Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cornerstones Of Chicago Rock: American Garage - A Brand New Soundstage Television Special

The Chicago Music Scene of the '60's will receive the spotlight treatment next month when WTTW (Chicago's PBS Station) films a brand new Soundstage episode for national broadcast.   

Most of our local heroes will be represented as The Ides Of March take center stage as the "house band", who will then be joined by representatives from The Buckinghams, The Cryan' Shames, The New Colony Six, The Shadows Of Knight and, for the first time in DECADES, The American Breed. 

Also on the bill that night:  The McCoys (I don't quite get that one since these guys were from Indiana ... wouldn't Spanky and Our Gang have made more sense?  Or maybe The Flock, who had three local Top 40 Hits in 1967?) as well as tributes to Chase and Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah.   

The whole thing is being billed as "Cornerstones Of Rock:  American Garage" and this is a concept that Jim Pilster of The Cryan' Shames and I have been pushing for for over twenty years now ... a filmed tribute to the artists who made up the local scene here in Chicago during the mid-'60's thru early '70's.  And what better avenue to present it to the nation than Soundstage, the ground-breaking musical spotlight series that originated right here in Chicago over forty years ago.   

Jim Peterik says "The Chicago rock scene from the mid-1960's to the early 1970's belongs in the same category as the fertile hubs of Memphis, Liverpool, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Nashville through the years.  This special shines a spotlight on the local groups from the suburban Chicago area who defined that era as they rose through the teen clubs all the way to national prominence.  We are thrilled to bring them all together on the same stage."   

For years now The Cryan' Shames have been presenting "Chicago Gold" as part of their live shows, acting as the back-up band and then bringing up guest vocalists like Jimy Rogers of The Mauds, Jimy Sohns of The Shadows Of Knight, Ronnie Rice, formerly of The New Colony Six and Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of The Buckinghams.  The Ides Of March hosted a similar event as part of their 50th Anniversary concert late last year ... only this time around the are righting a couple of wrongs that were committed at last year's event.   

For starters, Ray Graffia, Jr., a founding member of The New Colony Six (who still performs to this day using the band's name) will join Ronnie Rice on stage for a short set of Colony hits.  (Last year only Rice was invited.)  While it was his voice and songwriting talents that garnered the band their biggest national hits, Ronnie was not an original member of the Six, joining them well into the making of their second album.  He did, however, guide them from their early garage band / punk days into the universal world of ballads so his impact cannot be denied.  Graffia should have been included from the very beginning in last year's tribute since he, in fact, helped form the band.  In fact, it was Ray's father who started Centaur Records in order to get The New Colony Six's music out to the public.  They were the very first local band to break onto the scene back in late 1965, opening the door for all of the other acts to follow, thanks to heavy airplay by Chicago's two AM giants, WLS and WCFL, where their first single, "I Confess", went all the way to #2.   

Also joining the line-up this year is Dennis Tufano, original lead singer of The Buckinghams, who was snubbed for last year's concert event.  Tufano, Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna reunited on stage for the first time in nearly 40 years for The Marty Grebb Benefit Concert earlier this year ... so it's really nice to see these guys sharing the stage together again, even if it is only for special occasions like these.  It is expected that Tufano and Giammarese will trade off lead vocals during their set, just as the did at the Grebb concert ... which actually worked very well.  (Or, depending on the chain of events, perhaps Carl and Nick will come out first to perform as The Buckinghams, just as they have for the past 35 years now, and then bring Dennis out as their special guest, thus connecting the present with the past.)  Either way, it will be a sight to be seen.  I can only tell you that, even after all these years, there was an infectious, electric chemistry that occurred on stage that night when Carl, Nick, Dennis and Marty shared the stage together again at The Arcada ... there was just something about the magic of knowing that they all went through those glory days together.   

The BIGGEST news, however, is the return of Gary Loizzo and The American Breed. (Scheduled to appear are Loizzo, Al Ciner, Chuck Colbert, Jr., and Lee Graziano, all original members of the group.)  Loizzo moved to producing after The American Breed split up (and morphed into Rufus ... now THERE'S a Chicago group that NEVER seems to be spotlighted!), producing many of Styx's earlier albums at his own Pumpkin Studios.   

Also exciting is the fact guitarist / songwriter James Fairs will be joining his former bandmates Jim Pilster and Tom Doody of The Cryan' Shames.   

Jimy Sohns will perform the hits of The Shadows Of Knight and Rick Derringer will be on hand to represent The McCoys, who scored big with "Hang On Sloopy" back in 1965.   

A tribute to the jazz / rock fusion band Chase will be performed by The Ides Of March, powered by four trumpets and an historic appearance by Chase member Dartanyan Brown.  (Group leader Bill Chase died in a plane crash in 1974.)  Their big hit "Get It On" is one of those that deserves far more airplay than it currently receives.   

And finally, an ensemble tribute to the Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah classic "Lake Shore Drive" will be presented as the grand finale.  Mitch Aliotta and John Jeremiah both passed away recently, leaving only singer / songwriter Skip Haynes as a surviving member.  Mitch's brother Ted will sit in with a couple of acts for this very special performance.  (No word yet as to whether or not Skip Haynes will participate ... but I hope so.)   

After rehearsals on October 14th and 15th, the whole shebang will be filmed on Friday, October 16th, at 7:30 pm at WTTW's Grainger Studio in Chicago ... where Soundstage first originated all those years ago.  (Unfortunately, tickets for this momentous event are already sold out.)   

It is SO great to see all these artists finally being recognized in the twilight of their careers.  (Like I said, Hooke and I have been pushing for this for ages ... sadly, Jimy Rogers of The Mauds who was also onboard for this idea didn't live long enough to see it happen ... HIS voice would have been a very welcome addition to these proceedings.)  WGN's Wendy Snyder will play host to this historical event. (My original vision included showing vintage television clips of each of the artists, interwoven with brand new, live performances ... not quite sure if any of that will be worked into the broadcast or not.)  

No official airdate has been announced yet but we'll be sure to keep you posted.  It just feels SO good that all these guys are able to set aside any personal differences they may have had over the past 40-50 years and come out and do one for the fans ... and film it for all posterity.  (The filmed concert event of the Marty Grebb tribute is also expected to be released before the end of the year ... so this will make a VERY nice companion piece to that release.)   

More news as we get it ... '60's Chicago Rock lives ... and I'm happy to report that is alive and well!  

Classic Chicago Rock Reunions of the past ...   

Photographer Michael Bush gathered up a good chunk of the bands several years ago for an appearance at a local record convention.  Clips of that event (and the complete Bob Sirott television special that followed) can be found here: