Tag Archives: Chicago

Balancing My Baseball Loyalties.

bb-banner-jpegThere’s no doubt that the 2016 World Series is laden with historic significance.

1948-cleveland-indians-world-series-champions-patchThis year’s Fall Classic pits two of baseball’s legendary hard luck franchises: The Cleveland Indians and The Chicago Cubs. When you consider how long it’s been since the Indians and Cubs have won a World Series, it’s 1948 against 1908 – with the Cubs suffering the longest title drought.

The 2016 World Series will put an end to one of baseball’s two most notorious curses: the Curse of Colavito and the Curse of the Billy Goat.

And, for me, it will be an exquisitely personal experience.

cubs-goat-logoI was born and raised on the West Side of Cleveland — but I went to college and lived and worked on Chicago’s North Side for 15 years. I married my wife, a Chicagoan and lifelong Cubs fan, in Chicago. One of our daughters was born there.

For years, I’ve been able to root for my American League heroes, The Indians – while also cheering for my favorite National League team, The Cubs. The likelihood that my dual baseball loyalties would be tested in World Series was remote. Like worrying about getting hit by lightning.

But now, the baseball gods have flung their bolts – and lightning has struck.

images-washingtonpost-comSo, I must make my choice.

Baseball and boyhood are inextricable. Some of my earliest memories involve the Cleveland Indians. I remember when I was 3-5 years old, looking at the front page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer to see if the Tribe had won or lost.

cw2My dad, who was a fine cartoonist himself, enjoyed showing me the small cartoon Indian that appeared on The Plain Dealer’s front page the day after each game.

If the Indians won, that tiny cartoon Indian brave looked upbeat – with a feather in his headdress. (Two feathers for two victories in a doubleheader.)

cw-3If they lost, the little Indian would have a black eye – or, in this case, a sore bottom from getting his butt kicked.

620x686xphoto-8-montage-927x1024-png-pagespeed-ic-sjzucr-yqiAnd in the case of a split doubleheader, he might sport one black eye for the loss – while triumphantly holding a scalp to indicate the win.

Little boys – and The Plain Dealer — had no clue about political correctness in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

95dd7d0bb910ca4fb7b02e83d49fc367I have vivid memories of frequent trips with my father and brother to the cavernous Municipal Stadium to cheer on those 1960’s Indians teams, starring my favorite player, Rocky Colavito. (Who should be in the Hall of Fame.) I was only two years old in 1960 when Rocky was sent to Detroit in a trade that many fans believed cursed the team – but I sure remember Rocky’s glorious return to Cleveland in 1965.

It didn’t hurt that Rocco “Rocky” Colavito was Italian. My mom is Italian – and as a member of St. Rocco’s Church and school – my world was decidedly Italian-centric.

davalilloHeck, I also took pride in the fact that Rocky’s teammate Vic Davalillo was also Italian. (He wasn’t. Vic was Venezuelan.)

In all the seasons that I followed The Indians before I went off to college in Chicago, there were more lowlights than highlights. But I saw young Craig Nettles, Dennis Eckersley, Luis Tiant, Sudden Sam McDowell, Buddy Bell, Gaylord Perry and so many others compete in a Tribe uniform.

bat-dayThe Indians has a Straight A Tickets program – and boy, did I make sure to score those straight A’s. On Bat Day, they gave you a real bat. Can you imagine handing 40,000 kids a real bat in downtown Cleveland – or any city – today?

So, the Indians are in my DNA. They’re my hometown team. My boyhood idols.

big-cubbieBut I love The Cubs, too.

Soon after arriving at Northwestern University in 1976, I started watching Cubs games on WGN – with Jack Brickhouse calling the games. We didn’t get every Indians game on TV in Cleveland, and I got hooked on watching the Cubs every day.

600f51b17cdc6a926d68e07a04b60144In 1984, I started going to Wrigley Field on a regular basis. After all those years of watching baseball in the drafty vastness of Municipal Stadium, I was charmed by the intimacy of The Friendly Confines. And I fell in love with the team, led by the bat and glove of the glorious Ryne Sandberg.

Of course, those 1984 Cubs broke my heart when they blew a two-game lead to lose the NL pennant to Steve Garvey and the San Diego Padres. Having my heart broken by the Cubs only intensified a growing bond with my fellow Cubs fans and the people of the Windy City’s North Side. I knew from birth what it was to support a lovable baseball loser. Now I supported two of them.

