When Wayne Kramer received a Notable Book Award this past January from the Library of Michigan for his memoir, “The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, The MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities” (Da Capo Press), the rock legend and counter-cultural icon was humbled and honored. But he couldn’t help but notice the irony in his recognition by the State of Michigan.
“I’ve spent a lifetime as an outsider,” said Kramer, “when officials talk about outside agitators, that’s me.”
Kramer, 71, is perhaps best known as a member of the MC5, a pioneering Detroit band from the late ’60s that mixed social commentary and radical politics with their bare-knuckle, unpretentious style of rock and roll. The MC5 are often considered the godfathers of punk rock, and Kramer is often being cited by hard rock guitarists as being a major influence. He was also recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Those who aspire to be professional guitarist like Kramer would often try hard to copy his tone. His is one of the most emulated guitar tones that in the punk rock genre. Overdrive and delay pedals on MusicCritic are often made to accommodate his style of playing.
Kramer has “always written and always aspired to write,” but it took the birth of his son five years ago to give this segment of his life story the conclusion he needed.
“Some of my friends had been bugging me to write a book, but I could never figure out how to end it because I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near done,” Kramer says.
That is, until five years ago, when his son arrived.”
“Having a child changes everything,” Kramer said, “so it seemed like a natural way to end this part of the story.”
Kramer calls Los Angeles home, but he has been spending a bit of time in the Detroit area recently. He has been talking to state officials about bringing his Jail Guitar Doors program to Michigan. Jail Guitar Doors is an organization Kramer founded with his wife, Margaret, and English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg, to bring concerts, and music and songwriting programs to rehabilitate inmates in prison and juvenile detention.
“[Music is] an extraordinarily effective tool for people to learn how to work, how to sit down and see a project to completion,” Kramer said. Their programs are currently in 130 prisons, and all the youth facilities in Los Angeles county.
“It’s how I deal with my cynicism, my frustration,” Kramer said. “I have to take ethical action.”
Kramer will be visiting four libraries in Michigan, doing readings from the book and playing some music. His favorite part of the trip, though, is interaction with people during Q&A.
“I really like the exchanges with people,” Kramer said, “I like talking with them more than I like talking at them.
Kramer may not be putting away his author’s pen just yet. Asked if there’s another book in him, Kramer replied, “Maybe — I think it’s a distinct possibility.”
See Wayne Kramer in person
All events are free and open to the public, but registration is required. You can register to attend the Salem-South Lyon Library event by visiting this link.
All other events, visit the website for the venue.
• Wednesday, June 19
3-5 p.m. at Bay Theatre, 214 N. St Joseph’s St., Sutton’s Bay, MI 49682
• Thursday, June 20
7-9 p.m. at Salem-South Lyon District Library, 9800 Pontiac Trail, South Lyon, MI 48178. Register by visiting this link.
• Friday, June 21
6-7:30 p.m. at Hamtramck Public Library, 2360 Caniff, Hamtramck, MI 48212
7:30-8:30 p.m.: Afterglow @ Planet Ant 7:30pm-8:30pm
Gig at Third Man Records: 7 p.m. start on Friday, June 21(Wayne arrives at 9 p.m. and will be in the latter part of the evening, fyi). ML Liebler’s All Access Cafe, Third Man Records. 441 West Canfield, Detroit
Free Event, Open to All
For More Info, visit the Detroit Writer’s Guild website: www.dwguild.org
• Saturday, June 22
1-3 p.m. at Berkley Public Library, 3155 Coolidge Hwy., Berkley, MI 48072