In the early 1960s, a young musician from Buffalo named James Ambrose Johnson Jr. joined the U.S. Navy to avoid being drafted. In 1965, weary of the Navy, Johnson deserted to Toronto.
In Toronto, under the name Ricky James Matthews (either because it's a cooler stage name or because, you know, he had deserted from the Navy), he formed a rock band called the Mynah Byrds with some Canadian musicians.
The Mynah Byrds' fusion of soul, folk and rock was pretty good, as you'll hear below — good enough to get them signed to Motown Records in 1966.
It was during their association with Motown that Stevie Wonder convinced Matthews aka Johnson to shorten his name to "Ricky James." It was also in Detroit that Motown executives found out about James' past and convinced him to turn himself over to the FBI.
James was sentenced to a year in prison and the world was deprived of that version of the Mynah Birds.
It's too bad, too, because it featured bassist Bruce Palmer and guitarist Neil Young, who moved to L.A. and became two of the cornerstones of Buffalo Springfield before that band also broke up and Young became, you know, Neil Young.
But Ricky James did all right for himself, too, with hits like "You and I," "Mary Jane," Give It to Me Baby," "Cold Blooded" and of course, "Super Freak."