time to reinvestigate...

Anonymous said...

Hi J,
great to see you back in action my man.
I was just updating my bookmarks & was blown away to see you were back.
Looking forward to seeing waht comes next.
Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

I meant to ask, is the wants list on your page up to date or is it in need of updating?
I can hook you up with the Snake & Major Surgery records if you still need 'em.

JKR said...

Thanks brother! It's good to be back, albeit a little sporadic at the moment. I'm working on finding some regularity with posts just as soon as I relocate in the next month. I've been using a terrible DSL connection for several years & that makes posting a bit of a drag, but soon I'll be back in the saddle proper.

I would absolutely love any contributions you feel up to making, my friend! The wishlist on this page is updated but a truncated version of the real thing, mainly because I haven't taken the time to make some worthy additions here. If you're curious about the proper list, feel free to drop by the link below. Thanks in advance for anything you feel like sharing. I'll do my best to sleuth some background info on them & post an article here, unless any of them are such that you prefer them not to be shared en masse :)


Anonymous said...

Dang, i should never have checked out your wants list!
Lots of interesting looking stuff to seek out, I can see my own list now expanding greatly as a result.
After a quick look i can add Rockressio, War Horse & Hyts to the records i previously mentioned that i can supply.
When i get some time i'll properly go through your wants as i may have some others too.
It may take a wee while to get it done but i'll hook you up.
What's the best way to contact you to pass the links along? Through RYM?
Lemme know.
Best wishes,

JKR said...

lol sorry, that list is overwhelming, I know! best way to hit me up is RYM for sure. Looked you up there but couldn't find you under that handle. Using a different name or are you not a member there?

Anonymous said...

Check yr PMs @ RYM.

Anonymous said...

Finally you`re back!


juan manuel muñoz said...

thanks a lot

Vance Pollock said...

Excellent! I had a guy in our group Carolina Rock 'n' Roll Remembered asking about these guys every few months. Seems they played Charlotte, NC in the early '70s and made quite an impression on him. I think he believed they were local, but the description of two man band, multi-instrumentalist was spot on. I'd like to figure out how they ended up playing way down here in those days. Thanks for sharing the album... made my search a heckuva lot easier... plus sounds! -Vance www.facebook.com/groups/ncrockhistory/

Larry Keiler said...

I'm amazed to find this post. I saw these guys opening for Spirit and was totally blown away, but somehow over all these years never heard of them again and wondered what happened to them. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Amazing! Just heard MacArthur's Park and immediately thought of these guys. They played at the A&N Club in North Charleston, SC in the early 70's. They were fabulous. Good to see they did so much and were known by so many.

Madlane said...

Saw this band many times in the Livonia area is a teenager. The highlight of their set for me was always their version of Nature's Way by Spirit.