Guitarist Dick Wagner Dead at 71; Worked with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at 4:40pm

Guitarist Dick Wagner, who was best known for his work with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed, died today in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 71.

Wagner had contracted a lung infection after heart surgery and died following respiratory failure, Billboard reports.

Only last week, Wagner posted this message to fans through his Facebook account: “I love you all very much. I can't wait to play for you all again one day soon. Thank you for all your kind wishes.”

Alice Cooper was among the first to pay his respects:

“Even though we know it's inevitable, we never expect to suddenly lose close friends and collaborators,” he said. “Dick Wagner and I shared as many laughs as we did hit records. He was one of a kind. He is irreplaceable.

“His brand of playing and writing is not seen anymore, and there are very few people that I enjoyed working with as much as I enjoyed working with Dick Wagner. A lot of my radio success in my solo career had to do with my relationship with Dick Wagner. Not just on stage, but in the studio and writing.

“Some of my biggest singles were ballads what I wrote with Dick Wagner. Most of Welcome to My Nightmare was written with Dick."

Gene Simmons of Kiss described Wagner as “the consummate gentleman axeman” in his tribute.

The guitarist had famously overcome a series of medical issues during the past decade, retraining himself on guitar after a stroke paralyzed his left arm. He re-emerged to begin recording, writing and performing shows.

Wagner was born in Iowa and later settled in Saginaw, Michigan. He was a key figure in southeastern Michigan’s emergent rock scene in the 1960s, a guitarist who made his name with the Bossmen and the Frost.

In 1972, Wagner moved to New York and formed Ursa Major, which included Billy Joel on keyboards and Rick Mangone on drums. The band toured with Jeff Beck and then with Cooper.

In 1973, Wagner was recruited by Bob Ezrin for Lou Reed's band, along with guitarist Steve Hunter. Soon after, Wagner and Hunter were joined by Prakash John, Pentti "Whitey" Glan and Ray Colcord for Reed's Rock 'n' Roll Animal tour. The band toured internationally with Reed, culminating in the Rock 'n' Roll Animal album, which was recorded live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 1973.

Wagner was recruited by Cooper for his 1975 album, Welcome to My Nightmare, and went on to work with a host of A-list artists, including Peter Gabriel and Rod Stewart. Legend has long held that Wagner was a secret hired hand on albums by several high-profile bands.

“He was just a humble and talented guy, and I think that's why Jack Douglas and those guys loved him — he was just this consummate pro,” Brian Pastoria, a Detroit musician and studio operator who worked with Wagner, told the Detroit Free Press. “I think Dick Wagner took Alice to another level in his career. He was already the showman at that point, but musically he had to show that he really had it.”

Wagner lived in Arizona in later years, but regularly made his way back to Michigan, including a June 29 show in Owosso, his final home-state performance.

Wagner — who released the 2012 memoir Not Only Women Bleed, Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician — remained prolific through the end, said manager and business partner Suzy Michaelson.

“He was very proud of his songwriting, and very proud that he was coming back and playing really, really well again after having been paralyzed, and all the different things he’d been through,” Michaelson told the Detroit Free Press.

Michaelson said a memorial tribute will take place in Michigan.


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Best Holiday Rock Song Poll: “Christmas All Over Again" (Tom Petty) Vs. “Santa Claws Is Coming to Town" (Alice Cooper) (12/1/2015)
It's that special, joyful time of year once again: GuitarWorld.com readers' poll season! This year, we've decided to spread some musical holiday cheer in the form of our first-ever "Best Holiday Rock Song" readers' poll. It's a chance for all th...
Alice Cooper Releases Limited Edition Guitar for Halloween (10/16/2015)
In the spirit of "Keepin’ Halloween Alive" each year, Alice Cooper will be releasing a brand-new, limited-edition guitar from ASG, available exclusively at Rockabilia.com on All Hallows’ Eve. Featuring a collage of his iconic Constrictor and Lac...
Alice Cooper Box Set Coming July 31: 15 Studio Albums from 1969 to 1983 (6/22/2015)
Rhino has announced a massive, 15-CD Alice Cooper box set titled Alice Cooper: The Warner Bros. Years. It will be available July 31. The set features all 15 studio albums Cooper released on Warner Bros. from 1969 to 1983. Cooper, along with gu...
Joan Jett Talks Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lou Reed and "I Love Rock ’N’ Roll" (4/17/2015)
This is an excerpt from the all-new May 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of the story—and all of the May 2015 issue—head here. Girl’s Got Rhythm: Joan Jett has been banging out some of rock’s greatest power chords since the age of 15. Wi...
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Green Day Elected to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (12/16/2014)
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Lou Reed, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Green Day and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band have been elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2015. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr also will be honored...
Betcha Can't Play This: Nita Strauss Solo Lick from Alice Cooper Tour (11/21/2014)
Here's a brand-new edition of Betcha Can't Play This featuring Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, who visited Guitar World HQ last month. Last time, she played a Descending Legato Lick. This time, she demonstrates a lick from her solo spotligh...
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed Nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (10/9/2014)
Well, it's finally happened. The late Stevie Ray Vaughan has actually been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Vaughan, whose first album, Texas Flood, was released in 1983 (31 years ago), who put blues and vinta...
Alice Cooper on shock rock – past, present and future (10/8/2014)
Read more about Alice Cooper on shock rock – past, present and future at MusicRadar.com When Vincent Furnier adopted the m
Nita Strauss, Alice Cooper's New Touring Guitarist, Gets Into the Act (9/10/2014)
This interview is from the all-new November 2014 issue of Guitar World: As the newest guitarist in Alice Cooper’s touring band, Nita Strauss has some large shoes to fill. The 27-year-old Los Angeles native, who assumed the post this past spring...
Alice Cooper Guitarist Nita Strauss on Appearing in Playboy: "They Definitely Threw it Out There" (7/14/2014)
Last month, we announced that guitarist Nita Strauss has joined Alice Cooper's band. Since then, she's been gracing the homepages of a seemingly endless number of websites around the world. In a recent interview with the Examiner (via Ultimate C...
Guitarist Nita Strauss Talks Touring with Alice Cooper, Gear and Three-Guitar Attacks (6/23/2014)
Following the April premiere of Alice Cooper’s film, Super Duper Alice Cooper, at the Tribeca Film Festival and its subsequent on DVD, rock's greatest showman is hitting the road as a "very special guest" during Mötley Crüe’s final "All Bad Thin...
Music legend Alice Cooper on 12 career-defining records (11/11/2013)
Read more about Music legend Alice Cooper on 12 career-defining records at MusicRadar.com
Lou Reed's Cause of Death Revealed: Liver Disease (10/29/2013)
Liver disease has officially been declared the cause of singer Lou Reed's death. Following his liver transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in April, Reed said he was "bigger and stronger than ever" and called himself "a triumph of modern me...
Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed dies aged 71 (10/27/2013)
Read more about Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed dies aged 71 at MusicRadar.com Lou Reed, a founding member of the Velvet Underground and one of the most influential figures in rock 'n' roll, died today at the age of 71. The cause of his deat...
Lou Reed, Rock Pioneer and Velvet Underground Co-Founder, Dead at 71 (10/27/2013)
Singer/guitarist Lou Reed, best known as the principal songwriter in the influential 1960s New York City band the Velvet Underground, died today at age 71, Rolling Stone reports. Although the cause of his death has not yet been revealed, Reed un...