Since then, I enjoyed the Indians’ resurgence in the late 1990’s – and endured their losses in the 1995 and ‘97 World Series. (But at least we got there, right?)

And, as a Cubs fan, I anguished along with everybody else in Chicago when Steve Bartman got in the way of that fateful pop foul.

artbble-pos-16tbb2-1154-gold-sThese highs and lows only reinforced the needlessness of worrying about divided loyalties in an Indians vs. Cubs World Series. Such an incredible thing was never going to happen.

But now, it has happened.

And, as I said, baseball and boyhood are inextricable.

So, I’m rooting for my Cleveland Indians in this Series.

kris_bryant-topps-061015As for the Cubbies, they have so much youth, talent, pitching, managerial wisdom and front office brilliance that I expect them to be World Series favorites for the next decade.

I’ll say what we Cubs fans have said since 1908.

Wait ‘til next year.

I’ll be rooting for a Cubs victory then.

Now, let’s play ball!

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Eva B. Returns to Chicago!

12402097_842004202565422_4997732215579192100_oThis Friday, April 29th, Eva B. Ross (my bluesy, jazzy, soulful, singer-songwriter daughter) will play a special 7:30 show Live At The Whiskey Lounge upstairs at 27 Live in Evanston, Illinois.

Eva Art 4-16 #2 cropjpegOf course, maestro Steve Rashid will be hosting this event and tickling the ivories as he leads an unbelievably talented trio backing Eva, including the great Don Stiernberg on guitar and the always-tasty Jim Cox on bass.

If you saw Eva’s concert at The Whiskey Lounge late last summer, you won’t want to miss this one. And if you have yet to enjoy Eva in the company of such wonderful musical artists as Steve, Don and Jim – then check out this show. It’s gonna be a great night.

See you there!

For more information & tickets, click on Steve Rashid Presents.Eva Art 4-16 #1 jpeg

 

 

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Chicago 1968 & 2016

convention_aug08_5_631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropScreen Shot 2016-03-11 at 10.14.19 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-11 at 10.15.49 PMSomething very important happened in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A planned mass rally for Republican Presidential primary frontrunner Donald J. Trump descended into a maelstrom of anger, turbulence and confrontation not seen in American electoral politics in 48 years — since the famously contentious Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968.

Anti-war Vietnam

Vietnam War protestors march during the ’68 Democratic Convention.

That both events happened in the great city of Chicago should not be a surprise.

Chicago is America’s quintessential melting pot. For nearly two centuries, the City of Big Shoulders has been a magnet for generations of immigrants: yearning, struggling, aspirational minorities from beyond the U.S. borders looking for a better life in the Land of the Free.

Donald-Trump-Rally-ChicagoHow is it possible that Donald Trump thought the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago — one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the nation — would be a good venue for his blunt, bellicose message of nationalistic, Know-Nothing xenophobia?

Didn’t The Donald understand that the South Side of Chicago has been a racial DMZ for more than a century? Didn’t anyone tell him that Midwestern college students are vastly more progressive than the folks who have flocked to his rallies so far?

ndcThose of us who remember the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention are not surprised. Neither are those few who remember the 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Those two events were violent, destructive spasms on the left and right. Does Mr. Trump have any clue about this dubious history – and the negative political energy he is generating?

“Until today, we’ve never had much of a problem,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon. “I don’t have regrets. These were very, very bad protesters. These were bad dudes. They were rough, tough guys.”

trump-rally-michigan-2So says The Donald. But I wouldn’t bet on his take against the verdict of history. The Bible (which Trump says he reveres) says, “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”.

Mr. Trump – Chicago, March 11, 2016 is your whirlwind.

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Eva sings “A Sunday Kind of Love”…

If you haven’t been to Steve Rashid’s “Live at the Whiskey Lounge” series at 27 Live in Evanston (just north of Chicago) — then you’re missing the opportunity to enjoy fine, soulful jazz like this. Our daughter Eva sang there on August 13 with Steve and some of our most talented musical friends. This is another selection from what turned out to be a most entertaining evening. Dig it.

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Father & Daughter On The Mother Road

66banner166banner266banner3If you ever plan to motor west,

Travel my way — take the highway that’s the best.

