Dick Wagner “The Maestro of Rock”
Legendary Lead Guitar Player, Hit Songwriter, Award Winning Author, Humanitarian
Dick Wagner’s songs and lead guitar have been featured on more than 350 renowned albums, garnering more than 35 Platinum and Gold records and international awards. The Detroit area native helped define an era in rock history by playing lead guitar and writing songs for Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Kiss, Lou Reed, The Frost, Peter Gabriel, Meat Loaf, Guns N’ Roses, Ringo Starr, Ursa Major, Tina Turner, Air Supply, Little Richard, Roy Orbison, Hall & Oates, Burton Cummings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lita Ford, and many more.
Wagner’s wildly popular young bands, the Bossmen and the Frost were favorites at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, where the Frost recorded their acclaimed live album, Rock N’ Roll Music. Alice Cooper tells us, “I first saw Dick Wagner while he was playing with The Frost and quickly filed him under ‘Guitar players I’d like to steal.’ But Dick isn’t JUST a guitar player. He’s a gifted writer, and I wrote most of the Alice Cooper hits with him.”
Legendary for his groundbreaking collaborations with Cooper, Wagner was Alice’s musical director, co-writer, and lead guitarist on the majority of the icon’s top selling records, including Only Women Bleed, You and Me, I Never Cry, and Welcome to My Nightmare. From his first (uncredited) guitar playing on Cooper’s School’s Out album, Wagner continued to co-write songs and play lead guitar on Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, The Alice Cooper Show, Lace and Whiskey, From the Inside (co-written by Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner and Bernie Taupin), Zipper Catches Skin, Da Da, Hey Stoopid, and more. Together, Cooper and Wagner co-wrote more than 50 songs featured on Alice Cooper albums worldwide.
Renowned for his extraordinary guitar tone and for his majestic, soulful, melodic and wildman guitar solos, Wagner (along with his dueling guitar partner, Steve Hunter) has been celebrated in GIBSON.com’s Top 50 Guitar Solos of all Time for “Sweet Jane” on Lou Reed’s, Rock n Roll Animal album. Wagner and Hunter were honored along with guitar legends Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Eddie Van Halen.
Throughout his 50 year career in rock and roll, Wagner generously donated his talent to benefit children’s charities. In 2013, Wagner gathered together more than 50 rockers from across five decades of music to record his song for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, “If I Had the Time (I Could Change the World).” The All Star band & choir features Dick Wagner, Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Trini Lopez, Elliot Easton (The Cars), Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Lee Sklar (James Taylor), Fred Mandel (Elton John), Merrilee Rush (Angel of the Morning), and more.
When asked which song he was most proud of writing, Wagner would invariably say, “Remember the Child.” Written from the viewpoint of a child, the lyrics and sing-song melody deliver a powerful and poignant message that a child will forever remember the love or abuse of their childhood. NY Times best-selling author, John Bradshaw, selected “Remember The Child” as theme song for his award winning 1985 PBS television series, “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child.” Wagner’s song has become an anthem for tens of thousands who have been scarred by child abuse and a catalytic tool used by therapists to help patients recover from childhood trauma. In 1996, Wagner produced the first Remember the Child Concert, featuring the Dick Wagner Band and the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra. The concert raised funds for child abuse agencies in Michigan, through his “Remember the Child Foundation.”
Among other charitable activities, Wagner was proud to be First Ambassador for Guitars4vets.org and National Spokesperson for Hydrocephalus.org. Wagner donated the proceeds from his song, Motor City Music (featured in Louder than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story) to support Franciscan monk Brother Al Mascia’s Bicycle Ministry and Care’avan, serving the poor and homeless of the Detroit tri-county region.
Wagner’s 2012 memoir, NOT ONLY WOMEN BLEED, Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician has been honored with five international book awards.
Mark Farner, headliner of the Dick Wagner “Remember the Child” Memorial Concert, tells us he can’t put into words how much he learned from Wagner. “He was special to me because he was my teacher. Yeah, he’s the Maestro for sure, but he was my personal teacher. So I have a strong fondness for him and reverence for the impact that he had on my life as a guitar player and songwriter and human being.” The friendship between Farner and Wagner continued for 50 years. In 2013, they joined forces on Wagner’s benefit song for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Farner says he’ll never forget: “When the kids were singin’, he had all those kids and was instructing them. You could just see the love in that guy towards those children. And that’s what’s reflected in his music and that’s what we’ll always remember about Dick Wagner.”
The Maestro’s Desert Dreams family adds, “Dick had a huge heart, which is perhaps why it gave him so much trouble; it was simply too full of love, of music and life. His creativity and passion will live on forever in the legacy he has left for us, in his music and his words. We have so much of him to celebrate.”
Lou Reed, Dick Wagner – Rock n Roll Animal Tour – 1972
Dick Wagner conducts The Children of Rock Choir for St. Jude Children’s Reasearch Hospital.
Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner – circa 1975