Rick Nielsen

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Rick Nielsen
Cheap Trick at Gulfstream Park - Rick Nielsen.jpg
Background information
Birth name Richard Alan Nielsen
Born (1948-12-22) December 22, 1948 (age 66)
Elmhurst, Illinois, USA[1]
Genres Rock, hard rock, power pop
Instruments Guitar, vocals, keyboards, mandocello
Years active 1965–present
Associated acts Cheap Trick, Fuse, Sick Man of Europe
Website cheaptrick.com

Richard Alan "Rick" Nielsen (born December 22, 1948) is the lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Cheap Trick. For the band's first few albums, Nielsen wrote the majority of the material himself. He is well known for having many custom-made guitars from Hamer Guitars, including his famous five-neck guitar.


Nielsen formed Cheap Trick in 1972 with drummer Brad M. Carlson (Bun E. Carlos), a Rockford, Illinois native. Before Cheap Trick, he was in a number of bands, including Nazz (replacing Todd Rundgren on guitar), Grim Reapers, and Fuse. The latter recorded a one-off debut album released on Epic Records which sold poorly. After the record failed to gain any attention, the band moved to Philadelphia and the band changed their name to Sick Man Of Europe.

The group toured Europe unsuccessfully in 1972 and returned to Illinois in late 1972. Upon their return to Rockford, Nielsen and Carlos added bassist Thomas J Petersson and vocalist Randy "Xeno" Hogan. In 1974, Hogan left the band and lead singer Robin Zander joined after his contract with a Wisconsin resort was completed. The band then was renamed Cheap Trick.


The appearance of Nielsen on stage was influenced by Huntz Hall of The Bowery Boys; Nielsen wears a flipped up old style ball cap, Nielsen's face resembles Huntz Hall, and some of Nielsen's on-stage antics have been compared to Hall as well.[2]

Nielsen's use of the black and white checkerboard motif on his clothing was in line with the use in other parts of pop culture, including Checkerboard Vans sneakers, that feature in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

The uniqueness Rick brings to each concert is his playing a different guitar for every song. One song that is pretty much played at each event is Dream Police. During the segment of the song where he sings his solo he also throws out to the crowd hundreds of his guitar picks.

On April 23, 2012, Rick Nielsen and the Board of the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois, unveiled plans for Rick's Picks, an exhibit that tells the story of Rick's passions for guitars, music and rock & roll. Visitors will be able to see a collection of Rick's guitars, personal items, stage clothing and Cheap Trick memorabilia. The exhibit is now open to the public.

Nielsen appeared on an episode of The History Channel's show American Pickers that originally aired on March 11, 2013 on an episode titled "Cheap Pick." The show followed the standard format with the show's two stars, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, picking Nielsen's various storage units full of items he has acquired through his years on tour.[3]

On April 6, 2013 Nielsen appeared on an episode of NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! show as a guest on the segment called "Not My Job".[4]

On October 17, 2014, Neilsen appeared on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman, playing with the rock band Foo Fighters. Neilsen made a guest appearance on the Foo Fighters' eighth studio album Sonic Highways[5]


Nielsen has owned about 2000 guitars over the years[6] and now has about 250 instruments.[7]

Effects & Misc.
  • Crybaby Rack Mount Wah
  • Shure Wireless Units
  • Audiotech Guitar Products Source Selector 1X6 Rack Mount Audio Switcher used for switching between guitars.


Further reading[edit]

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