Get your kicks on Route 66.

66-1When my daughter Emilia and I made our plan to motor west from Chicago to Los Angeles over the course of two marathon days in May, it was her desire that we get our California-bound kicks on that legendary highway — Route 66.

Well, it winds from Chicago to LA,

More than 2,000 miles all the way.

Get your kicks on Route 66.

I’d first driven the 2,150 miles from Chicago to LA – south on I-55 and west on I-40 along the path of the old U.S. Route 66 – back in 1991 when I planted my flag in Southern California to stake a claim in the television biz. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, I was winding my way from Chicago to the west coast with the girl whose birth in ‘91 was one of the primary catalysts for our relocation to more lucrative employment in Hollywood.

66-24Emilia was gung-ho for the trip, eager to check off each of the ten cities listed in songwriter Bobby Troup’s much-covered classic. Troup wrote the song in 1946 on his own journey toward a career in the western Mecca of the entertainment business — immortalizing an itinerary of stops along The Mother Road, spanning the western two-thirds of America from the Windy City to the City of Angels.

Now you go through Saint Louis

Joplin, Missouri,

Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.

66-29You’ll see Amarillo,

Gallup, New Mexico,

Flagstaff, Arizona.

Don’t forget Winona,

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.

Nearly 70 years ago, when Bobby Troup made his pilgrim’s progress westward, the Main Street of America was just a series of two-lane blacktops: various State Routes snaking their way through the heart of each of the municipalities mentioned in Troup’s celebrated, syncopated lyrics. As postwar traffic along Route 66 increased and peaked over the following decades, the towns it traversed adapted and grew to meet the demands of highway travelers.

66-12aIn the years after President Eisenhower launched construction of the Interstate Highway System in 1956, the wide concrete belts of I-55 and I-40 mostly skirted the various city centers, bypassing many of the roads that had made up old Route 66. And while the driving time from Chicago to LA was reduced dramatically – so, too, was the colorful, unique local character of the Route 66 experience.

66-18You can still find original sections of the Mother Road – many of them just off an exit, running parallel to Ike’s great Interstates — the old motels, restaurants, gas stations, and roadside attractions in varying degrees of dilapidation, dowdiness and decay. Yet, some towns have managed to maintain carefully preserved stretches of old Route 66, doing a brisk trade in food, fuel, lodging, and nostalgia.

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip?

When you make that California trip

Get your kicks on Route 66.

As we set out from Chicago,geocaching_desktop_by_dusterbed_zps0ca7e9ed Emilia put just one other item on our two-day road agenda: geocaching. You may not know this, but millions of people around the world have hidden even more millions of small treasures called “geocaches” in interesting locations across the globe — challenging fellow geocache enthusiasts to find them, armed only with a set of GPS coordinates. Emilia was determined to find at least one geocache in every state along the way in which she hadn’t already logged a find. So I knew we’d be poking around odd corners just off the highway in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Now you go through Saint Louis…

66-8The drive south along I-55 through the prairie and farmlands of Illinois toward St. Louis is long, flat and straight. There are few curves in the road and even fewer hills. We made good time through the Land of Lincoln, our progress interrupted only once – when a sudden cloudburst drenched the highway in sheets of rain through which we couldn’t see more than 10 feet ahead. Luckily, the downpour ended as quickly as it began, and we rolled into St. Louis, Missouri under blue skies.

Sighting The Gateway Arch which dominates the St. Louis skyline, we exited I-55 to take the first of our selfies to commemorate our arrival in each town name-dropped by Bobby Troup.66-4a

Joplin, Missouri…

66-6aThere’s not much to say about our Joplin experience as it’s one of those towns that have been bypassed by Ike’s Interstate. Thus, what we saw of Joplin was similar to what we passed driving through lots of communities along the modern Mother Road: franchise restaurants, sequences of tacky roadside signs extolling the virtues of various upcoming gift-cheese-fireworks-souvenir-gun-knife-Indian trinket shops, and truck stops like Mother’s – where we paused to look for a CD of “Cracked Rear View” by Hootie & The Blowfish – and actually found it!

Oklahoma City is mighty pretty…66-10a

66-8aIf Oklahoma City is pretty at all, we couldn’t tell. Emilia was at the wheel and the weather turned foul as we made our way through OKC. Rain fell from the cloud-darkened sky, illuminated by sudden flashes of lightning and the sound of distant thunder that doubtless gave the city’s NBA team its name. Emilia did a great job negotiating the heaviest stretch of traffic we saw on the trip – and the weather broke just long enough for us to collect our selfie.

