DETROIT -- The late Dick Wagner left a significant footprint in music, with his own work and especially via his collaborations with Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Kiss, Lou Reed and many others.
The Michigan music legend, who died in 2014, got his due, again, on Saturday, Feb. 20, with the all-star second annual Dick Wagner Remember The Child Memorial Concert and benefit at the Fillmore Detroit.
Long -- to a fault -- and loving, the show offered a near-comprehensive survey of Wagner's versatile contributions and artistry, with family, friends and admirers paying tribute for the better part of four hours. It didn't have quite as much star power or raw emotion as last year's inaugural event, but it replaced that with a spirit of celebration, not just of Wagner's life but also of Michigan and particularly Detroit music heritage in general.
Give credit for that to a well-rehearsed and passionate corps of musicians who did not treat the show as a mere one-off side gig. They came from all over the world -- Maryann Cotton from Denmark, for instance -- and played with the same hard rock gusto that was Wagner's passion. While the sheer length made it a bit too much of a good thing, the highlights were plentiful, whether it was Wagner's surviving bandmates from The Frost, Bobby Rigg and Don Hartman, playing favorites such as "Sunshine," "Sweet Jennie Lee" and "Rock and Roll Music" or the Rationals' Scott Morgan joining forces with The Sights for the new song "Jamaica" and the staple "Guitar Army."
Ted Nugent band singer Derek St. Holmes soldiered on without Aerosmith's Brad Whitford -- who had to skip this year's because of his ailing mother -- and delivered favorites such as "Hey Baby," "Stranglehold" and "Cat Scratch Fever," while Plasmatics/Disciples of Soul veteran Jean Beauvoir came and went throughout the night, taking lead on "Darkest Hour" and "Mystery Man." The show also paid particular attention to Wagner's Cooper credits, and Cotton's three-song set upped the ante when original Cooper band bassist Dennis Dunaway, who was in Windsor on Saturday to sign copies of his new memoir, showed up to play on "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out," the latter also featuring the St. Valentine's School Choir.
Most valuable player honors for the night went to Nashville-based keyboardist Paul Brown, who served as musical director, and Kenny Olsen, the former lead guitarist for Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band, who was part of the house band -- which also included Detroit music luminaries such as Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, Jimmie Bones, David Winans II and Gene Fiero -- and played hot solos on songs such as "I'll Take the Bullet," "Only Women Bleed" and "Jerusalem." Wagner's son Robert, meanwhile, again sang his heart out as the show's primary lead vocalist.
Grande Ballroom founder Russ Gibb was honored for his contributions to the Detroit music scene, and proceeds went to Dick Wagner "Remember The Child" Memorial Fund's initiatives with the Children's Miracle Network, Beaumont Children's Hospital, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Additional contributions can be made via dickwagnerrememberthechild.org.
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