MC5 co-founder Wayne Kramer says he’s “holding out” on the venerable rock troupe’s fourth nomination for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. “I think we should wait ’til the fifth (nomination),” Kramer tells Billboard. “On the fifth nomination, the 5 gets the nod.”
The guitarist would, of course, be happy enough for the fourth time to be the charm, but after previous ballot inclusions for the classes of 2003, 2017 and 2018, he’s not holding his breath following news that the group was in the induction mix again when nominees were announced Tuesday morning (Oct. 9).
“I don’t know what to say about this. We seem to be like a dog chasing his tail,” Kramer explains. “It is a level of recognition. It’s always nice to be recognized for your work, so I wouldn’t complain about it in that way. And I guess it’s good for business; If you win an Academy Award, then next to your name they always say ‘Academy Award Winner,’ ‘Grammy Award Winner,’ ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member…’
“But it doesn’t mean that much to me. It certainly doesn’t affect my personal life. We’ll just see what happens.”
Now, if ever, would certainly seem to a prime time for the MC5 to be inducted. Kramer is on the road this year with MC50, an all-star troupe featuring musicians from Soundgarden, Faith No More, Fugazi and Zen Guerilla that’s celebrating the 50th anniversary of the recording of the group’s iconic 1969 debut album Kick Out The Jams. He’s also publish an insightful memoir, The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, The MC5 & My Life of Impossibilities. So visibility is high, and so, it seems, is regard for the iconoclastic band.
“The experience that I’ve had on this tour so far has been massive crowds at every event. Even shows that I thought would not be well-attended have been,” says Kramer, who’s also the co-founder of the Jail Guitar Doors organization, which brings instruments into prisons. “We’ve had incredible crowds, and the enthusiasm and the passion the fans are expressing for the band has been humbling. I never realized how many people out there love the MC5. We’re an overnight success — it only took 50 years!”
Public voting for the Rock Hall class of 2019 begins at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday here. The induction ceremony will be held March 29 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with ticket details TBA.
The MC5 formed during 1964 in the Detroit suburb of Lincoln Park and broke up during 1972 after three studio albums. Only Kramer and drummer Dennis Thompson remain alive from the lineup, which also included Rob Tyler, Fred “Sonic” Smith (Patti Smith’s late husband) and Michael Davis. Kramer has been hoping that Thompson would make some appearances on stage with the MC50, but so far that has not transpired. “He’s agreed and then changed his mind three times so far, so I have no idea what Dennis is going to do,” Kramer says. “The invitation stands. The band has ultimate respect for him and everybody loves him and we would all love to have him play. The ball’s really in his court.”
The MC50 has been recording all of its shows and may consider a live release, according to Kramer, while he predicts that “if everything goes the way I think it might go, then people might be open to writing and recording a (new) record.” For now, however, he’s focusing on the shows and the “unexpected joy” he’s experiencing from the project.
“It’s very much a continuation” of the MC5, Kramer says. “In a lot of ways it’s the realization of the spark that happened 50 years ago at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit to have a band that produces these high-energy rock shows that completely blow people’s minds, like it’s come to fruition. And these guys wanted to do it because they themselves have carried the message of the MC5 all the years, the message of self-determination and self-efficacy and all things are possible if you put in the work. They all live by that message and they’re playing their asses off and we’re all having a great time, so I think they may want to keep going for awhile.”