66-7And now that we were in Oklahoma, it was time to find our first geocache – which Emilia located near the parking lot of one of those ubiquitous truck stops. We grabbed a fast food dinner, I went back behind the wheel, and we listened to the Houston Rockets regain some measure of respect in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

You’ll see Amarillo… 

It was near midnight when we pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Amarillo, Texas – after driving more than 1,000 miles during our first day. We grabbed five hours worth of sleep in a couple of very comfy beds – then got back on the road by 6:00 AM the next morning.

66-11aWe took our Amarillo selfie – and before long, Emilia found her Texas geocache. Those were the two highlights of our rather dull, flat, straight drive across the windswept Texas panhandle, marked by herds of cud-chewing cows and farmlands that extended far into the horizon without a hint of a hill to be had. Luckily, the speed limit for most of I-40 in Texas is 75 MPH – and I took every advantage of the opportunity to race through Ted Cruz’ state just as fast as we (legally) could.

Gallup, New Mexico…66-13a

66-14aAs we crossed from Texas into New Mexico, the landscape soon developed new contours: hills, then bluffs, then dramatic red rock mesas. The chaparral was still quite green and the combination of brilliant blue sky, white clouds, red rock and mountain greenery were a joy to behold.

66-15We scored our New Mexico cache at another truck stop.

This time, I was the one who discovered the tiny two-inch long aluminum tube, dangling from a thin chain into a hole in the ground next to a weathered wooden post holding up what was left of a battered old sign.

Flagstaff, Arizona…

Our family has been to Flagstaff before (and to nearby, magical Sedona) on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon.

66-16aEmilia was about 7 years old at the time, but the week we spent exploring this part of Arizona made a deep impression. And speaking of deep impressions, Emilia and I could drive past the famous Meteor Crater just east of Flagstaff because we’d already seen that prehistoric wonder.

66-19We turned off the road to get a snack, refuel and find Emilia’s fourth hidden geocache.

I was glad that the geocaching phase of our expedition was a success — and that my daughter could now log onto the Geocaching website and earn a badge for each of the four new states in which she found a cache — but I must admit that I was in a hurry to get to Williams, Arizona, just 35 miles west of Flagstaff on I-40.

Bobby Troup didn’t put Williams, Arizona in his song, but it’s a “don’t miss” destination for those seeking retro Route 66 ambience.

66-25Since we left Chicago, as we passed various Route 66 highway signs along the road, I’d been telling Emilia that we’d have an ample opportunity to score the mother load of Mother Road signs when we got to Williams, AZ. And we were not disappointed.

The last town bypassed by 1-40, Williams has preserved more than vintage signs. It boasts a town center featuring a half-dozen blocks of restored Route 66-era buildings facing an original stretch of the pre-Interstate road. The local shopkeepers – mostly mom and pop’s — trade on the look and flavor of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Here, you can get a sense of how it might have been to journey westward through the heart of such towns rather than whizzing passing them at 75 miles an hour.66-26

66-27Williams has a special relationship to Route 66 and I-40. In fact, it was the last town to have its section of Route 66 bypassed. But the people of Williams didn’t give in to President Eisenhower’s great highway project without a fight. Their lawsuits held up the last section of I-40 for nearly three decades until a settlement gave Williams three highway exits: an outsized number given the town’s modest size. Williams was finally bypassed on October 13, 1984 – 15 years after Ike passed away. The next year, Route 66 was officially decommissioned. From then on, the Mother Road existed only in memory, legend and song.

66-15aDon’t forget Winona…

Oh, yeah. Here’s another timely tip. Winona, Arizona actually comes before Flagstaff when you’re driving west. A songwriter like Bobby Troup can be granted poetic license, but he disqualifies himself as a navigator. When Emilia and I took our required selfie we were still 15 miles east of Flagstaff.

