Bio by Rich Tupica, Lansing City Pulse
Another hot act in the ‘60s Lansing scene was the Woolies. The band saw national success and worked with Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Stevie Wonder and Chuck Berry.
The Woolies, led by “Boogie” Bob Baldori, made a mark far beyond Michigan. Baldori moved from Dearborn to East Lansing in 1961 to attend Michigan State University. His early bands, Maury Dean & the Nightshift and the Mongers, would be a precursor to a life-long career in blues-inspired rock-nroll. Baldori also founded Spirit Records in the mid-1960s, a local label with a catalog of over 30 records.
While most local bands were digging the British Invasion, Baldori said the Woolies, which also included the younger Baldori brother, Jeff, were more influenced by the roots of American music. “We were locked into early blues,” Baldori said. “We did a lot of Robert Johnson and Chicago, urban rhythm and blues. Basic rock is what we called it.”
Upon arriving in East Lansing, Baldori became heavily involved with the then-lackluster East Lansing rock scene. He was even a part of a club called the Fat Black Pussycat, which was home to the local booming folk music circuit that booked big-name singers like Pete Seeger. But soon enough, the Woolies, and rock 'n' roll in general, would take up all his time.
Baldori, a lawyer who still lives in the Lansing area, recalls watching downtown East Lansing grow into a musical hot spot. “When I got here, East Lansing was dry,” he said. “The closest place to play was Coral Gables, so we’d play there all the time. But when bars opened in East Lansing it became a mecca for music in Michigan. We played all the bars there. There would be 10 bands working in two or three blocks of downtown. We’d play Lizard’s (now Rick’s American Cafe) every Thursday for a long time. Then we switched to Sunday nights.”
While his band played in the same area as the Ones and the Plagues, Baldori said his band was part of a different scene. “We were more plugged into the regional scene,” Baldori said. “We traveled a lot. We’d even played gigs in California. Then we hooked up with Chuck Berry in 1966 and played all over the country with him. We also recorded two albums with him. We are still great friends with him. I played with him at his 80th birthday a few years ago.”
The Woolies’ biggest hit was a cover of “Who Do You Love.” Originally released as a single in 1966, the song later found its way onto Rhino Records' "Nuggets" box set, an acclaimed collection of 1960s garage singles.
“It went to No. 1 in a few markets,” Baldori said. “It was a big deal. The reason it didn’t score nationally is because back then it took forever to spread across the country. It was a hit in Boston, Miami, Los Angeles — but not all at the same time. It was spread out between ‘66 and ‘67. I still go to cities and people remember it being a No. 1 hit. It was breaking in regional charts, but had it broke all at once, it could have been bigger.”