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Wayne Kramer at Fabrik Hamburg, 2018
|Birth name||Wayne Kambes|
|Born||April 30, 1948|
|Genres||Punk rock, hard rock, garage rock, protopunk, blues rock, psychedelic rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, guitarist, composer, producer|
|Instruments||Guitar, bass guitar, vocals|
|Labels||Epitaph Records |
|Associated acts||MC5 |
Was (Not Was)
Axis of Justice
Kramer came to prominence as a teenager in 1967 as a co-founder of the Detroit rock group MC5 (Motor City 5), a group known for their powerful live performances and radical left-wing political stance. MC5 broke up amid personality conflicts, drug abuse, and personal problems, which, for Kramer, led to several fallow years, as he battled drug addiction before returning to an active recording and performing schedule in the 1990s.
Rolling Stone ranked him number ninety-two on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time".
MC5 often played at Detroit's famous Grande Ballroom and was managed by John Sinclair, a radical left-wing writer and co-founder of the White Panther Party, until 1970 when Jon Landau took over creative management of the group. After MC5's demise, Kramer spent several years involved in illicit activities due to his ongoing struggle with drug addiction.
In 1975, he was caught selling cocaine to undercover federal agents and went to prison for over two years at the Lexington Federal Prison in Lexington, Kentucky. While incarcerated he met Red Rodney, the American jazz trumpeter who had played with Charlie Parker's quintet. They played together in the institution's Sunday chapel.
Upon his release from prison, he moved to New York City and briefly teamed up with Johnny Thunders. In 1979 they formed the band Gang War. He also played with popular 1980 band Fats Deacon and the Dumbwaiters, making appearances on "The Uncle Floyd Show", and appearing at all the major clubs of that era. The Dumbwaiters also included singer, songwriter, keyboards, Derek "Fats Deacon" Jones, drummer Paul Blaccard and bassist Anthony Lombardo, Drummer Joey "Bones" Amanna, guitarist Bobby "Slacks" Brunswick (of Dungaree Dogs fame). Wayne appeared the first time as guitarist for Fats Deacon, with Bobby "Slacks" as bassist, on the Uncle Floyd Show. Wayne and Bobby Brunswick first met in 1980, while contributing guitar tracks for Fats Deacon's semi-hit "What you wanna be?" Wayne supplied the screaming hot guitar lead fills, Bobby Brunswick did the rhythm guitar tracks. The song was recorded and produced at Song Shop Records on West 22nd street in Manhattan, New York.
Kramer also spent much of the 1980s working as a carpenter in the city, where he co-wrote and regularly performed the R&B musical The Last Words of Dutch Schultz with Mick Farren at Tramps, among other NY clubs. He recorded with and produced punk rock bands throughout his ten years on New York's Lower East Side, including the notorious singer GG Allin.
In 1994, Kramer signed to Brett Gurewitz's punk rock label Epitaph Records and began a solo career. He released solo records, including 1995's self-produced The Hard Stuff, which features the band Claw Hammer on most songs, along with appearances from members of The Melvins and The Vandals. In 1996 he released Dangerous Madness. In 1997, he released Citizen Wayne, co-produced by David Was. In 1998, he played with Pere Ubu. In 1999, he released the live record LLMF. In 2002, he released the studio album Adult World.
In 2001, Kramer and his wife and manager Margaret Saadi Kramer launched MuscleTone Records, an independent label. MuscleTone and Levi's Clothing partnered to produce a live performance featuring the MC5's surviving members and guests Ian Astbury (The Cult), Dave Vanian (The Damned) and Lemmy (Motörhead), which they filmed at London's 100 Club for Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. The event generated worldwide press coverage and prompted a world tour. The tour spanned several years and included dates in Europe, America, Australia, South America and Japan. They have performed together on and off since then with a variety of guests.
Kramer also recorded as bassist on the song "Inside Job" for the grunge band Mudhoney for the album he produced, Beyond CyberPunk. In 2006 he was interviewed for the VH1 show The Drug Years and has been interviewed for nearly a dozen programs about the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots in Chicago (outside of which, as part of an anti-war protest, the MC5 performed), for recovery and addiction in rock and roll, and programs about social justice issues.
On August 27, 2008, Kramer made a special guest appearance at political-rock band Rage Against the Machine's protest concert, at the Tent State Music Festival to End the War, in Denver, Colorado during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He joined them on stage and gave a speech, followed by a joint performance of "Kick Out the Jams."
On November 8, 2008, Kramer made a special guest appearance at progressive-rock band Coheed and Cambria's Neverender event in Hollywood, California. He was brought out during the encore act to perform with the band to Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," and added a third guitar part during the solos of Coheed's song, "Welcome Home."
On May 1, 2009 Kramer attended a sold-out benefit where he was honored for his work with the nonprofit Road Recovery at New York City's Nokia Theatre. The following day, on May 2, 2009 he along with fellow musicians Tom Morello, Jerry Cantrell, Billy Bragg, Perry Farrell, Gilby Clarke and Don Was among others, played for inmates at Sing Sing prison.