Kingman…

66-20There was still plenty of sunlight left as we descended more than 3,200 feet in elevation over the 115 miles of 1-40 from Williams to Kingman, Arizona. We were driving hard for California at this point – and Game Four of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals would be on the radio soon – so, we only spent enough time in Kingman to gas up, get a bite, and try to dial up the Cavaliers versus the Hawks. I’m a Clevelander born and raised. Listening to LeBron James and the Cavs close out the Atlanta Hawks would be an ideal end to this adventure.66-17a

66-19aBarstow…

At first, as we burned up the high desert miles toward San Berdoo, our radio delivered a strong AM signal – and the Cavs were beating the Hawks handily. But there’s not much in the way of civilization between Kingman and San Bernardino (though we did stop in Barstow, CA for our requisite selfie) and as the sun went down, so did our radio station signal. At times we abandoned the faint, faltering, static-strangled broadcast and Emilia read the play-by-play on her NBA Gametime app.

San Bernardino…

UnknownIt was around 10:00 PM when we drove past San Bernardino in the heaviest traffic we’d seen since Oklahoma. It wasn’t easy to find a safe location for our selfie, so Emilia and I agreed to settle for a shot taken through the car window as we continued homeward.

The local Los Angeles area sports talk radio channels were starting to come in loud and clear – and while my legs were cramping after long hours of driving, listening to excited post-game discussion of the Cavs’ victory gave me all the fuel I needed to power through the last stretches of the 10 and the 101 freeways.66-18a

My daughter and I had traveled Route 66, covering more than 2,000 miles in less than two days. We touched base in every city in the song – and found a geocache in every state we needed to find one. We listened to two great basketball games on the radio and played “Cracked Rear View” and John Fogerty’s “Revival” several times.66-3

We got to know the country a little better along the way – and we also got to know each other better.

It was, as Bobby Troup would say, a kick.

Now, sing along with Emilia and me:

760272Won’t you get hip to this timely tip?

When you make that California trip

Get your kicks on Route 66.

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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015

RR Banner 2RR BannerI know there’s a lot going on right now in Iraq and Syria and the Ukraine and Gaza and Ferguson, Missouri – but there’s not much I can do about those intractable geopolitical situations. I’ll let prudent, deliberative President Obama and his national security team sort out America’s proper role in all that madness.

But there is one source of national shame and outrage that I must address here and now…

Tommy+James++The+Shondells+732311_356x237Why aren’t Tommy James & The Shondells in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

I’m a Cleveland boy, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a shining jewel on our downtown lakefront — but that only makes such an injustice a more personal matter.

2014-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-ceremony-1024Tommy James & The Shondells have been waiting since 1991 to get that call from the Hall. For 23 years, they’ve had to endure the enshrinement of acts like Abba, Donna Summer and Madonna in an institution supposedly devoted to rock and roll – while the group that gave garage bands around the world rock classics like “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” is continually and criminally passed over.

Tommy James GERHow can it be that slick, overproduced purveyors of disco and pop take precedence over the guys who put “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crimson and Clover” down on vinyl?

At this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rage Against the Machine’s lead guitarist Tom Morello – a man whose shredding virtuosity and politics I admire – made a convincing case for why Kiss had a rightful place in the Rock Hall. But while Kiss may have blazed a trail for visual and musical bombast and pyro in arena rock – their sound and fury signify nothing like the string of hits that Tommy James and his band delivered in the late 1960s.

tommy-james-and-the-shondells-on-the-ed-sullivan-showBesides their two #1 hit single in the U.S. – “Hanky Panky” in ’66 and “Crimson and Clover” in ’69 — Tommy James & The Shondells charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the top ten. Remember a platter entitled “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?

How about 14 Top 40 hits during the greatest period in rock and roll radio history? All while competing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone – and those Motown artists cranking out classics in Hitsville, USA.

All of those great rockers are in the Hall of Fame — so, why not Tommy James & The Shondells?

114774938And I don’t want to hear that Tommy James was “bubblegum”. Please. When was the last time you listened to “Mony Mony” or “Draggin the Line”? Guitars. Groove. Harmony. Drive. Horns. Hooks. Lots and lots of classic rock and roll hooks.

Tommy James & The Shondells should go into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fames very next class or the whole institution is a sham.

TommyJames2Honor Tommy James while the man is still alive and well and rocking.

I can wait no longer.

I’m just going to enshrine Tommy James & The Shondells here and now.

