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Interview:
Stars gather for third Dick Wagner tribute/benefit concert
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Dick Wagner has been gone for nearly three years now.

But but musician's musician, who was raised in Saginaw and Waterford and worked out of Flint, has hardly been forgotten.

A big reason for that is the Dick Wagner Remember The Child Memorial Concert, an all-star show that will be staged for the third time this week in Detroit. The event raises money for the Children's MIracle Network Hospitals and the Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint and brings together a who's-who roster of friends, colleagues and admirers -- this year including fellow Michiganders Suzi Quatro, former Grand Funk Railroad guitarist Mark Farner and the Accidentals along with Kip Winger and and Wagner's son Robert, among others.

The show is for some good causes, but its greatest mission is reminding the world of Wagner -- who died July 30, 2014 at the age of 71 in Phoenix, -- and his contributions. To prepare for this year's show, here's a few quick key points...

* In Flint, Wagner played with the Bossmen and the Frost, the latter hitting big in 1969 with "Rock and Roll Music." Farner, who met Wagner in 1967 and played with him in the Bossmen for awhile, calls himself one of Wagner's "understudies" and relates that his mentor "was a giver. That was his spirit. He taught me a lot, and he taught so many people. It was just his nature, simple and pure and a true giver."

* Farner also credits Wagner with kicking off his career in songwriting. "One night Dick and I were at his house with our electric guitars, not plugged in so his wife could sleep, and he was showing me some chord inversions," Farner remembers. "I asked him, 'Dick, how the hell do you come up with all these songs, man?' and he told me, 'They just come. they pour out of you. It's inside you mark, and you've got it inside you, too. YOu've just gotta learn how to hear it.' When Dick went to bad I sat up the rest of the night and I wrote 'Heartbreaker,' my first song, and performed it onstage long before Grand Funk (recorded) it."

* Wagner moved to New York during 1972 and formed a group called Ursa Major, with Billy Joel on keyboards and Amboy Dukes alumnus Greg Arama on bass.

* Wagner's greatest fame came as a gun for hire, often in tandem with fellow guitarist Steve Hunter. He played, usually uncredited, on early albums by Kiss and Aerosmith and on Lou Reed's "Berlin" and "Rock 'n' Roll Animal" albums.

* Wagner had a particularly fruitful relationship with Alice Cooper, playing on some early 70s albums and then becoming part of the group with 1975's "Welcome To My Nightmare." Wagner co-write Cooper hits such as "Only Women Bleed" and "I Never Cry."

* Quatro, who met Wagner during the late 60s and went on to write several songs with him, recalls that Wagner "flirted with me backstage. I was too young and his look was a little scary, and predatory." But that did yield a Quatro song, "If Only." "I asked him if he remembered that he looked at me that way, and he said 'sure,'" she says. "So I said, 'if only...' and the song was born." Quatro recorded a version of it for her new album with QSP, an all-star group featuring herself and members of the Sweet and Slade.

* Wagner's other important credits included Kiss' landmark 1976 album "Destroyer" and releases by Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Burton Cummings, Nils Lofgren, Air Supply and Tim Curry.

3rd Dick Wagner Remember The Child Memorial Concert, featuring Mark Farner, Suzi Quatro, Jimmie Bones, Kip Winger, Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, Micki Free, the Pleasure Seekers, Thornetta Davis, the Accidentals and more.

Friday, March 24. Doors open at 5;30 p.m.

SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $25-$150, including VIP packages.

Call 1-866-782-9622 or visit dwrtc.org.




Web Site: www.dwrtc.org

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