On August 11, 2012 the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois opened the doors on a very special exhibit called Rick’s Picks: A Lifelong Affair With Guitars & Music. For eight months an entire wing of the museum was devoted to an elaborate exhibition of an extensive array of personal items provided by Rick Nielsen, the brains behind Cheap Trick.
The wonderful exhibit chronicled Rick’s entire 40+ year love affair with making music. I first went on September 1, 2012, three weeks after the exhibit opened, and since Cheap Trick are my favorite band and Rick Nielsen is my favorite genius it was as close to a religious experience as this godless heathen is bound to have. I badly wanted to go back but wound up waiting until the very last possible day, April 14, 2013, to finally do it. Am I ever glad I did. The exhibit is over now, but there was talk of sending the show on the road. We’ll see what happens but until then I took a lot of pictures. Want to see them? Of course you do!
Outside the museum.
Sign upon entering the museum.
Entryway to exhibit.
Sign outside entrance to exhibit.
The first thing I saw when I walked in was, appropriately, the sweaters! In my world these are invaluable historical artifacts.
After gazing lovingly upon the sweaters for who knows how long I turned to my left and there he was, an old familiar friend who was noticeably absent from the exhibit when I’d visited in September but had thankfully arrived at some point. Uncle Dick himself!
I can’t believe I met him! What a cool dude.
Much of the exhibit was devoted to Rick’s extensive guitar collection. Click on the smaller pictures and you can read the descriptions of the guitars printed on the glass.
The axe bass was a gift from you know who.
One of the most amazing things about the exhibit was that Rick Nielsen seems to have saved almost EVERYTHING, and it was all so much fun for a Cheap Trick nerd to pore over. Much of the material was displayed in drawers you’d open yourself and explore.
Check out the “I Dig Go Go Girls” lyrics, lower left.
Pictured below is a poster for the show Rick’s band the Grim Reapers was supposed to open but it never happened because Otis Redding’s plane crashed on the way.
The Grim Reapers:
Rick’s band after the Grim Reapers was called Fuse.
After Fuse Rick and Tom joined a post-Todd Rundgren version of Nazz, which morphed into a band called Sick Man of Europe. Enter Bun E.
Below is a very early photo of Cheap Trick circa 1974 with original singer Xeno.
Pictured below is a poster for a very early show with Xeno. Ticket price: 75 cents.
Below you can see a colorful photo of Cheap Trick performing with Xeno at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 1974.
Below you can see demo tapes Rick mailed to himself as a form of copyright protection, still sealed.
Below you can see two tickets for a show at Sunset Bowl in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was at Sunset Bowl that Jack Douglas first saw Cheap Trick and decided to sign them to Epic Records. That was in 1975. In 1975 I lived across the street from Sunset Bowl with my parents. I was one year old.
My favorite part of the exhibit were the drawers full of Rick’s original handwritten lyrics.
On Top of The World handwritten lyrics
Handwritten lyrics for Oo La La La from One On One
Handwritten lyrics for Time Is Runnin’ from One On One
Southern Girls handwritten lyrics.
Surrender, third verse, handwritten.
Dream Police handwritten lyrics.
She’s Tight handwritten lyrics.
Come On Come On handwritten lyrics.
There was plenty more to see as well.
“7/26. Rick, Please let me know what you think of this, Jeff.”
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