Wayne Kramer (guitarist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Wayne Kramer
Wayne Kramer at Fabrik Hamburg, 2018
Wayne Kramer at Fabrik Hamburg, 2018
Background information
Birth nameWayne Krambs
Born (1948-04-30) April 30, 1948 (age 74)
GenresPunk rock, hard rock, garage rock, protopunk, blues rock, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, guitarist, composer, producer
InstrumentsGuitar, bass guitar, vocals
Years active1964–present
LabelsEpitaph Records
Alive Records
Diesel Motor
Associated actsMC5
Gang War
Was (Not Was)
Axis of Justice
GG Allin
The Dumbwaiters

Wayne Kramer (born Wayne Krambs; April 30, 1948) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and film and television composer.

Kramer came to prominence as a teenager in 1964 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".


With MC5[edit]

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.

Post MC5[edit]

After MC5's demise in 1972, Kramer spent several years involved in illicit activities, due to his ongoing struggle with drug addiction.[1]

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.

Kramer performing in concert, 1974

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.[2] 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.

Still in 1979, he joined Was (Not Was) as their first guitarist. Kramer plays on the single "Wheel Me Out". He makes a guest appearance again on their 2008 release Boo on Ryko Records.

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,[2] 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.

Kramer with Fred 'Sonic' Smith, Michael Davis and Dennis 'Machine Gun' Thompson reformed the MC5 in 1992 at a memorial event following former lead singer Rob Tyner's death from a heart attack.[2]

Solo career & production[edit]

In 1994, Kramer signed to Brett Gurewitz's punk rock label Epitaph Records and began a solo career.[2] He released solo records, including 1995's self-produced The Hard Stuff,[2] 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.[2] In 1997, he released Citizen Wayne, co-produced by David Was.[2] He also played guitars on the song Incomplete off of Bad Religion's 1994 album Stranger Than Fiction.[3] In 1998, he played with Pere Ubu.[4] In 1999, he released the live record LLMF. In 2002, he released the studio album Adult World.

In 2000, Brother Wayne released an album with The Pink Fairies titled Cocaine Blues. Four tracks were recorded live at Dingwall's in London in 1978 (the other musicians on these tracks included members of Pink Fairies) and six tracks were studio recordings recorded in 1974 and 1978. Originally released in Japan it had a front booklet in English and a Japanese insert.[5]

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 (Fred Smith died in 1994) 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.

Kramer also recorded as bassist on the song "Inside Job" for the grunge band Mudhoney for the album he produced, Beyond CyberPunk.

Social involvement[edit]

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 music, and programs about social justice issues.

On August 27, 2008, Kramer made a special guest appearance at 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 continued 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-labor 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.[6]

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".[7]

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.

On October 23, 2015, Kramer played at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa, in support of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

Recent events[edit]

In May 2018, Kramer announced the MC50 tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Kick Out the Jams", with a line-up including himself, plus Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, and Doug Pinnick of King's X, as well as Don Was. Pinnick was eventually replaced by Faith No More bassist Billy Gould.[8] Vocalist/Harmonicist Marcus Durant of Zen Guerrilla completed the line-up.

'The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities', his first memoir, came out the same year.

In 2021, Kramer contributed to the Alice Cooper album, Detroit Stories. He played guitar and supplied backing vocals on the majority of the record, also with numerous song writing credits. The album was a worldwide hit, reaching #1 in Germany, #4 in the UK, and #1 in Billboard's top sales chart as well as many countries around the world.

In March 2022, Kramer declared “I’ve been thinking it’s been a long time since there’s been any new MC5 music... I’ve been busy writing and recording a new album produced by the great Bob Ezrin. And we’ll take it to the streets ‘cause I feel like we are all MC5.”[9]


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 the beginning of the end credits of the former. 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.[10][11]

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.

He scored for the HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down, starring Danny McBride and executive produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, which premiered in February 2009.


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 DEA locked him away

The 1996 EP Eno Collaboration by Half Man Half Biscuit includes the song "Get Kramer", which begins:

We've got Kramer
Coming over to produce us
So that we can show off to our specialist friends

and ends:

"I'll give you Kick Out The Jams"

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine often cites Kramer as a major influence[12] and now performs with him at Axis of Justice shows.

Selected discography[edit]

With the MC5[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

  • 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


  1. ^ "'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.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1999). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Heavy Rock (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 257. ISBN 0-7535-0257-7.
  3. ^ "Bad Religion - Stranger Than Fiction | Epitaph Records". epitatph.com. August 30, 1994. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  4. ^ "The Pere Ubu Time Line". Ubu Projex.net. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  5. ^ "Wayne Kramer & The Pink Fairies - Cocaine Blues (2000, CD)". Discogs.com. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  6. ^ "United Sounds of America: Detroit". Absolutely Live.net. June 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  7. ^ "The Good The Bad & Wayne Kramer (MC5) 'Kick Out The Jams'". Vimeo. April 1, 2012. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Blistein, Jon (April 3, 2018). "MC5's Wayne Kramer Plots 'Kick Out the Jams' 50th Anniversary Tour". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  9. ^ Blistein, Jon (March 9, 2022). "MC5 to Kick Out the New Jams on Upcoming Tour, First Album in Over 50 Years". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
  10. ^ Walden, Luke. "The Narcotic Farm". IMDb. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  11. ^ "The Narcotic Farm". Narcotic Farm.com. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  12. ^ Farber, Jim (August 21, 2018). "'Wayne Kramer: 'I knew there was more to my story than most'". The Guardian. Retrieved January 16, 2019.


External links[edit]