Obit: DICK WAGNER (1942-2014)

Published on July 31st, 2014


By PERRY GRAYSON

TODAY  (July 30, 2014), we mourn the death and celebrate the life of one of rock’s heaviest talents, Dick Wagner. Dick passed away in Scottsdale, Arizona, at 71 from respiratory failure following a cardiac procedure.

The Frost

The Frost

Dick lent his fiery fretboard work to The Bossmen (circa 1964), The Frost (1967-70), Ursa Major and Alice Cooper. He also played session on Lou Reed’s Berlin and the subsequent live LP Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. According to sources such as recording engineer/producer Jack Douglas that Dick played a long shredding solo on Aerosmith’s cover of the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept a Rollin’” on the Get Your Wings album. Likewise, Wagner filled Ace Frehley’s shoes on the Destroyer album when he was unable to make it to sessions.

Dick’s career began with The Bossmen, a band that also boasted future Grand Funk Railroad main-man Mark Farner. Next up, in 1967, Dick started The Frost, an important act in the fledgling history of the heavy rock power trio. With The Frost, Dick played guitar, sang lead vocals and wrote a majority of the songs. The Frost released three LPs, Frost Music, Rock ’n’ Roll Music and Through the Eyes of Love. Heavy rock connoisseur and Pentagram singer/songwriter Bobby Liebling has often been vocal of how influential The Frost were on the early Pentagram “daze” from 1971-79.

Ursa Major CD cover

Ursa Major cover

Following the dissolution of The Frost, Dick formed an even heavier power trio, Ursa Major, for one seminal self-titled LP. Once again, Dick tackled both guitar and vocals. The opening Ursa Major track, “Sinner,” remains as an ultra-heavy favorite “rawker,” lauded by Cirith Ungol multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Greg Lindstrom.

In the aftermath of Ursa Major, Dick concentrated mainly on session and studio work, including the aforementioned Lou Reed albums. He was joined by dual axe wielding partner Steve Hunter. Dick would make his indelible mark on ’70s heavy rock with shock “rawker” Alice Cooper on the concept album Welcome to My Nightmare. He was once again joined by Steve Hunter. Both were featured in the concert film for Welcome to My Nightmare. With Cooper, Dick wrote the acclaimed power ballad “Only Women Bleed.” Dick was an outspoken user of early B.C. Rich guitars, including the single-cutaway Seagull and the Mockingbird. He can be seen with his trusty tobacco burst Seagull in Welcome to My Nightmare.

In 2012, after 5 years of ill health, Wagner published his autobiography, Not Only Women Bleed -Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician.

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