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Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen making up for lost family time in The Nielsen Trust

Miles Nielsen, Kelly Steward, Rick Nielsen, Daxx Nielsen
The Nielsen Trust Facebook page
Miles Nielsen, Kelly Steward, Rick Nielsen, and Daxx Nielsen.

Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen has some guilt for being on the road so often when his sons were younger.

He's making up for that lost time in the band he, his sons Daxx and Miles, and Miles’ wife Kelly Steward formed called The Nielsen Trust. It was birthed in 2020 when Rick accompanied Miles' band, The Rusted Hearts, to Bloomington to watch them perform.

Nielsen said the specialness of the pairing was apparent immediately after he jumped on stage for a couple songs.

“Well, because everybody's all good musicians,” said Nielsen. "And we've never really played together as a group. You know, I'd gone out and played a song here and there. To actually sit down and figure out these songs was quite wonderful.”

He also gets extra enjoyment because of the missed time when his sons were growing. Nielsen said they never got to play together during that time.

“So, it was a time to make up for lost time. I was always gone on the road. And as they grew up, they played on their own. And, you know, we just kind of cool. We're not the Osmonds and the Jacksons … not growing up like that, with the generation in between. So, it's just been exciting. Every show has been pretty cool,” said Nielsen, who added that Cheap Trick songs are in their repertoire, especially the ones he wrote, as well as songs from Miles’ band and others.

But he added it can also be challenging.

“I'm used to playing with Robin and Tom (Zander and Petersson, respectively of Cheap Trick)," he explained. “The last 10 years, Daxx has been with us (drumming for Cheap Trick). So, it’s been challenging just to go out and be doing songs there were unfamiliar. But yeah, we’re all so good. I mean, I don't even have to think about it too much. It's like, they're naturals and I'm kind of a natural.”

As much fun as it is to jam on old Cheap Trick songs and to be able to play on music his sons wrote, Nielsen said the family intention is to write new music. But time constraints, including touring with Cheap Trick and Miles with his own touring band, have kept that from happening so far.

“Like tomorrow, I'm leaving (Rockford) to play Key West. And Saturday. So, I’ve got to get up and go to O'Hare and then go to Charlotte and then fly to Key West and then do a show down there. Just last night, we played Nielsen Trust, then Saturday it’s Cheap Trick. The next week, we're back in the Nielsen Trust. And then we've had three tours postponed … one to Australia and one to Europe. One with ZZ Top, one with Rod Stewart, and they've all been rescheduled. So, the scheduling has just been kind of a nightmare for us,” said Nielsen

In other words, the veteran Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer is not slowing down anytime soon.

“No reason to,” he said defiantly. “Like I said, the pandemic's slowed everybody now. We can't wait to get back.”

Switching gears, Nielsen was asked about the time he was brought in to play guitar on “Double Fantasy,” John Lennon’s last album released before he died.

“Jack Douglas produced our first album and a bunch of things. He was doing a comeback for John Lennon and Yoko … it wasn't called 'Double Fantasy' at the time. And they were trying to beef up the sound from the studio guys that they had. First, they asked (Cheap Trick drummer) Bun E., then they asked me if I would fatten up the sound. And we did. Then they took us off the original tracks and we got released years later. It was quite an honor. It was the same day that Daxx was born. Aug. 12, 1980."

And working with the ex-Beatle was just like working with any musician when they get into the studio.

“I was getting set up in New York and John and Yoko walked in the studio, John looked at me. ‘It's you. It's you!’ And my joke is I think he thought it was gonna be Ricky Nelson there. And we ended up talking guitars and it actually since it was the day that Daxx was born, I smuggled some Cuban cigars from Canada, and we toasted my son being born,” recalled Nielsen.

The Nielsen Trust plays The Castle Theatre in Bloomington on Friday night. Bloomington’s Dan Hubbard opens the show.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.