In fact…

I’m announcing The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015 (if there were any justice in this freaking world):

Tommy James & The Shondells — Eligible since 1991

Chicago — Eligible since 1994.

cover_3548181012011_rActually, the Chicago that most deserves to go into the Rock Hall is the first incarnation of Chicago. The first version of Chicago was the band that was politically progressive and rocked harder than the late 70s and 80’s version – before their bluesy lead guitarist, Terry Kath died in January 1978 from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Some say Russian roulette.)

That was the band that got me out to Blossom Music Center during my high school days to enjoy some of the first rock concerts I ever attended.

2013-1-30-terry_kath_3-533x402My favorite Chicago song during this period was “Dialogue (Part I & II) – a charged musical debate between a politically active guy (sung by Kath) and an apathetic college student (sung by Peter Cetera). Listening to that song now makes we weep for the current state of music on the radio. Remember that chorus? “We can make it happen…”

peter-cetera-64_smallAfter Kath died, Chicago lost currency with me because of the band’s over-reliance on Peter Cetera’s often-cheesy (but enormously popular) ballads.

The same thing happened to another Chicago band, Styx, when Dennis DeYoung’s ballads became hits – and smothered the rock in syrup. But the chicks dug it. And the arenas filled up.

Terry-Kath-ChicagoNo American band besides The Beach Boys had as many hit singles and albums on the Billboard charts as Chicago.

In fact, Chicago had more hit singles in the US during the 1970s than anyone else.

And they scored five #1 albums and 21 top-ten singles.

Put ‘dose Chicago boys in ‘da Hall.

The Doobie Brothers — Eligible since 1996:

the_doobie_brothersI remember with great humility the day in 1972 when my fellow Cleveland Central Catholic freshman (and soon to be band mate) Ed Dougan and I were discussing The Doobie Brother’s first big hit, “Listen to the Music”. I opined that The Doobie Brothers sounded like a one-hit-band to me.

For the next four years, The Doobie Brothers gave Eddie Dougan reason after reason to remind me how absolutely wrong I was – as songs like “Jesus is Just Alright”, “Long Train Running” and “China Grove” poured out of our radios and rocked up the charts, culminating in their inescapable, utterly sing-able #1 hit, “Black Water”.

22754_lgI graduated from high school in ’76. That same year, Michael McDonald became an official member of The Doobie Brothers – and led them to another string of soulful hits.

With McDonald singing lead, songs like “Takin’ It to the Streets” and “What a Fool Believes”, topped the charts in the US – and made Eddie Dougan smile once again, remembering what a fool I was.

Green Day — Eligible in 2014

Green Day should be first ballot Hall of Famers.greenday2_2319069b

If Green Day isn’t drummed into the Hall at its 2015 Induction Ceremony, then the whole building should just slink shamefully into Lake Erie.

e28880d04d9bbe6ae819a3f04dba1256-jpgLong before “American Idiot” exploded into the Zeitgeist, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool had already established themselves as the primary punks of the new millennium.

Green Day has sold more than 75 million albums and singles worldwide. There’s no reason to wait.

Put those punks in the Hall.

If these next two deserving honorees continue to be snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Southern Californians and fans of surf rock should get Eric Von Zipper to bust some heads.

Jan & Dean — Eligible since 1985

jan-deanWithout Jan and Dean there are no Beach Boys. It’s as simple as that. Beginning in the late 1950s, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence established much of what became the California surf rock sound, featuring big waves, hot rods, and girls, girls, girls.

Brian Wilson looked up to Jan – who was a studio production whiz kid – as a musical big brother. And that’s Dean’s falsetto on the Beach Boy’s party classic, “Barbara Ann”. (Carl Wilson says, “Thanks, Dean” at the end of the track.) Jan & Dean were cool. So cool they were chosen as the hosts of the legendary T.A.M.I. Show in 1964.

Jan BerrySadly, Jan & Dean’s hit-making ended in the spring of ’66 when Jan drove his Corvette into the back end of a parked gardener’s truck in Beverly Hills and sustained severe head injuries.

Shades of “Dead Man’s Curve”.

jan-and-dean-ride-the-wild-surf-1964-3From their first hit, “Jennie Lee” in ’58 to their last, “Popsicle” in ’66 – Jan & Dean charted 15 Top 40 hits, including 6 in the Top 10.

“Little Old Lady from Pasadena” went to #3 – and “Surf City” — the joyous anthem of surf rock — went all the way to #1 promising “two girls for every boy”.

Two girls for every boy? That’s reason enough to put Jan & Dean in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And do it while 74-year old Dean can still get onstage and sing.

Dick Dale — Eligible since 1987

properleftyDick Dale is the The King of the Surf Guitar. He pioneered the surf music style, experimenting with reverb – and worked with Leo Fender to push the limits of electric amplification. (Riffmaster Van Wagner owes Dick Dale an unpayable debt for producing “thick, clearly defined tones” at “previously undreamed-of volumes.”

And it wasn’t just upping the volume in rock and roll that makes Dick Dale Hall-worthy – it’s also his style and technique. Just spin “Let’s Go Trippin’” – often called the first surf rock song – or “Jungle Fever” or “Misirlou”.

Dick DaleDick Dale’s records may not have been big on the national charts – but their influence was both immediate and far-reaching.

Like Chuck Berry before him, generations of guitar shredders copied Dick Dale’s licks.

Dick-DaleYou can put him in as a performer or an early influence – or for lifetime achievement – but The King of the Surf Guitar should be enthroned in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And it should be done while Dick Dale can still perform — thrilling us with his pioneering sound.

The Monkees — Eligible since 1991

The-Monkees-the-monkees-29786398-886-960Not even gonna argue about this.

The Monkees should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hell, The Beatles respected The Monkees – so why should anyone else deny their undeniable greatness?

Morons who I have little patience for say The Monkees were a fabricated band – “The Pre-Fab Four” — surrounded by studio musicians. I know for a fact that The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, and others in the Hall of Fame were backed by the very same group of studio cats: the Wrecking Crew. So, what?

Hold on. I said I wasn’t gonna argue.

websbest060113_fullsize_story1At their peak in ‘67, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and Rolling Stones combined. 12 Top-40 hits, three #1 hits — and a TV show that brought melodic, witty, well-written and beautifully sung rock and roll music (and surprisingly subversive comedy) into homes across America.

The-Monkees-the-monkees-2846004-603-546I won’t even mention the songs by name. You know them. You sing them. You’ll probably hear one on the radio today.

Okay…

“Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. That’s just five.

And now I’m really not gonna argue any more.

The Rock N Roll Trio — Eligible since 1981

115163945Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio were the best damn rockabilly band that ever thumped a standup bass, whacked out the backbeat on a snare, and sang like drunken wildcats.

“Rock Billy Boogie”, “Rock Therapy”, “Train Kept A-Rollin”, “Honey Hush”, “Tear It Up” – Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio served up fundamental, elemental, essential rock and roll.

20131210092007-burnette_jJohnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio featured no frills, no gimmicks, no costumes, and no pyrotechnics — other than the fire they produced by their passionate playing.

Sorry, Kiss, this is rock and roll with real heart and soul.

I don’t give a damn what hits they had or where they charted.

When I need rock therapy. They give it to me.

They should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

 

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Farewell to Ray Shepardson, the Visionary Who Saved the Theatres

-35ed441eab8bdd6534306114001_3472737074001_video-still-for-video-3472657321001I honestly had no idea how to headline this tribute to the great Ray Shepardson, who died suddenly and shockingly in Aurora, Illinois late last night.

527176_405018629562668_143982015_nIt sounds like a cliché to say that Ray was full of life and larger than life – but if you knew him as his friends and associates knew him, terms like “dynamo” and “whirlwind” and “passionate” and, yes, “madman” were all frequently employed in the fruitless struggle to capture Ray in mere words.

The man who saved dozens of great old theatres and movie palaces from the wrecking ball was a man of prodigious energy, drive, and “can do” creativity.

I was a teenager in Cleveland, Ohio when I first felt the vibration from the human shockwave that was Raymond K. Shepardson. And I wouldn’t have any idea who he was for another thirteen years.

maxresdefaultIn 1973, my mother took me to see a production of “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” that was staged in the lobby of the State Theatre in Cleveland’s downtrodden, downtown Playhouse Square district.

Brel longestI was just 15 years old, but I knew that this long-running version of “Jacques Brel” was something special – and that there was a lot of excitement in my proud hometown about a surprisingly successful effort to save this group of old movie palaces and Broadway road houses in a city that had been on a long losing streak.

Inspirational young Ray waging the good fight at Playhouse Square.

At that time, I had no idea who Ray Shepardson was, or that he was the person behind the movement to preserve the theatrical and cultural glory of downtown Cleveland.

Tonight, four decades after I experienced “Jacques Brel” in the State Theatre lobby, the lights went out in Playhouse Square. The theatres that Ray saved dimmed their marquees in memory of the educator-turned-preservationist who inspired and orchestrated their revitalization.

“The thing that always baffled me,” said Ray, “is how anyone could walk into those buildings and think they weren’t worth saving.”

I met Ray thirteen years after “Jacques Brel”. Neither of us was living in Cleveland anymore. I had come to Chicago in 1976 to attend Northwestern, graduated in 1980, and in 1986, was performing with my future wife, Victoria Zielinski, in a comedy revue for my own theatrical enterprise, The Practical Theatre Company.

frank=sinatra-chicago-theater_679Our friend and fellow Northwestern alum, Drew McCoy had come to Chicago to work on the grand reopening of The Chicago Theatre: one of the finest old movie palaces on State Street in the Loop. Drew helped Victoria get a job selling seats in the luxury box level. And that brought us into orbit around the force of nature called Ray Shepardson.

He was a restless, relentless bear of man, hustling through the bowels of The Chicago Theatre with a towel around his neck, quick-witted and brimming with bravado. I’d played Professor Harold Hill in high school and I recognized “The Music Man” in Ray: the persuasive, undeterred, incorrigible charm and salesmanship.

-e2db18eed68014bdBut Ray’s accomplishments were far more legitimate than Harold Hills bogus “think system”. In the years after saving Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, Ray had wrought his restorative magic on The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis (built in 1929) – where our friend Drew first worked with the great man.

Unknown-1Ray had also supervised the 1983 restoration and programming of The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles (built in 1931).

Now, Ray was getting The Chicago Theatre (built in 1921) ready for a grand reopening featuring Frank Sinatra in concert. And, thanks to my girlfriend Victoria and my buddy Drew, I had a ringside seat.

When Ray and I finally made the Cleveland-“Jaques Brel”-Playhouse Square connection, we became fast friends. It was a friendship that, for the next 28 years, I could always pick up right where we had left off. Until yesterday.

But I’d rather go back to that glorious day when The Chicago Theatre reopened on September 10, 1986. My fellow Practical Theatre cast members and I were on the red carpet — opening the main doors wearing white gloves and tuxes. My future wife was prowling the luxury box level. My friend Drew was wearing a path from backstage to the box office. Frank Sinatra sang “My Kind of Town” – and Ray Shepardson was at the height of his powers.

ray-shepardsonjpg-e75d4b65496286feIn the years that followed, Ray was involved in more than 30 restoration projects across the country. He was the irrepressible, uncontrollable and iconoclastic savior of historic vaudeville and movie theatres across the country – taking dowdy old pleasure palaces and returning them to their original, gilded luster.

In a promotional video for Ray’s Majestic Theatre restoration project in San Antonio in 1989, the great songstress Rosemary Clooney said that, “Ray is the one who always comes through. He has wonderful taste. He has the dedication that can make it happen, and I’m a big fan of his.”

419905_487558511255790_1551694763_nMore than two decades later, Ray helped make it happen for Victoria and me when we wanted to take our comedy revue, “The Vic & Paul Show” on the road. Not only did Ray help us beat the drum and get the press to our 2011 run at Mayne Stage in Chicago – he was instrumental in helping us make a theatrical return to my hometown in the summer of 2012. With Ray in our corner, our booking at the 14th Street Theatre in Playhouse Square was a great success.

And why not? Ray Shepardson, success and Playhouse Square will always be synonymous.

Sadly, today, the same Playhouse Square marquees that heralded our show in lights…382548_477326598945648_462078561_n

…marked Ray’s tragic passing.ray-shepardson-marquee

Kathleen Crowther of the Cleveland Restoration Society said that Ray “had the courage to go against the grain. I’m not sure he’s ever been properly recognized.”

How do you properly recognize a force of nature?

UnknownI’ve tried to do that, to some paltry degree, with this post.

But mostly I want to say thank you, Ray. I dearly wish I had a chance to do as much for you as you’ve done for me.

I’ll close with the words Victoria wrote today (quoting the English language’s greatest poet who, like Ray, loved the theatre)…

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, dear Ray Shepardson. We miss you.

Rest in peace, friend.

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