A founding member of the Alice Cooper band, guitarist Glen Buxton was the writer of several of hard rock/heavy metal's most instantly identifiable guitar riffs. Born in Akron, OH, on November 11, 1947, Buxton grew up in Arizona, befriending such high school track stars as Vincent Furnier and Dennis Dunaway, who invited Buxton to join up in a spoof band (the Earwigs) they put together for a school show. After receiving a favorable reception, the group changed its name to the Spiders, before relocating to California (with second guitarist Michael Bruce and eventually, drummer Neal Smith). First playing shows as the Nazz, the quintet changed its name to Alice Cooper, with Furnier taking the band's name as his own. The newly christened group specialized in a highly theatrical and macabre stage show, which took awhile to catch on with rock's audience.
Although they befriended other bands in California (namely, early supporter Jim Morrison) and issued a pair of psychedelic albums that were musically comparable to early Pink Floyd, 1969's Pretties for You and 1970's Easy Action, both sunk without a trace. After a move to Detroit, the Alice Cooper group toughened up its sound on breakthrough albums from 1971 (Love It to Death and Killer) as Buxton's metallic guitar riffs helped fuel such rough and ready compositions as "I'm Eighteen," "Is It My Body," "Be My Lover," and "Under My Wheels."
But Buxton's finest moment with Cooper was yet to come -- arriving on 1972's School's Out. The album was a massive hit, as its classic anthemic title track featured one of hard rock's best all-time riffs, courtesy of Buxton. Just as the group was hitting its stride, a lifelong alcohol dependency began to affect Buxton's performance, which hindered his input on arguably Alice Cooper's finest hour, 1973's Billion Dollar Babies (it's been speculated that Buxton's guitar wasn't even audible on the ensuing tour, as his parts were supplemented by touring guitarist Mick Mashbir). Despite the Alice Cooper band's standing as one of the world's most popular rock bands, the quintet split after only one more release, Muscle of Love.
Little was heard musically from Buxton after the group's split, aside from appearing at an all-star 1978 benefit for Dead Boys drummer Bobby Blitz at New York's CBGB's. In the mid-'80s, Buxton lent some guitar work to Blue Öyster Cult guitarist/singer Buck Dharma's 1982 solo album, Flat Out, and formed the original group Virgin (unfortunately, the only existing recording of the band is the 1985 bootleg Live at the Mason Jar). In 1997, Buxton was reunited with his former Alice Cooper bandmates (sans Cooper himself), on Antbee's Lunar Music, and on October 10 of the same year, reunited on-stage with Smith and Bruce for the first time since Cooper's breakup at the Area 51 club in Houston, TX. While longtime fans speculated that all this activity would eventually lead to a full-on original Alice Cooper band reunion, all hopes were extinguished barely a week later on October 18, when Buxton, 49, died in an Iowa hospital due to complications brought on by pneumonia. Buxton's gravestone features an adaptation of the album artwork for Cooper's School's Out album, as well as a musical transcription of his world famous guitar riff for the album's aforementioned title track.