In a day that easily could have had the markings of extreme highs and lows, it turned out instead to be a day of celebration ... and confirmation again that music truly does help to heal all.
First we said goodbye to Mark Eskin, guitarist for The New Colony Six and Instant Karma (and a fixture on the local stages here in Chi-Town for the past two decades), who passed away last week at the age of 52.
Sure there was sadness and tears ... his death was unexpected and, as we all grow older, gave us cause of reflection ... but, as there was throughout his life, there was also the joy of music.
Early during the services, copies of "Mark's Songbook" were handed out to all of the visitors paying their respects to Mark and his wife Flo, who asked for "lots of musicians, acoustic instruments and singing. We are not going out quietly." And then a virtual who's who of local talent and musicians took turns serenading us from Mark's songbook.
And these weren't just ANY songs ... these were amongst Mark's favorites ... songs that meant the most to Flo and Mark ... so while we came to grieve, we also came to celebrate a life in music and song ... and I honestly can't imagine that Mark would have wanted it any other way.
His Beatles Buddies sang "In My Life", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "If I Needed Someone" and "Here Comes The Sun" ... Ronnie Rice sang "I Will Always Think About You", one of the biggest hits The New Colony Six ever had ... John (now Jay) Reincke, new lead singer of Jay and the Americans sang "Crying" ... the "audience" hung on ... and sang along with ... every single word.
As the crowd of well-wishers spilled out on to the street, it was a chance for many to reminisce about a happier time ... and it was clear that Mark had touched the lives of so many that were there.
From the funeral home, many of these luminaries headed downtown for the Dick Biondi 50th Anniversary Bash, an event covered by ALL of the major networks in town. Talk about a guy who touched the lives of so many ... the list went on and on and on as our music heroes from the past five decades called and paid homage to The Wild I-tralian, who was there from the very beginning of The Rock Era. (Back then, the jocks were every bit as important as the artists themselves, working hand-in-hand to promote all of the hot new sounds sweeping the nation ... in fact, the first phone call Dick took was from Mike Love of The Beach Boys, who recounted the time when Dick, then working for KRLA in Los Angeles, became the first disc jockey in America to play the newest Beach Boys release because they hand-carried over a copy of "Surfer Girl" literally an hour and a half after it had been recorded and pressed to an acetate! It truly was a different time.)
Vintage radio clips were aired and "special guests" filled the evening with memories. Biondi recalled the first rock and roll record WLS ever played ("Alley Oop" by The Hollywood Argyles) and the song HE personally played on May 2, 1960, to launch his first WLS Radio Broadcast ("Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley, already an "oldie" by then!!! lol)
Congratulations, Dick ... you've been part of our lives now for 50 years ... and we just wanted to say "Thank You" one more time!