by Brian Smith
Alice Cooper confirms hall of fame induction by Larry Rodgers and Ed Masley - Dec. 14, 2010 04:15 PMAlice Cooper, the Valley singer who pioneered the use of theatrics in rock, has confirmed that he will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his band March 14. Cooper, 62, said Tuesday that he was notified a week ago by the Cleveland-based organization that he and his group will be part of its 26th class. "Getting in the Hall of Fame is about the ultimate thing you can do when you're a garage band from Cortez High in Phoenix," Cooper said. "It's the most humbling thing in the world when you realize who else is in there. You look out at the audience, and every guy who influenced you is sitting there, and they are the people who voted on you." The eyeliner-wearing Cooper and his original band - guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith and late guitarist Glen Buxton - will join such rock and pop luminaries as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, U2, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown and Buddy Holly in the hall, which was established in 1986. Cooper joins two other hall members with Arizona ties - guitarist Duane Eddy and singer Stevie Nicks, inducted as part of Fleetwood Mac. Cooper, born in Detroit as Vincent Furnier, and his group had been snubbed by the hall since becoming eligible in 1994 - the 25th anniversary of their first release - but they weren't alone. Such acts as Black Sabbath, Velvet Underground and the Stooges also had to wait years for induction. "Every single year, somebody has called up and said, 'Well, you didn't get nominated again,' " Cooper said. "It's not a popularity contest. It takes a while to get through everybody. We got nominated one time and got in on the first vote, so that was really nice." The Paradise Valley resident and his band have solid credentials: They created such enduring rock anthems as "School's Out," "I'm Eighteen" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy," released six albums that went platinum and were one of the biggest arena acts in the world in the mid-'70s. Marilyn Manson, who followed in Cooper's footsteps with the use of makeup and scary imagery onstage, said in 2007 that being introduced to his idol felt like "meeting Santa Claus when you're 5 years old." Rob Zombie, another theatrical rocker who uses makeup and costumes, said last week, "There are very few artists who are that influential: Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin. It comes down to a pretty small group of people that did something and then the entire way that music is perceived changed." Cooper drew upon American pop culture and even vaudeville for such stage gimmicks as using a guillotine and live snakes, pretending to hang himself, putting himself in a straitjacket and beating up Santa Claus. Such antics may seem tame in 2010, but they were groundbreaking four decades ago.A voracious consumer of television and movies, he became friends with Groucho Marx and horror-film icon Vincent Price. He appeared on "Hollywood Squares" and "The Muppet Show" and co-starred with Price in a 1975 TV special called "The Nightmare." Cooper also became a close friend of surrealist painter Salvador Dali. A major sports fan, Cooper opened his Cooper'stown restaurant and sports bar in downtown Phoenix in 1998. Cooper has been a fixture on Valley golf courses, playing every day, and helps fund Arizona teen programs through his Solid Rock Foundation. "Alice is one of the best ambassadors that rock and roll has ever had," said Danny Zelisko, a longtime friend and Arizona concert promoter since 1974. "He has lived it, breathed it, and along the way helped the world to understand it. His induction is long overdue." Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, whom he married in 1976 after she was hired to dance in his stage show, have lived in the Valley since 1984. They have three children, Calico, 29; Dash, 24; and Sonora, 18. Cooper credits his wife with freeing him from a decadelong alcohol problem in 1980 and says he has been sober ever since. "Once I got past that, everything got a lot easier," Cooper said. Although he was born in suburban Detroit, the minister's son who would be Alice Cooper formed his first garage-rock band, the Earwigs, in northwest Phoenix while attending Cortez High School with two future members of the Alice Cooper band, Buxton and Dunaway. Changing their name to the Spiders and adding Bruce ("The Spiders were the top dogs in town," Bruce recalls) they enjoyed their first taste of success with the regional radio hit "Don't Blow Your Mind," in 1966, before changing their name to the Nazz and making frequent treks to Los Angeles before settling there in 1967. With Camelback High's Smith brought in on drums, the classic lineup was complete. "We knew we had something different. We were not peace and love and 'Isn't everything groovy?' " Cooper said. "You had all these rock heroes, and if nobody wants to be Captain Hook, I'll be Captain Hook." After a final name change to Alice Cooper (the singer said he asked the band, "What if we came up with a name that sounds like somebody's grandmother, like Alice Cooper?") the increasingly theatrical, androgynous young rockers came to the attention of Frank Zappa, who signed them to his label, Straight Records, releasing 1969's "Pretties for You" and 1970's "Easy Action." "We were just trying to be a little more outrageous, to get everyone's attention," Smith recalls. "We had outrageous egos but this (induction) has to humble you." Dunaway adds, "The Alice Cooper group seemed to be underdogs in everything we did, so this (induction) is a validation" After relocating to Detroit, the group hit the mainstream, with producer Bob Ezrin refining its sound on an album called "Love It to Death" and its breakthrough single, the teen anthem "I'm Eighteen." More hits followed, including the song that kicked off summer break for years to follow: "School's Out" topped the U.K. charts and peaked at No. 7 in the U.S., later joining "Eighteeen" on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The original lineup's biggest album, "Billion Dollar Babies," topped the charts in 1973 and had three Top 40 singles. Cooper went solo in '75 with "Welcome to My Nightmare," a Top 5 concept album that spawned another major hit in "Only Women Bleed," whose more reflective tone was mirrored in a string of ballads that kept him on the charts for the next three years. The New Wave-flavored "Clones (We're All)" arrived in 1980, marking Cooper's last Top 40 single until the more metallic comeback, "Poison," went Top 10 in 1989. Cooper still releases albums and tours as a solo act with a new band, and he is reuniting his original band for the 10th edition of his Christmas Pudding charity concert Saturday, Dec. 18, in Phoenix. Cooper says his band, their management and families will have a celebration of the induction Friday, Dec. 17, at Cooper'stown.