Our friends over at The Weekly Comet — who have a knack for lining up great interviews and live performances by both legendary musicians and the hottest up-and-coming bands — have scored a great interview and live performance by the legendary punk guitarist Wayne Kramer.
With his proto-punk musical collective The MC5 (along with fellow Detroit thrashers Iggy & The Stooges), Kramer practically invented punk rock — seven years before The Ramones hit the stage at CBGBs. Remember the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago? The MC5 were the soundtrack to the chaos in Lincoln Park,whipping the crowd into a frenzy by urging them to, among other things, “Kick Out the Jams, Motherfucker!”
If that’s not enough Punk Rock street cred for you, consider this: no less an authority on punk rock authenticity than The Clash wrote a song about him — “Jail Guitar Doors” — in which they name-check him and chronicle his descent into drug-fueled spiral that eventually led to jail time. Rolling Stone lists him 92nd among its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s statement that American lives have no second act may have been true when the phrase was coined, but did not account for Wayne Kramer. Subsequent to reshaping American music forever with MC5 (and the prison stint he credits with saving his life), Kramer embarked upon a critically-acclaimed solo music career in the 1990s. After briefly reuniting with the surviving members of MC5 for a well-received tour, he reprised his role as rock-n-roll agent provocateur and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Chicago DNC riots at the the 2008 Denver DNC, joining Rage Against the Machine onstage for a mayhem-inducing version of “Kick Out the Jams.”
Most recently, he has turned his estimable skills to scoring movies and television shows, including Talladega Nights and East Bound & Down. Along with his wife (Margaret Saadi Kramer) and British folk-punk legend Billy Bragg, he also founded the charity Jail Guitar Doors, which provides musical instruments to people recently released from prison as a therapeutic outlet. In what must have been a rare break in his schedule, our partners at The Weekly Comet caught up with him this week. Check out this special performance of The Clash’s “Jail Guitar Doors,” as well as their interview with the musical legend.