"He gave you everything he had and then some. It's a dark day for rock ‘n’ roll." Tributes paid to MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, dead at 75

Wayne Kramer at the Above Ground benefit for MusiCares, September 2019
Wayne Kramer at the Above Ground benefit for MusiCares, September 2019 (Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Tributes have poured in from across the world of music and guitar playing for Wayne Kramer, guitarist for the influential proto-punk band MC5, who died yesterday aged 75.

The band announced his death on their Facebook page today with the simple comment, “peace be with you.”

Alongside the late Fred “Sonic” Smith, Wayne Kramer was the architect of the MC5's high-energy proto-punk sound, best exemplified on their legendary 1969 debut album, Kick Out the Jams

With overdriven riffs, feedback, and a heavy dose of radical politics, Kick Out the Jams was years ahead of its time, and helped set the template for punk rock, heavy metal (Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister was a huge and vocal fan) in fact, most of the high-energy, over-driven rock'n'roll music that followed.

Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan played with Kramer in a punk rock supergroup Mad For The Racket. "Just a supremely sweet man, and one hell of a rock and roll fire-starter," he tweeted. "My story with WK started one day in the 90's when we connected to do Mad For The Racket with Clem Burke, Brian James... and Wayne himself. I was in punk rock heaven around this bunch... and Wayne led us through the whole record with grace and HUMOR! He's been a leader to me and for me... ever since. We will so miss you Wayne."

McKagan's bandmate Slash said: "My life was forever changed for the better when I met this man & I'm going to miss him immeasurably. The embodiment of all things Rock n Roll & a really fucking great human being. RIP Wayne, you will live on in our hearts."

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British guitarist Billy Bragg worked with Kramer and his partner Margaret Saadi Kramer to set up Jail Guitar Doors USA, an initiative that aimed to help rehabilitate prisoners by supplying them with guitars and recording equipment. Jail Guitar Doors was named after a song by The Clash about Kramer's conviction in 1975 for selling cocaine ("Let me tell you 'bout Wayne and his deals of cocaine/A little more every day…").

Bragg commented: "Wayne Kramer was a revolutionary artist who walked it like he talked it. His own incarceration gave him an instant bond with the prisoners he helped through his leadership of Jail Guitar Doors USA. My thoughts are with Margaret and their son Francis."

Tom Morello worked on the Jail Guitar Doors project and commented: "Wayne embodied a combination of wisdom & compassion that was beyond inspiring. Rest in peace my dear brother."

Living Colour's Vernon Reid commented: "Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wayne Kramer-Punk Rock PIONEER, inmate rights reformer, author, human rights activist, anti-violence advocate. Guitar BADASS, & Major Dude. Totally Real. Always looking forward."

Jill Sobule tweeted that she was "so heartbroken. The best man in the world, and someone I was so grateful to have in my life… Kick out the Jams MF forever!"

The Cult's Billy Duffy commented: "Brother Wayne. I was grateful for the time I've got to spend with the great man… I'm sure he's kicking out the jams in another dimension right now."

Former Gos-Gos bassist and friend of Kramer, Kathy Valentine commented: "I'm filled with sorrow at the loss of Wayne Kramer who I was blessed to know and count as a friend. I had immense admiration, respect and love for Wayne. He did so much for so many. He would've kept on. Rest in Power, Go in Peace."

Siliverhead and Power Station singer Michael Des Barres said: "Wayne Kramer is what they call the real thing. As a young kid in London, he was adored as was his groundbreaking brilliant rock ‘n’ roll band the MC5. They influenced so many. He gave you everything he had and then some. It is a dark day for rock ‘n’ roll. Eternally remembered."

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Guitar Player Staff

Guitar Player is the world’s most comprehensive, trusted and insightful guitar publication for passionate guitarists and active musicians of all ages. Guitar Player magazine is published 13 times a year in print and digital formats. The magazine was established in 1967 and is the world's oldest guitar magazine.


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