The secret equation: 33+45=78 rpm

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We set it aside when it first came in, but we just got around to reading in its entirety a six-page letter (five pages on 11-inch-by-17-inch sheets, a sixth on 8 1/2-by-11, all front and back, annotated and illustrated, no less) from one Dennis A. Lambiris, written in response to our November Music Issue with our list of the top Detroit hits that should have been.

Lambiris travels far and wide with anecdotes about Detroit music: a tale of how he and others nearly saved the Graystone Ballroom, a plea to save the Vanity Ballroom on Detroit’s east side, reminisces of Nolan Strong’s funeral and seeing Rob Tyner for the last time, an account of pirate radio operation “WLSD & WFAG,” etc., etc.

Naturally, Lambiris shares his favorite tunes, many new to us (like “Black Saxs” b/w “Wicked Ruby” by Danny Zella & the Zell Rocks, starting off the list, spelled just like that), others familiar (such as Nolan Strong’s “Mind Over Matter”).

And there was this story, its text around the edges of a sheet filled with copies of labels from classic 45s: “I was almost beaten to death in 2002. I was comatose and unconscious for over five months. When I finally came to, the doctor said that, while I was out, some old black and white guys came and visited me and left me something to help me in my recovery. I asked the doctor what was it and he reached out and put a framed, full-color picture of the Fortune Records Company building on my chest. Talk about class.”

Of course, the 45 labels on that page were from the Fortune label: “609 Boogie” by John Lee Hooker, “Detroit Hula Girl” by York Bros., “Just Because of a Kiss” by Andre Williams among them.

But what we haven’t been able to get over is a simple equation written several times in his letter. In several photographs, the equation also is written on the burned-out Fortune Records storefront with someone, we guess Lambiris, posing. The equation: 33+45=78 rpm.

How come we never noticed that before?

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