I attended the inaugural induction ceremony of the Illinois Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum last night. It was like the final round of a heavyweight championship! We attendees got “pummeled” with legendary names and iconic performances.
Its almost hard to believe the amount of rock ‘n’ roll history that has come from the Land of Lincoln. The first class of inductees are the Ides of March, the Buckinghams, Buddy Guy, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Muddy Waters, Chess Records, Dick Biondi and Larry Lujack.
When it comes to recognition of the foundation of the music biz, New Orleans, Nashville, New York and Los Angeles are usually the front-runners of the conversation. But Chicago has been right there, arguably neck-and-neck with them all.
Unsung heroes from a national perspective have always been the “garage rock” bands of the 1960s. It was an actual movement that began in the bungalows and the basements of the neighborhoods of Chicago. The Flock, the Mauds, the American Breed, New Colony Six, the Cryan’ Shames, the Shadows of Knight, the Buckinghams, Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah and the Ides of March are major parts of a long list of bands that were right there on the charts alongside the British Invasion.
The Chicago jazz and blues scenes are other platforms of music history so loved, yet so underappreciated, in my book.
From Louis Armstrong to Howlin’ Wolf and Nat King Cole, from Lou Rawls to Muddy and Buddy, what Chicago’s jazz musicians and urban-style Delta blues contributed to the development of popular music is practically immeasurable.
Just ask Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton or Robert Plant! They will tell you it was the work of those Chicago artists who guided their styles and their desires to make music. Not to mention, they did it on many occasions on South Michigan Avenue at Chess Records!
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But jazz and blues acts today are relegated to smaller clubs for the most part, as opposed to deservedly selling out arenas and major theaters.
Chicago has definitely had its R&B icons as well. Many I am sure are not recognized as “Chicago Gold.” Curtis Mayfield, Rufus with Chaka Kahn; Earth, Wind & Fire; Sam Cooke, the Chi-Lites, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock, Dinah Washington; and Pops, Mavis and the rest of the Staple Singers are a few of the pioneers.
How about Styx, Survivor, Richard Marx and the Smashing Pumpkins? Wilco, Fall Out Boy, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Blues Brothers have earned a place in there somewhere, too!
Last night at the induction ceremony, the effect these musicians have had on the future of rock and music in general hit me the hardest when the Millennials, backed by REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin, took the stage. The incredibly talented band consists of musicians around 21 years of age, give or take.
As they performed Speedwagon iconic hits “Roll With The Changes” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” it became incredibly evident by the looks on the professional-calibre musicians’ young faces just how cool it was for them. Their “I can’t believe this is happening” expressions really added to the emotion of the performance!
I guess I am getting all mushy about the Windy City aspect of music because of all the bad press and scary situations our beloved 312 is experiencing these days. But the looks on those faces last night gave me a sense of musical peace I haven’t had in a long while.
I once again say it will be the power of music that will unite us, strengthen us and rebuild us. I am just tired of “singing the blues” rather than listening to it!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of the Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.