Hailing from Hamtramck, The Mutants were not only sonically interesting but lyrically irreverent. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Lyzak was known for crooning a range of songs satirizing the culture such as “So American” and yuppie ambition like “College Grad” to an ode to “Pizza” and the b-side to the band’s first single found Lyzak crooning from the first-person perspective of, straightforward enough, a “Piece O’ Shit”.

Lyzak says the band was originally formed around 1970 as The Motor City Mutants and had much more straight forward sensibility band playing bars featuring lead singer James Graves. Graves, a hairdresser of African-American background, left because he needed at least $50 per gig in order to make it work for him. That’s when Lyzak, who had played a few gigs with The Motor City Mutants on guitar, took the lead vocal spot just in time to play one of the last gigs at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom opening for The MC5 and The Amboy Dukes on September 30th, 1972.

During a period before the Bookie’s era, 1974-1975, The Mutants broke up and Lyzak started a band called Harlow with several other Hamtramck musicians. Harlow was striving for a glam rock sound, like Roxy Music, but it failed to get traction. Harlow broke up after a short time and The Mutants reformed. But, several members of Harlow, Rich Cole and Wally Palmer, went on to find success in The Romantics about a year later.

With a professional practice schedule, The Mutants became a very tight band which Lyzak says was more inspired by a band like Sparks than The Sex Pistols. The Mutants never considered themselves “punk”, at least in the parlance of the era, and instead joked about being “Clemma Rock” – a nonsense word Lyzak created when people would ask them to label their style.

The Mutants were featured on the locally produced show “Detroit Bandstand” along with Coldcock and R.U.R. in 1980.

Lyzak said the band was offered several record deals deals in the late 1970s. Warner Brothers, which paid for a demo session for the band at a Kalamazoo studio, decided against signing them after reviewing the tape. Lyzak says The Mutants were offered a contract with Sire Records, then the home of The Ramones, Talking Heads, and The Dead Boys, but turned it down feeling the band deserved more than the $30,000 it was offered at the time. In the early 1980s, George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic fame worked with the band to produce a record for his fledgling Uncle Jam division at Warner Brothers. But, that deal fell through as well. Lyzak says he’s not sure where the original Warner Brothers demo or the scraps of the George Clinton produced album are at this time. But, The Mutants did release two 7-inch singles in the late 1970s on the band’s FTM Records label – which also released a single by fellow Hamtramck band The Reruns. The band eventually released a full LP in 1983, entitled “American Guise”, as The Motor City Mutants on their MoBurb label. The Mutants broke up in 1985.

Lyzak is the son of Lili Karwowski who opened the notable Hamtramck bar Lili’s in the late 1970s.

Lyzak and his Mutants bandmate John Amore hosted a show called “Hamtramck Nightlife” from Lili’s in 1982 which also featured a “performance” by the band.

Have a story or information to share about The Mutants? You can do that here.

12 thoughts on “The Mutants

  1. The information about Harlow is wrong. Mike Marshall wasn’t in Harlow. Rich Cole played bass. And Art didn’t mention me (Pasadena) but I was the guitar player in Harlow. On another note I put a couple of songs of the Mutants from Bookies in 1980 on Soundcloud. Just search for Mutants live at Bookies and it will come up. If you can lift them and put them up here somewhere feel free to do so.

  2. Just a question. I saw The Mutants at Lili’s many moons ago, and bought a t-shirt,
    “Anti-Celebrity Tour” with Howard Cosell in a circle with a line through it. Fast forward, now I have two kids who both love that t-shirt. Any idea if I could get another one?
    Hoping maybe someone has a box collecting dust? If I tried to have one made would I be violating copywrites?

    1. ML, I’d love to see a photo if it!

      As for the copyright, you think you’d need to ask Art – he’s on facebook. Pasadena might be able to help – he posted a message above.