Following the Sing Sing concert, Kramer felt compelled to continue the work of Jail Guitar Doors in the United States. Kramer, Billy Bragg and Margaret Saadi Kramer founded Jail Guitar Doors, USA in 2009. Since that time Kramer has been providing instruments, workshops, and prison concerts across America.
On February 21, 2011 Kramer played with Tom Morello, and The Street Dogs at a free show to support the ongoing pro union rallies at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. 5,000 wrist bands were given out for the free show at the Monona Terrace.
On June 17, 2011 Kramer was part of an all-star Detroit music celebration, led by fellow Detroit-native Marshall Crenshaw, at Chicago Orchestra Hall. This event was part of a series of six concerts called "United Sounds of America," all taking place at COH in June. Other artists who were scheduled to appear on the concert were Bettye LaVette, Brendan Benson, Amp Fiddler, Mick Collins, Regina Carter, Louis Hayes, Ralphe Armstrong and GayeLynn McKinney.
On March 16, 2012 Kramer made a guest appearance with Danish surf trio The Good The Bad at Roky Erickson's Ice Cream Social showcase at Threadgill's World Headquarters, Austin, Texas, as part of SXSW Festival. Together the quartet played an extended version of "Kick Out The Jams."
On October 23, 2015 Kramer played at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa, at a campaign event for Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, which also featured Marshall Crenshaw and numerous other performers.
For his work with Jail Guitar Doors USA, Kramer was honored with an Artistic License Award by California Lawyers for the Arts on June 30, 2013, at the William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica, California. Since it was founded in 2009, Jail Guitar Doors has provided guitars and music lessons for inmates at more than 50 penal institutions throughout the United States. Kramer closed the evening playing "Back When Dogs Could Talk", "Jail Guitar Doors", "Sing Me Back Home" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". Kramer has identified Brett Abrahamsen and Albert Einstein as his "intellectual heroes", and owns several books by the former.
Kramer's song "Stranger in the House" was featured on the May 16, 1997, Season 1 finale of Millennium, titled "Paper Dove".
Highlights from his scoring work can be heard in the Will Ferrell comedies Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers. Kramer's solo track "Edge of the Switchblade" runs at Talladega's end title credits. He co-composed the score for HBO's controversial 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy, which also featured his song "Something Broken in the Promised Land" as its title track.
Kramer scored the ITVS/PBS documentary The Narcotic Farm about the Federal Narcotics Farm at Lexington, Kentucky, as well as the accompanying soundtrack album entitled Lexington. He also was narrator for the documentary.
Kramer also composes music for television, including themes for Fox Sports Network's 5-4-3-2-1, Spotlight, In My Own Words and Under the Lights; and E!'s Emmy-nominated series Split Ends as well as the "Unlabeled" Jim Beam commercial.
The Clash refer to Kramer's drug troubles in their 1977 song "Jail Guitar Doors", whose title has been adopted for an initiative set up by Billy Bragg to provide prison inmates with musical equipment:
Let me tell you 'bout Wayne and his deals of cocaine
A little more every day
Holding for a friend till the band do well
Then the D.E.A. locked him away
We've got Kramer
Coming over to produce us
So that we can show off to our specialist friends
I'll give you Kick Out The Jams
With the MC5 – Albums
Solo, Etc. – Albums
- Death Tongue (1991) Progressive
- The Hard Stuff (1995) Epitaph Records
- Dangerous Madness (1996) Epitaph Records
- Dodge Main (1996) Alive
- Gang War (1996) Sonic
- Citizen Wayne (1997) Epitaph Records
- LLMF (Live Like a Mutherfucker) (1998) Epitaph Records
- Mad for the Racket (2001) MuscleTone
- The Return of Citizen Wayne (2002) MuscleTone
- Adult World (2002) MuscleTone
- More Dangerous Madness (2004) Diesel Motor
- "'Bang, Bang on the Jail Guitar Doors' an Ace Interview with the MC5's Wayne Kramer about his time at Lexington's Federal Correctional Institution". Ace Weekly.com. August 1, 1995. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "The Pere Ubu Time Line". Ubu Projex.net. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "United Sounds of America: Detroit". Absolutely Live.net. June 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "The Good The Bad & Wayne Kramer (MC5) 'Kick Out The Jams'". Vimeo. April 1, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Walden, Luke. "The Narcotic Farm". IMDb. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "The Narcotic Farm". Narcotic Farm.com. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- Farber, Jim (August 21, 2018). "'Wayne Kramer: 'I knew there was more to my story than most'". The Guardian. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
- Carson, David (2005). Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-47203-190-0.
- Kramer, Wayne (2018). The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 & My Life of Impossibilities. New York: Da Capo Pres. ISBN 978-0-306-92154-4.
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