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Interview:
The late Dick Wagner will get his due with tribute concert
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Growing up in Flint, Mark Farner was a fan and acolyte of the late Dick Wagner's even before he played alongside him for a time during the mid-60s in the band the Bossmen.

"I admired him before I met him," says Farner, the Grand Funk Railroad frontman who's one of the featured performers at the Dick Wagner Remember The Child Memorial concert on Saturday, Jan. 10, at the Fillmore Detroit. "I was 18 years old when i was with the Bossmen and I was only with them about a year, but I learned a lot in that year. Dick would personally sit and show me chord inversions on the guitar that looked like they were from outer space.

"He was one of the most talented all-around guys I ever met, really."

Wagner, whose many musical accomplishments earned him the moniker Maestro of Rock, passed away July 30 at the age of 71 from respiratory failure in a Phoenix hospital where he'd had heart surgery earlier in the month. He left behind a legacy of guitar heroics, tenures as a bandleader with the Bossmen, the Frost and Ursa Major, songwriting (including the Alice Cooper hits "Only Women Bleed" and "I Never Cry") and sidemen roles with Cooper and in Lou Reed's famed "Rock and Roll Animal" band.

Wagner was also a first-call gun-for-hire who, often in tandem with Steve Hunter, recorded guitar parts for albums by Cooper, Aerosmith and Kiss.

"Those two guys were THE ringers to go to," recalls record producer Jack Douglas, who met Wagner when he was engineering Cooper albums and later used he and Hunter for Aerosmith's "Get Your Wings" album in 1974.

"They were discreet guys," adds Douglas, who's attending Saturday's show solely as a guest because "I owe a bit of my career to (Wagner). Dick and (Hunter) would come in and do the parts and then teach them to the guys in the band. Unless you were getting Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck to come in and do your sessions, there was on one in America who played as well as Dick. He just elevated whatever he played on."

Produced by Wagner's personal manager and business partner Susan Michelson, the all-star Remember The Child show -- whose proceeds go to the Children's Miracle Network -- will review his entire career via nearly two-dozen songs, including the Cooper hits and the Aerosmith arrangement of the Yardbirds' "Train Kept a Rollin'," while Farner, is slated to perform Grand Funk's "I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home") "as a great honor to my brother and teacher."

Others performing on Saturday include Marshall Crenshaw, Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, Derek St. Holmes of Ted Nugent's band, the Rationals' Scott Morgan, the Traverse City band the Accidentals and Wagner's son Robert. Wagner himself will be heard, via technology, on "I've Seen It All," while the house band led by former SRC guitarist Ray Goodman will include Jimmie Bones and Larry Fratangelo from Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band, Silver Bullet Band alumnus Drew Abbott and Savage Grace's Al Jacquez, who will also direct a choir on several songs.

The night will begin with a screening of "Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story," which features Wagner.

"I instantaneously said 'yes' without a millisecond of hesitation," says Crenshaw, a Berkley native who's slated to sing three songs. "Dick Wagner, he always jsut really had it together. I don't know how many times I saw the Frost -- maybe 25 -- and just to see somebody standing up there who's really the master of all these things that you're interested in doing yourself, that made quite an impression."

Farner, like others in the show, is looking forward to chance to pay tribute and say farewell to an old friend.

"He was also a joker," Farner recalls, "but his basis for living was that after all the bulls***, love wins. He told me that. It's in his songs. He showed us through he was with his music, and that's what everybody knew and loved about Dick. That's what will come through at this show."

The Dick Wagner Remember The Child Memorial

Saturday, January 10. Doors open at 5 p.m.

The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $30 and $20 with limited $100 VIP packages. Proceeds go to the Children's Miracle Network.

Call 313-961-5451 or visit www.livenation.com.


Web Site: www.livenation.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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