Alice Cooper Guitarist Glen Buxton’s Tragic Life

There’s a certain allure to rebellion, the thrill of the unconventional. One such non-conformist was Glen Buxton, the lead guitarist for the original Alice Cooper band. His life—brimming with high-voltage performances, intoxicating creativity, and a relentless battle with addiction—reads like a melancholy ballad.

Alice’s relationship with Buxton was far from ordinary, forged in the crucible of the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s rock scene. They met as teenagers in Phoenix, Arizona, a meeting that would pivot the course of their lives. Cooper found Buxton to be an agitated youth, restless, always strumming against the tide. He was a live wire with a guitar, and together, they sparked a revolution in rock music.

Cooper described Buxton as a man of paradoxes—quiet yet explosive, introverted yet a spectacle on stage. Buxton was a rebel, yes, but not without a cause. His cause was music. He was the edgy spirit of the Alice Cooper band, almost like a Keith Richards, co-writing some of the band’s biggest hits, including ‘School’s Out’ and ‘I’m Eighteen.’ His raw energy and uncanny ability to channel it into his music were significant driving forces behind the band’s success.

Buxton was also someone who lived his life on his own terms. Yet, in that freedom, he found a prison. ‘He held on to the drugs,’ Cooper revealed, speaking of his friend’s lifelong struggle with substance abuse. Glen Buxton’s addiction, unfortunately, was an all too familiar trope in the rock ‘n’ roll narrative. Despite the fame and accolades, he was unable to shake off this shadow that followed him, a rebellion that ultimately led to his decline.

Glen’s talent and spirit never wavered, but his body was ravaged by the excesses of his lifestyle. By the time Buxton was living in Clarion, Iowa, his rebellion had extracted a heavy toll. He succumbed to complications from pneumonia on October 19, 1997, just shy of his 50th birthday and that was the end of his journey.

Cooper’s voice tinged with regret as he recounted in a candid 2006 interview with Classic Rock magazine how Buxton’s health deteriorated after they disbanded in 1975 and when he saw him last just before a show he had smoked and drunk his way through life and turned into an old man that did not have many days left.

Alice Cooper’s words about Glen Buxton follow:

“He smoked, he drank, he was, what was the name of the character in ‘Catcher On The Rye’ [Holden Caulfield]? He was some kind of outcast James Dean character. The rest of us were jocks; we were star athletes. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday night. I couldn’t be more wholesome.

All the guys in the band came from good homes. So there was no reason for us to end up being Alice Cooper, but that’s what came out [laughs]. Glen was the guy that would get caught smoking in the bathroom. He was our Keith Richards. He always had a weapon on him of some sort. He was a totally agitated youth.”

He added:

“I’m the only one who got Glen. I understood him. It was important for him to spit in the face of society. It was important for him not to fit in. And in the end, it killed him. He wasn’t ever going to give up. Dennis, Neal [Smith, drummer], and everybody quit doing what they were doing 25 years ago; Glen just kept going full blast.

Yeah. The last time I saw him, he came backstage to a show. Somebody said: ‘Glen’s here.’ I thought: ‘Great.’ Then these two girls came in, followed by this little old man who looked about 75 years old — it was Glen. I almost didn’t recognize him. We were the same age. He smoked and drank himself into being an old man.”

Considering Buxton’s life and death, Cooper didn’t gloss over the painful truth. He acknowledged the tragedy of his friend’s untimely demise while celebrating the uncompromising spirit that defined him. Through his words, we perceive an artist who burned too bright, too fast, and left behind a legacy etched in electrifying guitar riffs and poignant memories.