Hit Songwriter ~ Legendary Lead Guitar Player ~ Award Winning Author
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Known to fans and friends as, “The Maestro of Rock,” Dick Wagner’s songs and lead guitar have been featured on more than 350 renowned albums, garnering more than 35 Platinum and Gold records, BMI songwriter awards, and numerous prestigious international awards.
The Detroit area native helped define an era in rock history by playing lead guitar or writing songs for Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Kiss, Lou Reed, The Frost, Peter Gabriel, Meat Loaf, Steve Perry, Etta James, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Air Supply, Hall & Oates, Ringo Starr, Guns & Roses, Tori Amos, Frank Sinatra, and dozens of others.
Legendary for his groundbreaking collaborations with Alice Cooper, Wagner was musical director, lead guitarist and co-writer of the icon’s biggest hits, including “Only Women Bleed,” “You and Me,” “I Never Cry,” and “Welcome To My Nightmare.” Wagner was Cooper’s right hand man on such groundbreaking albums as, Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, Lace and Whiskey, From the Inside, and DaDa.
Together, Cooper and Wagner co-wrote the majority of Alice Cooper’s top selling singles and albums, including more than 50 songs featured on 60 Alice Cooper albums released worldwide. As a teenage musician living an hour north of Detroit Michigan, Dick Wagner enjoyed his first taste of “big time show biz,” when he was asked to play guitar as backup for some of his musical heroes, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Little Richard. Great balls of fire!
GIBSON.com Top 50 Guitar Solos of all Time: The guitar tandem of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter has been celebrated with TWO positions in Gibson.com’s “Top 50 Guitar Solos of all Time,” for their extraordinary guitar work among guitar legends, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Eddie Van Halen. http://bit.ly/1fjpxiI
Multi-Award winning Author and Speaker: Wagner’s memoir, NOT ONLY WOMEN BLEED, Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician (with foreword by Alice Cooper) has beenhonored with FIVE international book awards. www.notonlywomenbleed.com
ROCKERS FOR ST. JUDE: “We Are the World” for 2013: Wagner gathered together more than 50rockers from across the history of rock ‘n roll to record his song for St. Jude Children’s ResearchHospital, “If I Had the Time (I Could Change the World).” The All Star band features Dick Wagner, Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Trini Lopez, Elliot Easton (The Cars), DannySeraphine (Chicago), Lee Sklar (James Taylor), Fred Mandel (Elton John), Merrilee Rush(Angel of the Morning), among many more. Video: http://bit.ly/1ioaoMF Proceeds benefit St. Jude.
Along with his work for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and charitable organizationssupporting women and children, Dick Wagner is the First Ambassador for Guitars4vets.org,and National Spokesperson for the Hydrocephalus Association www.HydroAssoc.org. Wagner actively supports the programs of Franciscan monk, Brother Al Masciawww.brotheral.com in his Bicycle Ministry and Care’avan, serving the poor and homeless ofthe Detroit tri-county region.
The Michigan public first took notice of Wagner’s talent in 1964, when he formed the band The Bossmen, whose songs like “Baby Boy” were #1 radio favorites in Michigan. Soon Wagner was writing and producing for other Michigan bands. In the late 1960s, as Wagner’s work became more complex and featured a harder edge, he formed the wildly popular band, The Frost, recording his first three Billboard charted albums and drawing enthusiastic crowds to hear songs like “Mystery Man” and “Rock and Roll Music.”
Wagner moved to New York to form Ursa Major, a seminal rock band and power trio that recorded one, self-titled, defining album for RCA. The raw musical power and artistry of Ursa Major inspired a generation of rock musicians and remains an influential album for today’s musicians. Little known factoid: the original Ursa Major lineup included Wagner on guitar and Billy Joel on keyboards, but dramas in Billy’s personal life intervened and he left the band.
Wagner’s guitar virtuosity captured the attention of Lou Reed, and he was invited to play on Lou’s European Berlin tour in 1973.
Wagner assembled a powerhouse band including Steve Hunter and Wagner on dueling lead guitars, Prakash John on bass,Pentti Glan on drums, and Ray Colcord on keyboards. The live album, Rock N’ Roll Animal, recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, remains one of the most celebrated and influential guitar albums in rock history. Lauded by Rolling Stone, Billboard, and the international press, Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal was described by renowned music critic, Robert Christgau: “This is a live album with a reason for living.”
In 1972, producer Bob Ezrin brought Wagner in to play lead guitar solos on Alice Cooper’s breakthrough School’s Out album. Uncredited at the time, Wagner’s guitar solos were attributed to the Alice Cooper band. The Cooper-Wagner songwriting collaboration began with “I Love the Dead,” released on Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies album. Cooper and Wagner began a prolific collaboration that spanned several decades. Together, the Cooper-Wagner songwriting team wrote 7 out of 9 of Cooper’s Top 10 hit records.
Leaving Lou Reed in 1974, Wagner moved the entire Rock N Roll Animal band over to play with Alice Cooper. The first full album written and recorded by the Cooper-Wagner team, “Welcome to My Nightmare,” spawned a number of Top 10 singles. The Welcome to My Nightmare tour, with a road crew of more than 45 persons, private jets, technical wizardry, theatrical showmanship, and extravagant staging and lighting, became the biggest and highest grossing rock tour of its time. Shock rock was born.
With Wagner’s studio walls lined with gold and platinum awards, he writes with the observant eye of a world traveled artist. Asked what song he is most proud of, Wagner recounts this story... In the late 1980’s, he was commissioned to write music by the San Antonio Commission on Child Abuse. Wagner’s poignant composition, “Remember the Child,” painfully reflects the pain of child abuse, written from the first person soul of a child. Renowned author/lecturer John Bradshaw discovered the song and chose it as his theme for the Emmy nominated PBS special, Homecoming. The song has since become the anthem for tens of thousands who have been scarred by child abuse, and is a catalytic tool used by many therapists in helping their patients access their hidden suffering of childhood trauma.
In 2005, Wagner relocated to Phoenix to form a new production company, Desert Dreams Productions, LLC, with partners, Susan Michelson and Alex Cyrell, entrepreneurs and founders of Omnimount Systems and Future Primitive Designs. A full service record label and artist management company, Desert Dreams specializes in “Music Production and Artist Development for the extraordinary Artist.”
SURVIVOR: But Wagner’s big story is also that of survival—both personal and professional. Wagner had already survived two heart attacks (one DOA), a stroke, a paralyzed left arm, kidney failure, diabetes, a pacemaker, and more. But his health continued to deteriorate. For more than eight years, he suffered from undiagnosed issues: a shuffling walk, dementia, dizziness, urinary incontinence, and falling. Physically disabled and unable to play guitar, he was left feeling hopeless and “drying up in the desert.” And then, in 2010, a CT scan revealed that Wagner was suffering from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) ‒ a treatable condition with excellent prognosis.
Wagner consulted with renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Joseph Zabramski at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix AZ. Zabramski greeted Wagner with, “Dick Wagner, I love your guitar solos! And by the way, you have hydrocephalus.” In 2011, “Dr. Z” performed two brain surgeries on “the Maestro.” With a permanent shunt in his brain, Wagner's recovery felt miraculous. Within hours, his dire symptoms receded, and he found that ‒ not only could he walk again, but he could also play guitar again! Only five weeks after brain surgery, Wagner was back on the road touring with his 7-piece rock band. Wagner’s return to live performance has been a celebration of packed venues, overjoyed fans and critical media acclaim.
Nearly fifty years after launching his storied and dynamic career, hit songwriter, guitar virtuoso, producer, and award winning author, Dick Wagner, remains a brilliant, prolific, and vibrant creative force. Whether rock, blues, country, jazz or spiritual, Wagner’s songs continue to detail the essence of life. His guitar playing continues to inspire guitarists worldwide, and his production values recall the era of great songs with great melodies and universally accessible lyrics.
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