I was at the thrift store a few weeks ago and they had a 50% off all books and music sale. Needless to say I stocked up. One dude asked me “Are there any left for me?” when he saw my pile. I was mostly interested in music, but decided to give the books a look. My eyes focused on the words Dick Wagner. I know that name. Not Only Women Bleed. Oh yeah. He was in Alice Cooper. I opened the book and much to my delight found it was signed. SCORE. I guess I can fork over the $1.50 for it. I was asked to do a blog post about this score, but since I found the 1st year anniversary of his death was fast approaching I dropped all of my other reading material to binge read this book.
I learned so much about Dick Wagner in this book. His guitar playing in Alice Cooper was possibly his most famous work, but only accounts for a tiny portion of his contribution to music.
The vignette writing style of the book is very easy to read for a dude like me getting back into reading. I have been too focused on music, computer and tv to be bothered by reading for many years now. Now that I’m getting back into it, I’m finding it quite enjoyable. It is peaceful and it stimulates the mind. This book flips from one section to another with individual stories that may have nothing to do with the story before, or after. While reading it I didn’t have to force myself to read until the end of a long chapter. The sections were often only a few pages long, and the next one is often completely unrelated so I can stop and start anywhere and not miss a thing.
There are around 200 different stories in this book so I will only fill you in on the ones that jumped out at me.
The book starts out with a story called Jerry Lee Lewis. Later a story called Roy Orbison. Dick’s band opened for both of these legends when he was just 17. In a later story called Treacherous Terrain we learn Dick was a straight A student with an IQ of 142. Not your average rock n roller.
Dick had severe asthma as a youngster but still wanted to play sports. On his first day of tryouts the coach told him to ‘take it out kid”, which meant to take it to the sidelines to throw back into play. Dick, however took it out of the school. he was so embarrassed he never tried sports again. I guess sports loss is the music lovers gain.
In a story called To Pluck a Rose we read about Dick losing his virginity to a 19 year old, when he was 15. We read he “struggled to find the entryway, but I did” and that he “arrived at the finish line, 2 seconds under the world record time previously held by Hans Biberdik, legendary premature ejaculator”.
Roy Orbison. Dick’s band were to open for Roy, so Dick had them practice every song of his until they knew them inside out. Roy was impressed. In his hotel room, he asked Dick if he would like to hear a few songs off his new album. He played “Crying” and “Candy Man” for Dick in that hotel room in Devil’s Lake Michigan before anyone else had ever heard them. WOW. Roy had an influence in Dick. he taught him that his voice is as powerful as his guitar, and it influenced Dick the rest of his life.
Freddie Greenleaf Goes To The Other Side. Freddie was a band mate in Dick’s first band and they were buddies. When Dick found himself out of work he asked Freddie to move in. Freddie said his dad had invented and anti-gravity machine but it had gotten stolen on the way to D.C. Ok. One night when Dick was low on cash he told Freddie they were low on milk. Freddie left and came back with a 6 pack of beer for himself, and no milk. Dick kicked Freddie out. 35 years later he wanted to re connect with Freddie. Since Freddie was off the grid, with no phone, he called a neighbour. When Freddie got to the phone Dick invited him to his house in Connecticut to re connect. Freddie said that would be fine as he was planning a trip to DC to present his anti-gravity machine. WHOA. (It kind of reminds me of the Facebook “friend” requests I often get. There is a reason we are not still friends)
Sandra Sue Gutterman. She was a girl that Dick was madly in love with for 2 years in high school. Dick and Sandy never had sex, however, they did fall asleep in his car one night and Dick was forbidden from ever seeing her again. Well fast forward 40 years and Dick tracks her down. She was unaware of his musical career, and they still have feelings for each other. They married in 2002.
Through The Eyes Of Youth. Here we find out about Dick’s father. How he had affairs, and never felt Dick would amount to anything good. We also learn Dick cried himself to sleep every night, and tried to comfort his mom by bringing her a bottle of Coke when she was sad.
That’ll Teach Ya. 2 stories woven into one. First about an early booking for Dick’s band, where the bar owner kept telling them to turn it down. They pleaded with the bar owner to no avail. When they turned it down so it was barely noticeable the bar owner gave them the thumbs up. Dick then cranked the amp to 10(his didn’t go to 11) and blasted “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” Next a story of a rowdy bar in Flint wehre a drunken asshole kept coming up and giving Dick the finger. When the guy tried to touch his guitar, Dick hit him in the mouth with the guitar, and a big fight broke out, while the band kept playing on. That’ll teach ya.
Wild Bill Emerson. In the Mack Vickery band, Dick played with a guy that was left handed, played the guitar upside down, and set his guitar on fire on stage, years before Hendrix. “Who came first, the chicken or the egg?”