      Best to you – Rob St. Mary, Detroit Punk Archive

  3. The Mutants kind of bridged the gap between earlier Motor City R&R and the “new wave” of the mid to late 70’s Their satirical ,snotty, irreverent tunes like “So American” were on a similar wavelength to the more pointed ,acidic attitudes starting to seep in from NY and London at the time. [What was begining to be so funny about peace, love and understanding?] Note* the MC5’s “the American Ruse” predated anything from N.Y or London by several years /Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” not withstanding. After all, not many rock bands can claim the distinction of having their own FBI file! We can only hope the FBI agents
    trampling through the woods around Traverse City got a severe case of ticks searching for Pun Plamandon! [Hoover to agents: did you find Pun? Did you find Pun yet you idiots!? Meanwhile back in Detroit the spark plug behind The Mutants audacious bombast was the fantastic big beat of drummer extraordinaire, the late Steve Sortor. I first encountered Steve at a vinyl showcase at the State Fairgrounds in 75 where we discussed the potential merits of a live Roxy Music bootleg entitled “Champagne and Novacaine”. At subsequent encounters with Steve at the Red Carpet a couple years later he was always funny, encouraging and diplomatic. I kind of viewed him as like a R&R Santa Claus on the Detroit scene .You could tell this cat lived, breathed and ate music. I’ve got a hunch the other Mutants viewed Steve as their secret weapon on stage and in the studio/ May his memory live on! P.S I hereby propose to the Hamtramck City council 4 bronze statues on the corners of Caniff and Josef Campau :Mitch Ryder /Wally Palmar/ Art Lyzak/ and the feisty bakery owner next door to the diner who serves up the best brownies in town/don’t give her no lip or she might kick your ass down the street!

  4. Art is my brother and we love him and Christine very much! Happy 2021!
    The Karwowski’s of Imlay City

    1. Hey Alan, Hopefully all is good in Imlay City! Lili’s was my all time favorite bar especially when you were bartending! The Mutants one of my favorite bands. We saw them all over the east side from the Red Carpet, Bookie’s, The Old Miami and Lili’s to name a few! Hope you and your family are all safe and healthy. Take Care, Trip Maghielse

  5. I first heard “College Grad” on WABX’s Sunday night Dangerous Exposure program hosted by Greg St. James. I then sought out The Mutants and saw them play several times in the early 80’s in various East side venues. I love the music and the lyrics; you could tell they were smart guys and good musicians. One of my favorite shows was where they closed with “Boogers On You”, “College Grad” and “So American” in rapid succession. What a blast. I remember Art sometimes wore a blue workshirt with his name in an embroidered patch like the guys used to wear at gas stations in the old days. I bought “American Guise” when it came out (I believe “College Grad” was on an LP of Detroit bands called “Detroit Defaces The Eighties”, which I have been unable to find), and then the live album “Giddyup Mutants!” I traded a few emails with John Amore around that time and he sent me a copy of “Nazi Mars”, an album by his band Tigers Of Instantaneous Death. I loved the Detroit live music scene in the eighties (also, The Seatbelts, The Stingrays, The 3D Invisibles, The Cadillac Kidz), and The Mutants were my favorite band.

  6. I was Steve Sortor’s neighbor growing up. I used to lay in the grass next to his basement window and watch the mutants practice. One day when Steve’s parents were on vacation I knocked on the door and yelled collect for the news. Steve came to the door and asked “ who are you ?” I said I’m you’re neighbor and I deliver the news and I’m collecting $1.25 for the week. He looked perplexed and asked me to come inside. I walked into the kitchen and the kitchen table had a giant mound of pot on it. He told me to sit down and asked me if I smoked weed. I replied No and he proceeded to roll one and we smoked it down. After that, a friend of mine Bob and I started coming to their band practices and before long carrying the band’s equipment, setting up & tearing down. This all started in 1974 when I was 14 years old ! Great times going to the ham town bars being a teenager and being let in by saying I’m with the band ! Many great memories of the band and all of their shows !

  7. Saw them at St. Clair Shores Civic ice arena . Motor city Mutants / catfish Hodge / BobSear / and Iggy and The Stooges

  8. Saw them at St. Clair Shores Civic ice arena . Motor city Mutants / Catfish Hodge / Bob Seger / and Iggy and The Stooges

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *