Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cornerstones Of Rock - The Live Show

Thanks to our FH Buddy Ron Onesti (who was able to squeeze me in to the completely packed and sold out Cornerstones Of Rock show Saturday night at his Arcada Theatre), we FINALLY got to see this presentation as part of the live audience ... and let me tell you, it was great.  

The fan support has been out of this world (every local area appearance has been a complete sell out!) and now that the PBS program is being shown nationally, it sounds like everything we hoped for originally may finally be coming true.   

Music fans from coast-to-coast are discovering ... or RE-discovering all this great music and learning what we here locally have known all along ... the Hometown Heroes who ruled the Chicagoland Charts from the mid-'60's to early '70's are still a force to reckoned with ... and this music sounds just as good today as it did back then. 

There are still a few details to be worked out but plans for a national Cornerstones Of Rock Tour are being kicked around with a kick-off date of as early as next March.  (Watch for perhaps one more "warm-up show" right here at The Arcada in December ... again, more details to come.) 

The Ides Of March, The Cryan' Shames, The New Colony Six, The Shadows Of Knight and The Buckinghams played to an absolutely packed, full house, standing-room only crowd at The Arcada Saturday Night ... and let me tell you, the crowd loved each and every moment.  (The show sold out months ago and fans who showed up Saturday Night hoping for a chance to see our Local Heroes had to stand backs against the wall behind the last row of the balcony in order to do so.)   

The running order was altered from the PBS Television Concert that we're all now so familiar with.  For starters, Jimy Sohns came out first to present the music of The Shadows Of Knight ... and I've got to tell you, he did an absolutely REMARKABLE job of getting the crowd revved up for the rest of the show.   

Each act was allowed to expand its song list for the concert so Jimy featured FOUR songs by The Shadows Of Knight Saturday night.  He kicked things off with "Oh Yeah", a record that snuck into The National Top 40 at #39 but was a #13 Hit here in Chicago.  This was followed by their comeback record of sorts, "Shake", recorded for the Buddah Record Label in 1968.  (The Shadows Of Knight were Buddah's "house band" on a number of the bubblegum hits they released in the late '60's).  This one (a #10 hit locally and #39 nationally) is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser and took things up another notch.  They next performed "I'm Gonna Make You Mine", a little known / little remembered #25 local (and #90 national) hit from 1966, followed by what has universally become known as "The National Anthem Of Rock And Roll", their #1 Hit (#6 nationally) "Gloria".  The entire audience was singing along with this one, spelling out Gloria's name throughout.  This may have first been a Van Morrison / Them song, but Chicago's Shadows Of Knight have owned it ever since their record first hit the charts in the Spring of 1966.  

It is no secret that Jimy has had some health issues these past few months ... he suffered a minor stroke a short while back ... but I can tell you that his recovery is nothing short of remarkable.  He sounded and moved around the stage as well has he always has, totally dominating the hearts, the eyes and the ears of the sold-out crowd.  

The Shadows Of Knight were Chicago's Bad Boys of Rock And Roll.  (In fact, rumor has it that across the pond, The Rolling Stones were often referred to as England's version of The Shadows Of Knight ... or, well, SOMETHING like that!!!)  It was great to see Jimy perform with such intensity and while truthfully he may still not be at 100% healthwise, there isn't an audience member who was there that night would think otherwise.  It was a GREAT performance. 

Next up came The Cryan' Shames, featuring three original members ... Tom Doody, Jim Pilster and James Fairs.  They, too, expanded their set to include "Sunshine Psalm", a song that they also performed at the original Soundstage taping back in the Fall of 2015 but which has been cut from every broadcast since, including the home DVD that originally promised bonus footage not seen in the television concert.  

It's a GREAT track but honestly, within the context of a "hit me with your best shots" format like this (Carl Giammarese suggested backstage that a Cornerstones national tour would be something like a "Happy Together" scenario, something The Buckinghams are well familiar with after hitting the Happy Together circuit a dozen times in the past thirty years ... get up, do your four or five biggest hits, and get off), you've got to give your audience the most bang for their buck ... and that means playing the songs they know and they wanna hear.  Something along the lines of "Mr. Unreliable" or "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles David Smith And Jones" might prove to be a bit more "accessible" to a national audience than the B-Side of a #99 national hit. 

The rest of their set list consisted of their biggest and best-known hits ... "Up On The Roof", "I Wanna Meet You", "It Could Be We're In Love" and "Sugar And Spice".   

"Sugar And Spice" was, by far, their biggest national hit, peaking at #39 in 1966. (It went to #4 here locally.)  But despite that fact, their best known and best loved hit is, hands down, no question, "It Could Be We're In Love".  This record topped the WLS and the WCFL charts for four weeks during The Summer Of Love, 1967, and is considered to be an absolute MASTERPIECE, often compared to the works of Brian Wilson.  It was hands down, without question, the biggest hit of the entire '60's Chicago Rock Era.  (How big was it here in Chicago?  It kept "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles and "Light My Fire" by The Doors out of the #1 Spot on the Charts!)   

I've made no secret of the fact over the years that I consider this to be a perfect piece of music exactly as it was originally created ... and, as such, I get upset when they alter the arrangement in any way to perform it in concert ... which they did again Saturday Night.  

PLEASE ... when you go out and do the national tour, leave the original arrangement intact.  This song deserves to be heard in all its beauty and glory the way it was originally created.  There is NO new arrangement that can possibly improve on the perfection of the original. 

That being said, the band sounds GREAT ... the harmonies (augmented by The Ides Of March in concert) are still letter perfect ... every other band up on the stage that night learned a thing or two along the way by studying the vocal stylings of The Cryan' Shames back in the day.  I have maintained for fifty years that The Cryan' Shames were COMPLETELY short-changed on the charts ... EVERY record they released deserved a FAR better fate than it received ... they were, without question, one of the most talented and inventive of not only the Chicagoland bands, but of ALL the bands of this era.  Maybe now, 50 years later (with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) the rest of the country will finally discover just how good this material really is ... even if it takes another national tour to prove it to them.  (Talk about your overnight successes!!!  lol)     

The Cryan' Shames were followed on stage by Ted Aliotta (brother of Mitch Aliotta of Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah, who scored a cult-favorite hit with "Lake Shore Drive" in the early '70's) and Maggie (I don't think she was ever identified beyond her first name), who performed this well-known, well-loved local hit.  I will say this ... Ted's connection to these ceremonies was through the bloodlines of being Mitch's brother ... but with all due respect, as sentimentally connected as he may be, he's probably NOT the right guy to sing this song.  (At the WTTW taping, Skip Haynes, who wrote and handled the vocal on the record, performed this tune as one of the "bonus cuts" featured on the dvd.)  It's too bad Skip, as an original member of AH&J and part of the actual recording, couldn't have been available to do this show.  Maybe that will change for the national tour (?)

On the plus side, Jim Peterik's son, Colin, did an absolutely OUTSTANDING job of handling the well-known keyboard intricacies of the original recording ... and the song retained it's timeless feel in the live setting.  The background vocals were also spot-on ... Ted just doesn't have the presence of voice to pull off this lead vocal and give it the treatment it deserves.  Again, it may pay to "up your game" for a national showing.   

Next up ... The Ides Of March ... who had been acting as the back-up band for all the other performers thus far, much as they did on the televised broadcast.  And right off the bat they commanded our attention.  

Their opening number was "Aire Of Good Feeling", from their "Vehicle" album.  I have ALWAYS believed that this song could have been / should have been a HUGE smash hit (and the perfect follow-up for their chart-topping hit "Vehicle".)  The band rocked solid on this one, with the horns blaring out their signature riffs.  This was as good as I've ever heard it performed. 

This was followed by The Ides' first chart hit, "You Wouldn't Listen", a song that just celebrated its 50 Year Anniversary and still sounds every bit as fresh today as it did back then ... another song that absolutely, positively, should have been a National Top Ten Hit.  (It peaked at #41 nationally but was a #7 Hit here in Chicago ... when the band was still in high school!!!)  They did the full, choreographed version ... which is ALWAYS a fun time in concert. 

Next came "L.A. Goodbye", a beautiful track that also never got what it fully deserved on the national charts, peaking at #72, despite a #2 showing here in Chicago.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to listen to this song and not be drawn into the emotion of the moment.  

Jim Peterik then told the story about receiving a phone call from Sylvester ("call me Sly") Stallone about needing a song for his next "Rocky" motion picture.  Peterik and co-writer Frankie Sullivan (from his new band Survivor) came up with the perfect recipe ... and "Eye Of The Tiger" went on to top the pop charts for six straight weeks in 1982, spending a full six months on the chart.  To this day it's virtually impossible to go a whole day without hearing it once or twice on the radio ... and recent polls show it is not only one of the most-played songs but also one of the most recognized songs in the world today, immediately identifiable by its very first note.  (Like Jim said that night, how could the song fail?  It had a Fifty Million Video called "Rocky III" behind it!)  By now the whole audience was up on their feet ... and Jim told them that they might as well stay there ... because "the vehicle that brought us here tonight" was next. 

From the opening horns, the crowd was captivated.  I have seen The Ides Of March perform close to fifty times over the past fifty years ... and this performance HAS to rank as one of their all-time best.  Moving them to the position of closing the first set (much as they did at The Marty Grebb Benefit Concert a year ago) was a brilliant move ... because NOBODY ... and I mean NOBODY ... could follow these guys after the set they put on Saturday Night.  The brief intermission that followed was EXACTLY what the audience needed.  

During the intermission I was fortunate enough to be able to go backstage and visit with many of the artists who were performing that night, including Ray Graffia, Jr., Bruce Mattey and Ronnie Rice of The New Colony Six (who had yet to take the stage but would be opening up the second set) and Carl Giammarese and Dave Zane of The Buckinghams, who would be closing the show.  I also got a quick "hello" nod from Jim Peterik, who was already being called back to the stage and had to run.  

I found visiting with Carl especially enjoyable because we talked not only about the logistics of a national tour ("Why couldn't "Cornerstones" become a "brand name" ... and then whatever city the bands happen to be playing in, invite other special guests to join in.  For example, if Cornerstones is appearing in Detroit, have Mitch Ryder come up on stage and do a set") ... a GREAT idea actually and, with putting together a schedule well in advance, there really isn't any reason that something like this couldn't be worked out. (Honestly, I was especially pleased to see that Saturday's show was all about the Chicago groups ... including The McCoys and The Standells on the television special just never really seemed to fit for me ... especially when we had so much home-grown talent right here in Chicago!)  But from that conversation we would go right into comments about The Happy Together Tour, the outstanding season The Cubs are having ... it was especially nice to converse as just two friends talking and observing, both of whom have such great love and affection for this music. 

After that I got a HUGE bear hug from Jim "Hooke" Pilster of The Cryan' Shames as well as a warm greeting from Shames Lead Vocalist Tom Doody, both of whom are regular Forgotten Hits Readers and Contributors ... and then it was time to head back out to catch the remainder of the show.

The New Colony Six were next ... and their set, too, was expanded to five songs.  (Incredibly, "I Will Always Think About You", a HUGE #1 Hit here in Chicago, has apparently been cut from the national broadcast!  I don't quite get that ... "I Confess", which opens their set, only got to #64 on the national charts ... and that's the one they elected to keep in!)  "Love You So Much", a #2 Record here in Chicago (as was "I Confess") was reinstated to the line-up (it was part of the original taping but never made the cut) as were a beautiful acoustic reading of "Can't You See Me Cry" and the band's two biggest ballads, "Things I'd Like To Say" along with the aforementioned "I Will Always Think About You".  Everybody was in fine voice and this, too, was a very well-received set of material.  (People forget that it was The New Colony Six who started it all here in Chicago.  In 1965, they headed west seeking their fame and fortune in Los Angeles, where they shared a building with another similarly dressed group called Paul Revere and the Raiders.  The Raiders landed Dick Clark's weekday afternoon series "Where The Action Is" and The New Colony Six headed home depressed due to their misfortune out on the west coast.

However, the story doesn't end there ... they weren't about to give up.  Some of the dads got together and formed their own record label called Centaur Records and, in late 1965, the band released their first single, "I Confess".  Local Top 40 AM 50,000 Watt Powerhouse Radio Stations WLS and WCFL both jumped on the record and in early 1966 it peaked at #2 on our local charts.  When all was said and done, The New Colony Six had SEVENTEEN local hits, more than ANY of the other local bands featured Saturday Evening, and eight of those went into The Top Ten.

And talk about a variety of styles ... from the early "garage band" sound of "I Confess" and "Dawn Is Breaking" and the precursor to punk "At The River's Edge" (a song about suicide for God's sake!), the band next went through a pop cycle with hits like "Love You So Much", "You're Gonna Be Mine" and "Treat Her Groovy" (take her to a movie!) before settling into their ballad mode, where they achieved their biggest success with hits like "I Will Always Think About You", "Things I'd Like To Say", "I Want You To Know" and "I Could Never Lie To You".  Diversity?  Yeah, I'd say so!   

Finally, after a bit of equipment rearranging, The Buckinghams took the stage to close the show.   

It was only fitting ... The Buckinghams had more national hits than ANY of the other bands on stage that night.  In fact, in 1967 alone they had FIVE records reach the Top 5 Positions on the chart nationally, including the #1 Record in the Country, "Kind Of A Drag", becoming the first local group to do so.  And they played them all ... "Don't You Care", "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", "Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song", "Susan" and "Kind Of A Drag" were all featured as part of their set.  So was a great reading of an early Buckinghams cover of an old James Brown tune, "I'll Go Crazy", handled by Guitarist Dave Zane.  (In fact, The Bucks provided all of their own instrumentation, featuring originals Carl Giammarese on lead vocals and Nick Fortuna on bass, backing vocals and in charge of the humor that night, Dave Zane on Guitar and Rocky Penn on Drums, along with The Buckinghams Horn Section.)  Original Lead Singer Dennis Tufano was not part of Saturday Evening's proceedings, although he has made other appearances with the group as a "special guest" for some of these Cornerstones appearances.  

For the grand finale, everybody came back out on stage to perform The American Breed's #1 Hit Single "Bend Me, Shape Me".  Sadly, we lost lead vocalist Gary Loizzo shortly after the Cornerstones television concert was taped ... his performance on that program was the last he ever did ... and he looked and sounded great.  Fortunately, this has been preserved on the dvd ... but Saturday Night they turned this ensemble reading into a celebration of Gary's biggest hit.  (Every patron who entered the theater Saturday Night was given an elastic wrist band commemorating Gary Loizzo, another nice gesture and symbolic tribute to this man who not only enjoyed his own success on the charts, but then went on to produce many of the early Styx albums, paving the way for their success in the '70's.) 

All-in-all, an incredible concert ... and the fans LOVED it.  WELL worth seeing if they do book another showing in December ... get your tickets early as I'm sure THIS show will sell out, too!   

And let's be sure to let our readers know all over the rest of the country to be watching for an announcement that this show is coming to your area live in the not too distant future. (Of course we'll have ALL of those details right here in Forgotten Hits!)  

If you haven't caught the broadcast yet, keep checking your local PBS listings for local broadcast times in your area ... or drop them a line and tell them that you want to see CORNERSTONES OF ROCK on your local PBS Television Station.  (They WILL hit you up for a sizeable donation in order to obtain a copy of the DVD and/or CD's from the program ... and then, even after you donate, they will hound you for MORE money on pretty much a daily basis for probably the remainder of your life ... but hey, it's worth it to capture a copy of this program for your collection.  And let's face it, this IS how they keep this great programming coming after all.)  

Missed yesterday’s FH until this morning, Kent, but super to know you’ll be among those in the seats (or aisles?) tomorrow night.  Final rehearsal last night went really superbly so counting on a replication in 36 hours.  See you then and thanks for the ridiculously solid support over these many, many years!  Maybe 2017 will be the year that “NC6 Greatest Hits” CD collection we have talked about many times finally sees the light of day, eh?  Glad to read you mentioning your efforts there; maybe a groundswell of FH fans’ interest will lead conversation to compilation … or not!  
Re: “Cornerstones of Rock: A Soundstage Special”, I heard somewhere or other that they cut my WTTW promo bit but put in a piece of my interview (we all did one.) with John Anderson (No, not YES’s Jon Anderson … ) where I told the story of us living in Hollywood, pre-success, with Paul Revere and the Raiders in a two-flat and all of us flipping out when seeing that we had independently come to LA wearing nearly identical outfits.  Anyone confirm that this was part of the nationally released show?  And since others shared that even more tunes were cut, did we lose more than “Love You So Much” as shelved in the local broadcasts?  Since I think someone asked about "I Will Always Think About You", were we trimmed down to just "Things I'd Like To Say" and "I Confess"? 
Oh well, what’s done is done and nothing we performers can do about it other than whine, and my fit of pique is done this Friday morning!  At least we get a quintet on stage tomorrow night … 
Finally, are you and Frannie going to be able to come over to Huntley that Thursday night later this month?  
Here’s a link:
for more info and with me not likely to be among the oldest folks there for a change (woohoo), having close to two hours to perform instead of ~15 minutes, ending before 9 (home in time to catch the 10 PM news) and not having to blow-off a weekend evening – how can you turn that down, right?   
Love ya, man, and same / same re FH! 
Posting the link to your Huntley show later this month so that others may attend, too ... and catch more than just four or five New Colony Six hits live in concert!   
Thanks, Ray!  (kk)   

Hi Kent,  
Thank you for the info on Jimy Sohns! 
I will be going to Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds" concert at the Chicago Theater October 1!!!!   
It was added at the last minute and what a birthday present for me! Are you planning to go?  
And please take photos at the Chicago Group Concert this weekend!!  Have a GREAT time.  
I talked to Billy Hinsche about maybe going to the Chicago Theater show ... what a BEAUTIFUL place to see a concert ... I think Frannie and I first saw his "Pet Sounds" concert there about twelve years ago or so.  (I've been wanting to interview Brian for Forgotten Hits but haven't had any success with making the connection, despite several "connected" people working on our behalf.  I just don't know that he's all that comfortable doing interviews in the first place anymore ... nor does he really have a NEED to at this stage of the game ... but he's still on my bucket list!)  Have a great time at the show.  
Unfortunately we got very little in the way of photographs from the Cornerstones show ... but here's a photo of Jimy Sohns sent in by FH Reader J. Mikota, taken during Saturday Night's show from the second row!!!  (kk)

Hi Kent,  
I saw our guy Ronnie Rice at a private birthday bash for veteran Chicago radio exec Vince Conroy several weeks ago.  A great time was had by all.  
My girlfriend Suzy and I were groovin' with Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano.  
Ronnie hopped behind the mic unannounced and began to go through his catalogue of songs - jumping from Jerry Lee Lewis to Dion to the Beach Boys to the New Colony Six to Willie and the Hand Jive.   The cat never took a timeout.
It reminded me of being in the studio at Chess with the "6" when they recorded "I Will Always Think About You" back in the late 60's. Following that lovely vocal, Ronnie really should have gone solo.  
That being said, Ronnie is a Chicago icon, a musical treasure and a man I'm honored to call a buddy.  
Chet Coppock  
Former Road Manager - New Colony Six  
Host: Chicago Blackhawks Ambassadors series   

Hi Kent -  
Ken Evans of The Fifth Estate here.   
Saw The Cornerstones of Rock show on TV last night here on the East Coast ... Enjoyed it totally top to bottom.  Can't say enough about it.  Thought all the bands sounded great.  It's a top notch show and I hope it hits many more TV markets around the country.  I'm sure it will and should - it's that good.  
It reminded me very much of the type shows we were often out with in those mid to late 1960s years.  Especially one tour for the summer of 1967 with The Music Explosion, us (The Fifth Estate), The Buckinghams, The Easybeats, The Happenings, and Gene Pitney.  We all had hits in the top 20.  This was one of if not the biggest pop / rock music show out that year - the year following The Beatles retirement from touring.  It filled coliseums and even some football stadiums across the country.   
It was totally great to see Dennis sing again with The Bucks, particularly with Nick and Carl.  Although all the others played great, I nevertheless miss Marty and Jon Jon being out there.  Seems like yesterday to me anyway, and the Cornerstones show really brings all that and a lot of great music from that period back!  All the bands were cool and beautiful!!  Not bad for 50 years on almost - MAN !!!???? Furv

Cornerstones rocked!  I had two tickets but was able to sell the unused one back to the box office. I had a great seat smack dab in the middle, and was surprised how small and cozy the Arcada is (this was my 1st visit).  
I looked for you didn’t see you anywhere. Figured you were in the balcony or side-stage.  
So before the show I’m checking out the souvenir items. This guy seated at the table is touting Shadows of Knight posters … I look up and it’s Jimy Sohns !!  I gave him a big hug. He looked good.  
I spotted Channel 11’s Bonnie Greene and we had a nice chat.   
The show was great … the May show in Skokie included The Buckinghams’ Dennis Tufano and a video of Jimy Sohns, who’d just suffered the stroke. He vowed to see us in September ... and there he was!  
So Jimy kicked off this show, but no Dennis with The Bucks. Jimy sang well !! Both shows were great !!  The Ides of March were impressive in both shows — Jim Peterik rocks!  
I enjoyed it all, really. I loved all these groups in the late-60’s ... WCFL & WLS Rock of Chicago !!  
It’s very cool how Ron Onesti greets concertgoers as they’re leaving the theater — he’s genuinely appreciative of the Arcada’s patrons, and a funny guy  : )  
I loved the finale “Bend Me, Shape Me” tribute to Gary Loizzo !!   
That’s about it … I’m proud that these guys are gonna tour this show nationally !!  
I’ll probably think of something I neglected to add after I send this, but anyway … here you go!  
(Photo of me and Jimy Sohns below)