Frank Denny’s Party. While in The Eldorados, Dick was managed by Frank Denny. He was crude and most people loathed him. When he would meet someone for the first time, he would often say “I’m Frank Denny, manager of The Eldorados, I’m thinking of changing their name to The Pig F*ckers”. After a gig the band was at a party. Frank told Dick there was an even better party at his hotel room. Frank spiked Dick’s drink and had oral sex with him while he was passed out. Dick called him homosexual slurs out of sheer anger. However, Dick prefaces with the fact that his brother is gay and he is not homophobic. This rape caused Dick to not be able to ejaculate through oral sex again. He never told anyone about this incident until this book came out. Perhaps it further influenced some of the bad things that were yet to come. It was a very shocking point of the book from the readers perspective. Most readers probably went in thinking this was just another musician’s book about partying and life on the road, but this was not expected. I know it would have taken a lot of courage to bring this up for all the world to see after all these years.
Jeep & The Gang. His new bad is The Bossmen. His new manager was Jeep Holland. he was straight as an arrow. No drugs. Until one day at Jeep’s hose, someone slipped mescaline into his Coke. He quickly became addicted to drugs and sex. Sex and drugs and rock n roll was now his life.
The Grande Ballroom. This was a club in Detroit which was fashioned after the Fillmore West. The music scene in Detroit was one of the best in the nation. On any given night the national/international acts such as Yardbirds, Janis Joplin, Procul Harem, BB King, Johny Winter, Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane etc. would have to be at the top of their game to keep up with Detroit’s finest: MC5, The Frost, Ted Nugent, Iggy and The Stooges, The Jagged Edge, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, SRC, The Amboy Dukes, The Rationals, Third Power, The Pleasure Seekers(featuring the Quatro sisters), Savage Grace, The Wilson Power Pursuit etc.
Blood Sweat & Tears. Dick Wagner was called to audition to be the lead singer of the band. On the plane ride home Dick decided to carry on with The Frost, and the job went to David Clayton Thomas. (Probably for the best anyway)
The Fillmore West. Within 2 weeks of its release, The Frost has sold 50,000 copies of their album in Detroit alone, but when they got to San Francisco they found 0 copies there. Also, their manager had not signed the contract so when The Frost got there to open for BB KIng another band had taken their place. Dick pleaded and the club owner gave in. BB King had Dick and Elvin Bishop come up on stage and jam. Up until this point, that was Dick’s biggest thrill. When in Detroit, Dick leant BB his guitar(Lucile had burned in a fire), and BB again invited him on stage. “BB may you live and play forever.” Such moving words from and for 2 great guitarists that we unfortunately lost within the last year.
Suzi Quatro. Dick was very attracted to Suzi. She was not the norm. A rocking girl that stood out from all the dudes in the biz. She was well loved in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. She only became famous in North America with her role on Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero.
The Blueberry Smile. Dick starts off by saying his song “Only Women Bleed” deals with violence against women. He states he supports groups that protect battered women. During one night after a show with The Frost, Dick had sex with a particularly annoying groupie. When she went to leave, he threw a blueberry pie in her face. He hopes the lady reads this, as he apologizes for being a heartless, rude bastard.
So Sorry Officer. Please Take My Money…And Other Moments Of Intolerance. The next day after opening for the Allman Brothers(and trading guitar licks with Duane Allman-WOW), the band went into a diner to eat. After an hour of being ignored by the staff they left dejected. (It kind of reminds me of Turn The Page.)
Goose Lake. Dick never made it to Woodstock. But in Michigan in 1970, over 200,000 people gathered for a music festival. There were 2 revolving stages, and over 50 bands. The Frost were on fire that day and received 5 standing ovations. It was one of Dick’s most treasured live shows of all time.
Billy Joel and World War III. In 1970, The Frost was falling apart, Dennis Arfa thought Dick, Billy Joel and Rick Mangone would make a great power trio. Rehearsals went well, but Billy had to quit due to personal issues in his marriage. World War III was never to be.
Enter Bob Ezrin. Bob Ezrin was 21 years old when he worked with Ursa Major. Bob and Dick got along great and Bob opened the door in the music industry over the years for Dick. They loved the hard rock, but the head of RCa did not. He buried the album and without promotion it didn’t sell as well as it shoudl have.
The Rock N Roll Animal. Dennis Katz called Dick in 1972 to audition for Lou Reed. After one album, Lou felt the rest of the band were overshadowing him, and they were fired.
Meeting Alice Cooper. The first time Alice Cooper heard Dick Wagner he wanted him in the band. Back in the late 60’s, he said to his band ” Boy it would be great to have a guitar player like that in the band” (I can’t imagine that made his current guitar player feel good)
I Love The Dead. Alice, Dick and Bob Ezrin collaborated many times over the years, including the Billion Dollar Babies album. it was agreed though, that Alice was the only one getting credit on this album. Dick got $6,000 for his contribution, but he knows he would have made WAY more if his name was on the credits. However, as a team player it got him a spot in the band.
I Never Cry. Dick tells us why this song never reached #1 in America as it did almost everywhere else. WABC was the #1 radio station in America. Several years earlier the program director had been denied entrance to the backstage so he swore to never play an Alice Cooper record.
The Party. Allan Carr was famous for hosting huge Hollywood parties. He hosted one for Keith Moon’s birthday. Dick introduced his wife Elizabeth to Allan. He dismissed them by saying “OH I SEE… THE WRONG DICK AND LIZ” and turned his back on them. They left shortly after.
And Now… The Lighter Side Of Bob Ezrin. Bob liked to duct tape people. he once duct taped an engineer to his chair and push him out onto the street. During the recording of Peter Gabriel’s first solo record, he taped Peter to a pole several feet off the floor to get the right vocal effect for “Modern Love”
The Tonight Show. It was supposed to be Dick and Alice doing an acoustic song. Instead the chickens with machine guns came on stage and for Dick it was the beginning of a lull in his career as well as Alice’s.
Dancing With The White Lady. Dick used to extol the virtues of cocaine, and explain that it was harmless and non-addictive. “F*cking dumbass I was” also “Cocaine lies to you, and rapes you and holds you prisoner, until you find a way to escape-if you are lucky. It took me fifteen years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to finally choose life-and not a moment too soon.”
The Richard Wagner Album. Dick and Bob Ezrin worked together on Dick’s first solo album. Unfortunately the record label did little to promote the album, and they used his given name, Richard Wagner so it got confused with the classical composer and was often misfiled.
Aerosmith & Steven Tyler. One of Dick’s favourite achievements was playing on Get Your Wings. Joe Perry was unable to play one night so Dick played guitar on “Same Old Song and Dance” and a few others. Also, Dick and Steve Hunter play the guitar on “Train Kept a Rollin”. Steve starts off the song, and Dick finishes it. Dick’s portion was done in the studio, but he was asked to make it sound “live”. Neither Dick or Steve got credit on the album for their work.
Gene & Paul. Dick plays guitar on the Kiss Destroyer album. No reason why he was chosen over Ace Frehley on the tracks “Sweet Pain” and “Beth”, but he was again un credited.
Take Me to Bellevue Cabbie. Dick was walking in NYC with his girlfriend when they heard a women screaming. A man was beating her up in front of numerous onlookers. Dick steps in to help her. While on the road, Dick turns to look at the oncoming traffic and the man cuts his throat with a knife. Dick and his girlfriend hail a cab to the hospital and Dick is saved to “write another song, play another gig, to love another human, to better love myself, and to write this narrative for posterity.”
Good-Bye Mr. Pusher Man:Remember The Child. While in NYC in a drugged out state, Dick’s first wife called him. She wanted him to write a song for the San Antonio Coalition For Child Abuse. He started with the rhyme Ring-Around-The-Rosie. Writing this song, and crying all the while helped Dick begin to escape the lure of the drug he was addicted to. It helped him and many others.
After Word. “We are all products of our life choices and the people involved in those choices. You can only hope you can trust your instincts to guide you into a life that’s filled with love, personal fulfillment and happiness…..or something close to that.” and “What I am is what I am, and I tell you people, that’s just enough for me.” Peace on You. Dick Wagner.
After reading this book, I laughed, cried, was in awe, and sometimes in utter disbelief of what I had read. I would recommend this book, not only for the people that love rock music, but for anyone that wants to know the inside of a man that bares his soul for all to see.
I will also list the more famous things Dick has done for music. I only included a few of the songs he played guitar (or piano) on. He was also a great songwriter, singer, composer and producer. Here are some of the songs he performed, sometimes, as is the case for Aerosmith and others, uncredited.
Just Us Girls
Second last, a solo effort by Dick Wagner. This is a very powerful song. I actually cried when I heard it, and I don’t cry easily. Perhaps it was a bit of sadness of only really finding out Dick Wagner after it was too late to ever meet him. Oh well. In the book Dick states that it had that effect whenever he played it. The money raised from the sales of this song continue to go to help child abuse victims.
Dick Wagner’s last song ever was on the Kiss tribute EP A World With Heroes released last year. He does a version of Every Time I Look At You. You can access the song through iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/world-heroes-ep-kiss-tribute/id909198329. All proceeds of the song go to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence.
There were 2 cd’s included with the book, and I will review them next time.