Personalities | Rick Nielsen | No Cheap Tricks | Guitar Heroes

As lead guitarist and primary songwriter of the rock band Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen fired the band’s melting pot of pop melodies and punk energy. Nielsen also became a highly coveted session player in the 1970s.

With his legendary guitar collection (numbering over 250) and a unique stage wardrobe featuring bow ties and baseball caps, Nielsen’s style made him one of the true rock iconoclasts.

Richard Nielsen was born in December 1946 in Rockford, Illinois. He took up the guitar in the wake of the British invasion, and had a short-lived record deal in the late 1960s with his band Fuse. Later, Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson started Cheap Trick with drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Randy ‘Xeno’ Hogan. In 1974, Hogan left the band and was replaced by Robin Zander.

Epic signed the group in 1976, and released its self-titled album in February 1977. Neither the debut nor their next two albums, In Color (1977) and Heaven Tonight (1978), were well received at the time, although Heaven Tonight, with its teen anthem ‘Surrender’, is now considered by many to be the group’s best album. But Cheap Trick’s real strength was their live show, and on tour in Japan in 1978, they recorded the breakthrough live album At Budokan. By the spring of 1979, it was No. 4 on the US Top 40 album charts, fuelled by the single ‘I Want You To Want Me’ (originally on In Color), which was written by Nielsen.

Cheap Trick would endure many ups and downs, but Nielsen’s reputation would continue to build. He performed on Alice Cooper’s From The Inside (1978), Hall & Oates’ Along The Red Ledge (1978) and, along with Carlos, the sessions for John Lennon’s Double Fantasy (1980). His work has turned up frequently on American TV shows such as ‘That 70’s Show’. Nielsen also wrote, and performed with Cheap Trick, the theme for the comedy news show ‘The Colbert Report’. Cheap Trick have continued to tour and record, their most recent studio release being The Latest (2009).

Nielsen’s unique guitars, including a five-necked monster, have been stars of the band’s shows. Nielsen has collaborated with guitar manufacturer Hamer on several ‘themed’ guitars, including the Rockford and Doctor models.

Essential Recordings

Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight

Cheap Trick: At Budokan

Cheap Trick: Dream Police

Cheap Trick: Lap Of Luxury

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