Arthur Pendragon’s 70th Birthday
Jim Morrison’s Doppelganger Behind Phantom’s Divine Comedy and more tales about Detroit’s ’60s and ’70s lost rockers
Editor’s Note: You’ll find music links, as well as links to a series of ongoing articles regarding the life and career of the Phantom and Detroit’s other lost rockers of the ’60s and ’70s in this birthday tribute.
The late Phantom, born as Ted Pearson, later, legally changing his name to Arthur Pendragon, would have been 70 years old this year, as he was born on April 23, 1951. He left us on March 28, 1999, on the 25th anniversary of the release of his rock opera, The Divine Comedy, by Walpurgis, which was released as Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1, in 1974.
By July of 1974 the rock ’n’ roll dreams of Ted Pearson, later to be known as Arthur Pendragon, seemed to be over. His long-gestating rock opera, The Divine Comedy — first devised in 1968 and intended as the debut album by Walpurgis (who, until October 1971, was known as Madrigal) — was bastardized by his management and record company into an ersatz Jim Morrison solo album. So, instead of being marketed as a Doors clone, Ted did the next best thing: he joined the Doors. Then, after a month of practice (Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop where there) for the debut of the “new” Doors on July 3, 1974, to celebrate the third anniversary of his reluctant doppelganger’s “disappearance,” Ted was again bastardized — this time as Jim’s “live” ghost. So, Ted did the next best thing: he formed another band.
By February of 1976 The Phantom of Detroit published his first batch of songs for his new concern, Pendragon, which born out of his Divine Comedy-era stage name: Arthur Pendragon, which would later become his legal name. The first rosters of Pendragon that existed between 1976 to 1977 — its members lost to the ages — comprised of musicians from Mitch Ryder’s touring solo band, of which Arthur Pendragon was a short-time member.
By 1978 Arthur Pendragon returned to the stages of Detroit with guitarist Chris Marshall, formerly of a prog-rock experiment devised by Jem Targel with Bob Seger associates, known as White Bucks, and Jerry Zubal, formerly with RSO Records’ hard-rockin’ Rockicks. Arthur rounded out his bass lines with a just out of high school Jeffrey Johnson on drums, and a longtime friend, keyboardist Bob Ellis, who played in bands with future Bob Seger and Mitch Ryder associates.
You can learn more about the careers of Arthur Pendragon and his associates as you enjoy our continuing series of interviews and features with the lost, forgotten rockers of Detroit:
- Part 1: Sometimes you’re Kiss . . . and sometimes you’re Rockicks: Phantoms from the Rock ’n’ Roll Oblivion
- Part 2: Pendragon: The Lost Album and other Lost Rockers of the Great Lakes
- Part 3: Detroit Rock City: Tales from the Pinball Wizard and the Gamers’ Guide of Guitarist Joe Memmer of the Detroit Doors
- Part 4: Tales from the Detroit Backbeat and the Six Degrees of Ron Course and Frank Mielke
- Part 5: Tales of a Barooga Bandit: Daniel O’Connell’s Journeys in the Rock ’n’ Roll Unknown
- Part 6: Tales from Detroit’s Rock ’n’ Roll Renaissance with Keyboardist Paul Cervenak
- Part 7: Happy Dragons, Phantoms, Fiddlers, Rockets, and Spliffs: The Career of Scott Strawbridge of Fiddlers Music
- Part 8: The Roots of Pendragon’s Rick “The Lion” Stahl
- Part 9: Behind the Shroud of a Detroit Rock ’n’ Roll Mystery with Phantom Keyboardist Russ Klatt: Part 1 and Part 2
- Part 10: A Rock ’n’ Roll Sun Still Rises on the Motor City with Rick Stevers of Frijid Pink
- Part 11: The Revolvers from Lake Orion, 1966 to 1967: The Roots of the Wizard
- Part 12: The Mystery of Tom Carson of the Lazy Eggs and Detroit’s Fiddlers Music
- Arthur Pendragon: Jim Morrison’s Doppelganger: A Primer on the Wizard Behind Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1
- Jim Morrison’s Ghost, Phantoms, and Dopplegangers: An Interview with Mike “Chizzy” Chisholm of the Detroit Doors
- The Phantom’s Mystery Poem: A spooky, backmasked poem and song from the grooves of Phantom’s Divine Comedy, Part 1
- Other Musical Phantoms: Neil Merryweather and Jim Gustafson
- The Pendragons of Ocala, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois
- Ugly Things Magazine: November 2022 Winter #61
Phantom's Divine Comedy
Rare outtakes and demos, studio and live recordings by Walpurgis and Pendragon.
More Photos & Images
Links to Other Phantom Mentions
Down on Us (1984) aka Beyond the Doors (1989)
What if Jim Morrison didn’t die. . . .
My film analysis on a Detroit rock n’ Phantom sidebar: The legacy of Jim Morrison and the Doors —by way of Richard Bowen and his band, the Source, featured in Larry Buchanan’s “What If?” tale.
There’s a link within to a review of Bowen’s other soundtrack-film work: A Bullet for Pretty Boy, starring Fabian as the infamous gangster of yore.
And yes, in those days before the Internet, Richard Bowen was believed to be The Phantom.
10 Forgotten 70s Rock Bands Worth Rediscovering
The Phantom of Detroit the Makes List!
Well, it took 48 years, but you know you’ve “arrived” when What Culture places The Phantom at #6 on their “10 Forgotten ’70s Rock Bands Worth Discovering.”
Much respect and thanks to U.K writer Chris Wheatley for keeping Arthur’s career alive in 2022. (The link we’ve provided takes you straight to the Phantom’s listing.)
10 obscure but brilliant 70s bands who should have been huge
The 1970s was when rock grew up. 70s bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Phantom’s Divine Comedy, Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult…
This “Top 10” list has since reposted in 2022 on a couple of click bait sites, so here’s the 2016 original posting in which Louder Sound/Classic Rock Magazine’s Malcolm Dome places Detroit’s Phantom’s Divine Comedy in his “Top Ten Obscurities” list. Pictured is San Francisco’s Highway Robbery. There’s great stuff to hear, so dig ’em up on You Tube. Enjoy!
Copyrighted materials by R.D Francis.
You can download The Ghost of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ’n’ Roll, and its sequel, Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online eRetailers for all eReader platforms.
You can also enjoy more photos of the Phantom and other Detroit musicians on Facebook.
You’re still rockin’ us, Arthur, my brother. Happy 70.
— R.D Francis