• What American Pickers’ Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe have to say about Rick Nielsen’s collection
By Paula Hendrickson
Did Rick’s Picks really get picked? Not exactly, but the Rick’s Picks exhibit chronicling the first 40 years of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen’s career — on display at Burpee Museum through April 10 — did lure American Pickers stars Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe back to town to shoot another episode of their popular History Channel show.
“Frank heard about the museum display because he’s a member of his fan club,” Wolfe explained. “Frank wanted to see the exhibit, so we stopped by.”
Wolfe said seeing Nielsen’s guitars and old costumes was his favorite part of the exhibit. “I’ve always loved vintage clothing because it’s such a personal thing,” Wolfe said. “I love the wear, and you can also see a person’s style and stature from the pieces. The exhibit was a very personal look into his life and his collecting taste and habits.”
While they were in town, the guys also got a peek at Nielsen’s private stash.
“He was — and will always be — an icon in the American rock and roll history books, so to see his personal items and go through them was picking folklore,” Wolfe said. “Looking through Rick’s private collection was a dream.”
Wolfe started listening to Cheap Trick when growing up in Iowa, and said “Surrender” is his favorite one of the band’s songs. Like many kids of that era, Wolfe considers Cheap Trick songs his coming-of-age music.
Seeing Nielsen’s archive gave Wolfe and Fritz a feeling that somehow, way back when, Nielsen had a sense of how influential Cheap Trick’s music would one day be. The sheer size of the collection surprised Wolfe, as well as how detailed and extensive it is. “He remembered every piece, every story in detail,” Wolfe said.
Hardcore Cheap Trick fans are probably curious as to how Nielsen stacks up among the various collectors Wolfe and Fritz have encountered over the years.
“I would rate Rick as a Mega Collector — or should I say, the curator of his life,” Wolfe said. “He saw the importance in the smallest things like receipts and travel mementos. Rick somehow had a crystal ball and saw the significance of all this stuff before it had any story or age to it. Now assembled together, it all makes sense: He is, and was then, a total genius.”
Hanging out with Nielsen, Wolfe picked up on another one of the rock legend’s strengths. “One thing I can say about him is that he loves Rockford. It’s family to him, and he holds its history close to him,” Wolfe said.
The “Cheap Pick” episode of American Pickers airs at 8 p.m. (Central), Monday, March 11, on History.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the March 6-12, 2013, issue