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Guitar hero, meet rock gods

Many musicians cite Cheap Trick as an influence. Because Cheap Trick is in Vegas to play the Palms on Saturday, I asked guitar hero Rick Nielsen: Who are the most famous fans you have met?

He has big answers.

“John Lennon and Dave Grohl,” Nielsen says.

“Dave Grohl — I knew him when he was just Dave Grohl in the Nirvana days, before Foo Fighters. He’s a good guy,” Nielsen says.

And back in 1980, Lennon asked Nielsen to play guitar on the original version of “Losing You,” on Lennon’s final studio album, “Double Fantasy.”

What was it like to hang with Lennon?

“It was musician to musician. It wasn’t like fans and idols. We talked about normal stuff, which was good. I called him John. He called me Rick. It wasn’t Mr. Lennon or stuff like that,” Nielsen says.

“Double Fantasy” dovetailed into tragedy when Lennon was murdered by a crazy dummy in December 1980.

But when Nielsen and Lennon got together, it was a glorious day.

“Actually, the date I met and worked with him was the day Daxx was born — Aug. 12, 1980,” Nielsen says.

Son Daxx grew up and became the current drummer in Cheap Trick.

He skipped Daxx’s birth to work with Lennon only because his wife was a Lennon fan.

“I got a hall pass not to be at the hospital with my wife. If it was Paul McCartney, I would have been in the hospital. John Lennon was the only one I could get the day off for,” Nielsen says.

Why didn’t Nielsen’s wife like McCartney so much? “You’d better ask her,” he says.

Nielsen likes McCartney’s work. But McCartney still owes him for something big.

“The left-handed Les Paul that he plays — that used to be my guitar,” Nielsen says

“I owned it. And his guitar roadie read in a magazine that I said, ‘McCartney should have this.’ And we (the guitar roadie and Nielsen) got together, and he ended up getting it. They only made three of those in 1960, and that was one of them.”

That guitar has been estimated to be worth
$1 million. But Nielsen never met McCartney.

“So he still owes me for the guitar,” he jokes with a laugh.

You can see Cheap Trick on Saturday at the Palms’ Pearl with openers Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.

THE CHEESE

On Friday night, you can see the Vegas return of Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine at Sunset Station.

The band — which has been great on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” — is one of my all-time favorite Vegas shows.

They do crafty, fun lounge/Sinatra covers of pop hits such as Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” Cypress Hill’s “ Insane in the Membrane” and an immortal cover of Khia’s “ My Neck, My Back (Lick It).”

Silly Cheese tells me he’s excited to be back at Sunset Station because the stage height is perfect.

“It has a really good stage height that allows me to get off the stage easier and go into the audience easier. The height of the stage is really good.”

He has a song called “Hanukkah in Las Vegas” coming out on a holiday album this year.

“There’s not a lot of Vegas Hanukkah songs, so I think I’ve got a corner on the market,” he says. “It’s very easy to rhyme ‘Carrot Top’ with ‘Forum Shop.’ ”

Doug Elfman’s column appears Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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