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Kid Rock Inducts Cheap Trick Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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Kid Rock inducted Cheap Trick into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight, bearing witness to the group he called “a garage band in sheep’s clothing.”

Rock, chomping nicotine gum that he actually threw on the stage at one point, started by asking the audience if anyone had been “keeping tabs on what the f— is going on here tonight” before running down his version of the evening’s highlights and offering his version of an anti-drug PSA that wasn’t so anti-drug at all.

“There isn’t a band in this room that doesn’t think it’s really a live band,” Rock continued. “You think you do it better than anyone else. Then you go and see Cheap Trick. That’s when you think, ‘Man, we kinda suck. I better step up my game.'”

Praising Cheap Trick as “a working band in every since of the word,” Rock ran down the group’s history, describing them as “exactly what we needed” when disco and soft rock threatened to rule the world. “You can’t not watch them,” he continued. “Their frontman is a matinee idol who can growl, croon or swagger. The guitarist looks like a Bowery Boy on acid who plays as clean and tight as his bowtie. It felt like they were always on stage — every throwaway gig, every photo shoot, every interview, they worked the room like it was Soldier Field. No studio could do them justice, though — Cheap Trick was so big, so loud, so fast, that it took a live album to capture their fury.”

Referencing the band’s landmark Budokan live album, Rock touched on the group’s early Japanese fanbase by noting, “They were made in the U.S.A., but Japan caught on before we did.” Now, he added, “More than 40 years later — 40 f—ing years — and more than 5,000 gigs, they’re still going strong. They’ve been on the ropes, they’ve been knocked down, but they’ve never stopped, and they’re still out there racking up the miles and playing every show like it’s their first. You don’t think so? These crazy f—s got three more gigs this week. And probably a lot of ex-wives.”

Robin Zander was the first member of Cheap Trick to take the mic after Rock’s induction speech, referring to the evening as “such a surprise” and “a real honor for us.” After introducing himself to the crowd, Zander referred to music as his savior. “It’s all I’ve ever done for a living,” he explained. “My father liked the boogie-woogie and that swing music, and he’d play the ivories for anyone who’d listen. My mother, she read to me a lot when I was young, she bought me my first set of drums from Sears when I was seven. I’m grateful. I miss them.” Thanking his family and Cheap Trick producer Jack Douglas, Zander concluded, “Our fans really deserve this honor more than anyone, for sticking up for us as long as they have. I know that’s been tough over the years.”

Bun E. Carlos followed Zander to the podium, offering “greetings from Bunezuela” before looking back on his long history with his fellow co-founders in the band. “Forty-two years later, we made it here,” Carlos summed things up understatedly. “Pretty cool.” He added thanks to all of Cheap Trick’s members, crew, producers and management before saving a few words of special praise for the group’s fans: “Thanks, you guys. You did it.”

“All right. Wow,” added Tom Petersson. Recalling his youth growing up with parents who’d survived the Depression, he counted himself lucky for getting a guitar at age 14, and recalled picking up the rock ‘n’ roll bug during what he referred to as “the most incredible music revolution the world’s ever seen.” Petersson went on to describe Cheap Trick’s dirt-poor early days, joking that they decided not to add a keyboard player because no one wanted to sit in the middle seat in their tiny touring car. Eventually, of course, room for extra seats wasn’t a problem. “We never dreamed we’d make a living making music, much less keep it going for a lifetime,” he concluded. Offering a nod to his Rock Your Speech program as a sign of music’s power, he concluded, “Music does matter. Music has value. Let’s keep rock ‘n’ roll alive for future generations, making sure people can continue making a living following their creative dreams.”

Last but certainly not least, guitarist Rick Nielsen closed things out, promising to keep things brief since he was the last speaker of the night. Pausing briefly to offer Steve Miller a gift guitar, Nielsen thanked his wife and growing family — as well as the Rock Hall for charging such exorbitant prices that he didn’t have to bring them all — before concluding with a special note of thanks to late producer George Martin and shouting “Let’s go play!”

Cheap Trick released their 17th album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello, last week. They’ll be on the road throughout summer, including a part on the Rock Hall Three for All tour with fellow Rock Hall inductees Heart and Joan Jett. The band’s induction wasn’t without controversy: Original drummer Bun E. Carlos has been estranged from the group for the past few years, but Nielsen recently stated that he belongs in the Rock Hall with the rest of the founding members.

The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be broadcast on HBO on April 30.

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