MC5 Guitarist Wayne Kramer Dead at 75

Music

Legendary MC5 guitarist and leader Wayne Kramer has died at the age of 75.

The news was confirmed through Kramer’s various social platforms with a brief message that read:

Wayne S. Kramer
“PEACE BE WITH YOU” 🕊️
April 30, 1948 – February 2, 2024

Queens of the Stone Age’s Joey Castillo and The Go-Go’s Kathy Valentine were among those initially offering the condolences on the post from Kramer’s Instagram page.

A second posting coming later Friday afternoon revealed that Kramer died after dealing with pancreatic cancer. In addition, fans were guided to Kramer’s nonprofit organization, Jail Guitar Doors, is they wished to make donations in his name.

Wayne Kramer – The MC5 Legend

Kramer got an early start in music, forming MC5 while still at teenager in 1967. The group gained attention for their raucous live performances and strong political statements delivered through their music.

The group got their start playing Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, mentored by manager and poet John Sinclair, who co-founded the White Panther Party.

The MC5’s tenure was brief, with the band recording only two major label studio albums and a live album. They included 1969’s Kick Out the Jams, featuring the high energy title track that would become their signature song, as well as 1971’s Back in the USA and 1972’s High Time.

MC5, “Kick Out the Jams”

Due to their vocal political beliefs, the group faced governmental harassment and radio backlash over the course of their career. As a result, they would eventually split by 1972.

After MC5 split, Kramer ran into legal trouble when he sold drugs to undercover federal agents. As a result, he was sentenced to four years in prison.

Following his release from jail in 1979, Kramer returned to music, playing with Was (Not Was), and Gang War among others. He also found work as a session guitarist and worked as a producer for other acts. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, he also had a side career in woodworking.

In the ’90s, he started up a solo career, one that yielded five studio albums.

READ MORE: 32 Bands That Don’t Actually Have ‘The’ In Their Names

In 2018, Kramer and the band’s other living member – drummer Dennis Thompson – returned to the road with an all-star lineup of musicians to celebrate 50 years of “Kick Out the Jams,” playing with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron, Fugazi’s Brendan Canty, Zen Guerrilla’s Marcus Durant and King’s X’s Dug Pinnick.

In 2022, Kramer spoke of plans to record a new MC5 album. He even went so far as teasing a new song called “Heavy Lifting” that featured a guest turn from Tom Morello.

Though nominated multiple times, the MC5 have yet to make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But their influence has remained strong over a generation of musicians. Revisit a few more MC5 favorites below.

MC5, “Looking at You”

MC5, “Let Me Try”

Reactions to Wayne Kramer’s Death

As word spread on Friday afternoon about Kramer’s death, musicians turned to social media to share their thoughts. We’ll continue to update this portion as more tributes come in.

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Gallery Credit: Loudwire Staff



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