Alice Cooper taps his Midwest music roots in ‘Detroit Stories’

Veteran showman recruits some top talents to celebrate the Motor City’s “Golden Era” of hard rock.

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Alice Cooper is touring behind his 29th studio album, “Detroit Stories.”

Copyright earMUSIC/Jenny Risher

Alice Cooper has some of the greatest stories to tell from 50-plus years in rock ’n’ roll. There’s the time he auditioned for a spot on Straight Records at Frank Zappa’s log cabin at 7 in the morning. Or the time Cooper held a loaded gun at Elvis Presley while in a Vegas hotel suite with the singer and Liza Minnelli. Or the time he did a movie with Hollywood legend Mae West, after being introduced by Groucho Marx. 

But on his latest 28th studio album, Cooper is revisiting Detroit, where the groundbreaking rocker was born in 1948 and later returned in the early ’70s as he got the Alice Cooper band off the ground. The troupe relocated to Michigan from L.A. after over-the-top shock tactics (like the infamous chicken incident and later the guillotine) failed to launch on a West Coast still mired in the Laurel Canyon scene.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 22

Where: The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, 777 Casino Center Dr., Hammond

Tickets: $54.50+


“The great thing about those days was we realized we didn’t fit in anywhere except Detroit. Because once we got there, we met Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5 and Suzi Quatro and Ted Nugent. We were all young bands that were just starting out, but we had one thing in common: We were Detroit bands and we were all hard rock. When we got there, those bands listened to us and said, ‘Oh, you’re one of us,’ ” Cooper shared in an interview ahead of a show on his Detroit Muscle Tour arriving Thursday at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino. . 

Cooper’s newest record, 2021’s “Detroit Stories,” is described as “a celebration of the sound and spirit of the Golden Era of Detroit rock,” and to make it, he fully tapped into the raw power of that bygone time, including utilizing live cuts. Cooper nabbed MC5 great Wayne Kramer for a track, and also recruited an “all Detroit” band of session musicians such as Johnny “Bee” Badanjek (Billy Lee and the Rivieras/Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) as well as former Alice Cooper band cohorts Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith. Cooper reunited with the trio (less late guitarist Glen Buxton) again in 2015 for a surprise show at a super fan’s record store in Dallas; the live recording, called “Live From the Astroturf,” will be released Sept. 30.

Much like his popular syndicated rock show “Nights with Alice Cooper,” in which he spins his favorite tunes, answers fans’ questions and interviews contemporaries like Ozzy Osbourne and Meat Loaf, there’s a lot of nostalgic wanderlust to be found in Cooper’s lair. As he describes it, “Every album is sort of a little period of your life. I always think that when I listen to the Rolling Stones albums. I hope that a lot of people think the same way about my albums.”

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper

Copyright earMUSIC/Jenny Risher

On the new tour, many will be taken back to four decades ago, seeing guitarist Kane Roberts back with Cooper for the first time since 1988. Roberts returns in place of Nita Strauss, who recently made headlines when joining Demi Lovato’s band. 

“I have a revolving-door policy. A lot of people come through the Alice Cooper show and go off on their own tours and do their albums, but they’re always invited back. In other words, they know that, once they’re family, they’re family,” Cooper explained. “Nita had a project she wanted to do. She can play with anybody. … She will definitely give [Demi] an edge, that’s for sure.” 

Also on the tour is Cooper’s wife Sheryl, a dancer, who rejoined now that the couple’s kids, including Calico (frontwoman of Beasto Blanco), are all grown. The Coopers — who once lived in Lake Point Tower on Lake Shore Drive in the ’80s — also run the Solid Rock Teen Centers in Mesa and Phoenix, where they now live. The purpose: To give teens access to arts and vocational programs that lets them tap into their creativity and potential, like Cooper once did at his high school talent show.

“We want kids to find their talent. I believe everybody’s got talent, but some people may never get the chance to pick up a guitar or a bass or drums or try art or photography. We provide all that for free. Anyone is invited,” says Cooper. “And they find something that they can get their teeth into, something they never knew they could do. We watch actual lives change.”

It’s something that was on Cooper’s mind as he wrote the new album, pondering the alarming rate of suicide, in particular among teens, which inspired him to write the song “Hanging on by a Thread (Don’t Give Up).”

“There’s too many people that have no hope and I wrote that song for them. Especially teenagers who haven’t even really started life yet. So that song hopefully is encouragement,” says Cooper.

In addition to originals, the new album also features a series of covers that play to Cooper’s Detroit influences, like the MC5’s “Sister Anne,” Outrageous Cherry’s “Our Love Will Change the World” and “East Side Story” by Bob Seger.

“The Midwest is the real, true hard-rock audience,” says Cooper, recalling one of the greatest cameos in a film when he appeared in “Wayne’s World,” about the fictional Aurora cable access music nerds who venture to Milwaukee to see the “Welcome to My Nightmare” star. 

The movie’s ubiquitous quip, “We’re not worthy” still follows Cooper wherever he goes.

“Especially at airports. I get it at least three or four times, and it’s always business guys that are together traveling and I’m trying to pretend, like you know, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it. Though Mike Myers said he could have stuck me with something a lot worse than that,” the singer jokes.

Cooper has one more Midwest thought to share, albeit this time about sports.

“I hope that your Bears leave my Lions alone.”

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