Fred Sonic Smith

Fred “Sonic” Smith

1948-1994, Lincoln County

Fred “Sonic” Smith, a guitarist for the influential rock band the MC5, was born in the Harts Creek area of Lincoln County and grew up in Detroit. He began playing guitar when he was 12, performing in a number of local bands before co-founding the MC5 in the mid-1960s. The band helped create the Detroit sound, a high-powered, low-fi precursor to heavy metal and punk. The band was signed to Elektra Records – one of the label’s first hard rock acts – after its performance at the stormy 1968 Democratic National Convention.

The group subsequently appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, and released its controversial debut, Kick Out The Jams. MC5 opened for many top acts including Cream and Janis Joplin. The group disbanded in 1972.

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Smith 93rd in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” His nickname was the inspiration for the name of the band Sonic Youth. Smith went on to lead his own group, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, with former members of other Detroit groups including the Stooges.

In 1980 he married poet/singer Patti Smith, and the couple retired from music to raise their children. In 1988, the couple released Dream of Life together, an album that featured Fred’s songs and guitarwork. He died from heart failure in 1994.