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McCarty on stage tonight, enjoying vocal avocation

June 27, 1998

Free Press Sports Writer

The band is Grinder, and it's fronted by one of the best grinders anywhere: Red Wing Darren McCarty.

The merging of rock and one of the most popular Wings takes center stage tonight in the parking lot of Second City, 2305 Woodward Ave. in Detroit next to the Fox Theatre. Grinder -- guys from three hot local bands and McCarty -- is one of several groups on the 8 p.m. Second City bill.

The four-song appearance -- Grinder's first in public -- is an offshoot of a one-song CD the band released last month. The song, "Step Outside," features McCarty doing lead vocals. CD proceeds go to the Vladimir Konstantinov Open Trust and Sergei Mnatsakanov Family Trust.

"It's something, obviously, that's way out of my league," McCarty said. "But it's going to be a ball. I know the guys in the band are pretty geeked about it. We're going to go out there and have fun, and the bottom line is that it's all for a great cause."

It's a result of McCarty's association with K-Rock (97.1-FM) and host Millen. Until the Stanley Cup playoffs began, McCarty joined Millen about twice weekly for "Mac & Millen" afternoons.

The CD, available at area Harmony House stores, has gotten serious K-Rock airplay and sold nearly 5,000 copies.

"Because this is the McCarty station -- and with Darren being such a big fan of mine -- I took the CD into my boss and said, 'We probably should play this,' " Millen said.

"And the response has been pretty resounding."

On "Step Outside," McCarty sounds like a great rock singer for a hockey player, perhaps even a promising pro rocker.

"You know, some people like it, some people don't -- just like all kinds of music," Millen said. "But I get a lot of calls and requests for it. I mean, this isn't Steven Tyler or Eddie Vedder. This is Darren McCarty, and he's not doing a bad job at all."

The in-studio training with Millen also has prepared McCarty for stage duty. One day he sang along with members of Everclear, doing a live unplugged version of its hit "Everything to Everyone." He also has hopped on stage with other bands.

Grinder is McCarty plus two members of Walk on Water -- guitarist Billy Reedy and drummer Eric Miller -- Speedball guitarist Bill Kozy and Hoarse bass player Robby Graham.

"I put together a list of bands I felt were the cream of the crop in Detroit, got on the horn and just pulled it all together," Reedy said. "And we were talking to Darren one night, knowing he's a budding rock star, and talked about throwing a band together around him. And he just went nuts with that idea."

Some have heard the song and not responded favorably, Reedy noted.

"And that's really ridiculous, because No. 1, it's a charity record done for fun and to help people," he said. "And No. 2, Darren's a hockey player. He did great, hung in there and didn't get frustrated....

"I heard somebody say we must have done something to his voice, but we absolutely did not. They don't get the point. I mean, that would be like Eddie Vedder playing in a charity hockey game, and Mickey Redmond criticizing his stickhandling."

Vedder is lead singer for Pearl Jam.

Also on the Second City bill are the Howling Diablos, Walk on Water, Psy-Funk and Five Horse Johnson. Tickets to the 21-and-over concert are $12, available at the Second City box office and Ticketmasters. To charge by phone, call 1-248-645-6666.

Part of the proceeds benefit the Coulier Foundation, set up by actor Dave Coulier.

"I understand about whatever criticism might be out there, but I'm a big boy who can take it," McCarty said. "I know what I'm going to make my money doing. I mean, geez, I'm pretty much game to try anything. And I'm not embarrassed about it.

"Sometimes you can rub people the wrong way just because you go against the norm, I guess."

Millen, currently in contract talks with K-Rock, hopes McCarty will be part of his future there.

"I'm definitely looking forward to Mac & Millen finding their way back together again this summer," Millen said. "That is, if Grinder isn't touring with Metallica."

To leave a message for Steve Crowe, call 1-313-222-2115.


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