Dick Wagner’s Own Tommy John Surgery, Comeback Player of the Year

Lou, busy being upstaged by Wagner

In January 2012 I flew to Phoenix to meet with Dick Wagner, the man who schooled a legion of guitarists with his licks on a massive piece of frettery, the intro to “Sweet Jane” on Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal lp. Over and over, a teenaged me listened to Dick dueling with Steve Hunter before they kicked into the verse, Lou walking onstage to what was probably studio-added applause.  

Four years before my trip to Phoenix, Dick had suffered a stroke and a heart attack that left him a teetering man who looked much older than his 68 years. I was interviewing him for my book, Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Five Decades of Rock ‘n Roll in America’s Loudest City, which will begin hitting stores in May.
He was clearly struggling as we sat and talked, sometimes drifting off to a light sleep, other times trying to find words for experiences he knew so well, but could just not communicate. I felt badly for him, as it was clear he was a kind man who wanted to be part of this book and was frustrated by his frail condition. I wondered how long he would hang on as I helped him to his car that day.
He hung on and then some, today making appearances for his book, Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician and playing the guitar as well as he ever did. He’s like the Tommy John of rock, given that it was a diagnosis and the proper treatment that brought him back.
ABC last week did an excellent feature on Dick’s comeback, certainly worth checking out. He’s touring in Europe and scheduled to be in his home region of the Midwest in June after doing some recording in Texas in February. 

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