~ Scott Yanow, Jazz Journalist/Historian
Hitchhiker was written by drummer Kevin Michaels’ aunt and uncle Cielle and Michael Kollander for the Four Preps in 1966 and was originally recorded as a ’45 released by Capitol. The vocal recording is a nice mainstream pop record for the time. Michael Kollander was a staff writer for A&M and Capitol in the 1960s (including for the 5th Dimension and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and Also played guitar with many notables including Bobby Darin, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Charo, and Tom Scott. Cielle Kollander was a backup singer for the Fifth Dimension, Andy Williams, Les Baxter, Roger Kellaway, and others. Their nephew, Kevin Michaels, started his career recording on percussion for the Beach Boys, played with the members of Canned Heat, and has led a variety of groups since that time.
When he was booked in 2018 to headline the Woodystock Blues Festival, Kevin Michaels decided to pay tribute to his aunt and uncle by writing a new arrangement of HitchHiker. The performance, which will be released in April, takes the pop tune and recasts it as a soulful instrumental played by a jazz septet comprised of Michaels on drums, guitarist Ronnie B. Good, keyboardist John Gulack, bassist George M. Webster, trumpeter Roy Wiegand Jr, trombonist Roy Wiegand Sr. and tenor-saxophonist Mike Nelson. It has fine solos from Nelson and Good with strong accompaniment by Gulack's keyboards and the brass section. The relaxed groove is infectious and, even though the piece has been modernized a little, the new arrangement keeps the essence of the original song.
When it was played for Cielle Kollander, she was visibly touched to hear the song revived in this fashion. Listeners will enjoy comparing the two versions.