Johnny Powers, early Detroit rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, dies at 84

Johnny Powers liked to say, “They called me the northern Yankee with the southern heart.”

Powers, a singer and guitarist who emerged in the mid-1950s as one of Detroit’s early rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers, died Monday at his home in northern Michigan after a series of health issues. He was 84.

Known for his work with iconic labels such as Detroit’s Fortune Records and Memphis’ Sun Records, Powers retained an avid international cult following well into his later years. Acclaimed for songs such as “Long Blond Hair” and “Honey Let’s Go (To a Rock and Roll Show),” he continued to embrace a style and sound that harked back to a metro Detroit era of cruising, record hops and drive-in hamburger joints.

Powers would go on to work at Motown Records in the 1960s before making his own business forays with a pair of Detroit studios and song-publishing interests.

Alongside Detroit peers like Jack Scott and Don Rader, Powers was among the crop of musicians who transitioned from country music to rock ‘n’ roll in the ’50s, helping set the stage for southeastern Michigan’s rise as a rock music hotbed.

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