In the triplet cities of Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland, at the crook of Michigan’s mitten, potent rock tremors form the Motor City were being felt. A guitarist with his Weber Junior High act Earl & the Dukes, Andy Coulouris first ran across drummer Tim Grefe as a member of British Invasion parrots The Sammie Sweetwater Band. Later, at Saginaw’s Arthur Hill High School, Grefe ran with sizable rock and soul ensemble The Witch, whose 7- or 8-strong membership included a few local Black Panther constituents. In 1969, Witch/Sweetwater bassist Dan Inschall first brought Colouris and Grefe together, in their West Coast-copying Danandy Band. Tensions between Grefe and Inschall ushered the bass player out, to be replaced in 1970 by the charismatic Genaro “Jerry” Rodriguez.

Lizard King to the Saginaw area, Rodriguez rarely left the house sans snakeskin shirt and skintight velvet leggings. He supplied reliable dramatic tension within Sonaura, at odds constantly with the law, with local biker gangs, and with his numerous girlfriends. The convoluted Sonaura epithet was his, a hallucinogen-derived riff on the word “sonorous.” As Sabbath/ Zeppelin acolytes, Sonaura made a suitable opener for regional acts at Saginaw’s civic center. Boosted by WTAC AM 600 airplay, they warmed crowds for the cream of Michigan rock: MC5, The Stooges, The Bob Seger System, and Alice Cooper. Known only as Uncle Richie, the band’s eccentric manager convinced Sonaura to lay down the commercially palatable “Don’t Ever Leave.” Its opposite number in every conceivable way, “Song of Sauron” celebrated The Lord of the Rings’ disembodied malevolence with darn-near unintelligible lyrics and orc-friendly guitar crunch. A huge, sans serif “Uncles Richie’s” typo rode the power trio’s rough-sounding, redlabeled 45, cut by a long-forgotten homespun operation in Bay City. But Sonaura failed to make serious advances into the Middle Earth of east-central Michigan and petered out in 1972, leaving behind just one precious ring of wax.

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