Wayne Kramer, co-founder of Detroit’s MC5, dies in Los Angeles


Wayne Kramer, a quiet giant of Detroit music who helped define the city’s rock sound, died Friday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 75 years old.

Kramer died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.

Wayne Kramer performing with the MC5.

The guitarist brought an articulate sensibility to his explosive musical energy, an approach that helped define the MC5, the group he co-founded in Lincoln Park as a teenager. The band’s heavy, revolutionary-minded sound challenged Detroit rock and exerted enormous influence for decades.

He was preceded in death by his MC5 bandmates Rob Tyner, Fred Smith and Michael Davis. Of the original core band, drummer Dennis Thompson is the last man standing.

Kramer’s wild life—hard rocker, jazz musician, film composer, ex-convict, family man—was chronicled in his expressive 2017 autobiography, “The Hard Stuff.”

MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer in front of the new MC5 mural at Detroit's Grande Ballroom.

Kramer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January, said Jason Heath, program director of the guitarist’s Jail Guitar Doors, a nonprofit group that offered programs and musical instruments to inmates. It came four years after Kramer overcame jaw cancer.

“It happened quickly. He didn’t suffer,” Heath said of the latest health battle. “He was surrounded by friends and family.”

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