By Rick Nielsen
When Cheap Trick went to Japan on tour in 1979, a contest was held in which people were supposed to send in drawings of a Rick Nielsen guitar, and the winner would have their idea built. The kids sent in some really amazing stuff, and several of the entries were drawn to look like me. Some even had the toggle switch placed right where my “unit” would be.
When I got back to the states, I went to Hamer and told them that I wanted a guitar that looked like a cartoonish caricature of me, and this is what they came up with: the guitar known as Uncle Dick. The head is interchangeable, and there was another one that looked like Bun E. Carlos, our drummer. There was even a spot to stick a cigarette in it, so that you could make the guitar smoke.
I’m not proud of this, but I smashed up Uncle Dick pretty badly once. We had just gotten back from a tour of South America and were playing a show at the Whisky A Go Go in L.A. The guest list was like a who’s who of Hollywood, with musicians, agents, and celebrities galore, so it was really important for us to play a great show. Of course, the gear arrived late and everything started going wrong. Then, to cap it all off, my amp crapped out during the show. I was so frustrated that I yanked at my cable, pulled my head off the top of a stack (it fell on the head of my tech, Dave Wilmer) and smashed Uncle Dick. I try to keep my emotions contained, but this time, they got the best of me.
After the show, I apologized to Dave (and to the guitar), and then went out and talked to some of our guests. They were shocked—not that I had smashed the ax but that I hadn’t planned it. Because in Hollywood, everything is planned!