Rockers band together to remember Dick Wagner

Concert will benefit children’s charities

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 17, 2016

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DETROIT — The late Dick Wagner was known on the rock ’n’ roll circuit for his songwriting talent and his grinding guitar chops. 

Wagner, who grew up in the Saginaw area and died in 2014 at age 71, also had a soft side for children’s charities.

Which is why several musicians will band together for the second annual Dick Wagner “Remember the Child” Memorial Fund concert Feb. 20 at the Fillmore theater in Detroit. Showtime is at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $110.

The Dick Wagner “Remember the Child” Memorial Fund is a non-profit corporation that benefits the Children’s Miracle Network, Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The fund creates and supports music therapy programs for hospitalized children by providing musical instruments, teachers and funding, and the opportunity of learning to play a musical instrument.  

Detroit disc jockey Doug Podell, of 94.7 WCSX-FM, will emcee the “Remember the Child” concert for the second year in a row. He said last year’s show was “electric.”

“It was sold out,” Podell said. “There were so many musicians on stage. It was like a who’s who of Detroit rock ’n’ roll that was honoring him. It was a very, very special night. I think if you ask anybody that was there, they would say the same thing.”

With a musical lineup that includes Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, Peter Keys of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Derek St. Holmes of the Ted Nugent band and the Rationals, this year promises the same kind of night.

Also scheduled to perform are members of the Frost; Scott Morgan; Jimmie Bones from Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band; Johnny “Bee” Badanjek, known for Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and the Rockets; David Winans II; Grammy winner Mike Farris; musical director and Grammy nominee Paul Brown; Jean Beauvoir (Plasmatics, Little Steven’s Disciples of Soul); Micki Free (Shalamar); Pat Lewis (Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye); Wagner’s son, Robert Wagner; and more. The acts are subject to change. 

Music fans may recall Wagner’s work with the Frost, of which Podell was a fan. Wagner also worked with Lou Reed, Aerosmith, Kiss, Peter Gabriel, Burton Cummings, Mark Farner and Meat Loaf. During his career, he played guitar for Alice Cooper and also co-wrote several of Cooper’s hits, including “Only Women Bleed” and “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

“He was a great songwriter, musician and singer,” said Podell, who was thrilled when he and Wagner sparked up a friendship in the 1980s. “He was a very humble guy who had a lot of success. For myself and radio, he was one of the go-to guys when it came to helping charities. He just felt he had to give back.”

In addition to helping children’s charities, Wagner also supported the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit and Vietnam veterans, Podell said.

Susan Michelson was Wagner’s business partner and manager for several years.

“He was so beautiful. He was very funny, very kind and just a brilliant songwriter. It’s a big loss,” she said. “He was just a real humanitarian.”

At Saturday’s concert, Michelson said, the musicians will play Wagner’s songs and seven or eight people will be onstage at a time.

“It’s a very hot show and very high energy,” she said. “It’s very professional.” 

Wagner would have loved it. 

“I think he would be so honored to have his talent benefit the children,” Michelson said. 

Michelson hears feedback from the young patients that the Memorial Fund benefits. The music therapy, she said, lets them forget about their pain and their IVs for a while. 

The Fillmore is located at 2115 Woodward Ave. in Detroit. For ticket information, visit www.dickwagnerrememberthechild.org.

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