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Looking back: When Cheap Trick were regulars in the Fox Valley

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Even bands enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first made their marks through beer soaked, late night gigs at the smaller venues of the world.

So as the Nielsen Trust — a band featuring Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen — arrives in the Fox Valley later this month, the hall of famer won’t be stepping into a strange place.

Wisconsin was prime territory for Cheap Trick in their early years, and for a short time, they were regular visitors to the Fox Valley.

The Nielsen Trust, which is made up of members of the Nielsen family, is scheduled to play Tanner’s in Kimberly on March 27.

In 1976, Cheap Trick — founded in Rockford, Ill. — played eight shows in the Fox Valley.

They played April 22, 1976 at Appleton’s Horny Bull. The remaining seven were played at Menasha’s Waverly Beach. 

The bicentennial was the major celebration that year and in leading into a huge Independence Day, Cheap Trick played July 2 and 3 at Waverly Beach. 

They played Waverly on Halloween that year as well as Thanksgiving night.

Cheap Trick’s last Waverly Beach show came on Feb. 19, 1977, which was two months before the release of their debut, self-titled album.

Their touring moved beyond the Midwest and their venues became bigger. 

They would return to the region on May 5, 1977, though it was the Brown County Arena and in an opening spot for Ted Nugent. On Oct. 21, 1977, the returned to the arena as openers for Blue Oyster Cult.

Two concerts in Japan in April 1978 broke their careers wide open. The concerts became the live album, “At Budokan,” which went triple platinum and remains their best seller.

The Nielsen Trust’s Fox Valley connections run deeper than Cheap Trick’s early gigs.

Miles Nielsen, Rick’s son, played bass as part of Cory Chisel’s Wandering Sons. 

The Tanner’s gig is one of four Wisconsin stops for The Nielsen Trust on a Midwest tour running from March 7 to April 4. Tickets are $25 in advance and are available here.

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