Ravinia Festival

Every type of music can be seen and heard representing the most celebrated, diverse music festival; the oldest in the United States opening in 1904. Ravinia, for me, brings memories of first seeing the Chicago Symphony orchestra; a mesmerizing experience for a young Baby boomer girl with her family. For my grandmother, it was known for the best opera in the 1920’s. For a dear friend, it was Earth, Wind and Fire. Born and raised in Chicago, my Aunt remembered the trains that would stop at the entrance. Trains still stop at Ravinia’s historic entrance today, serviced by the Metra Union Pacific North line, making it the only private train stop left in Illinois.

When it was originally built, besides including an amusement park, Ravinia offered a Casino, Grandstand, Music Pavilion, and a Theater which showed live performances as well as motion pictures. From 1919 through 1931, Ravinia was known as the “summer opera capital of the world and after the Great Depression, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra became a mainstay and still performs today. For five decades, Ravinia has made music more accessible through fine education programs now called Reach Teach Play® so attending student orchestra performances is not uncommon.

Today Ravinia operates as a self-owned nonprofit—the Ravinia Festival Association—still overseen by a volunteer board of business and community leaders, but now managed by President & CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon. The park and Pavilion are available for limiting seating this year. You can still bring your own food for picnics. A non-for profit festival shop is open for gifts and souvenirs. Ravinia Market, located in one huge indoor/outdoor dining pavilion, features five mini restaurants serving burgers, paninis, tacos, pizza, and barbeque. Dining options are run by Levy Restaurants (Spiaggia, River Roast, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap).

Ravinia is hiring for all positions this summer including front and back-of-house positions for food operations.

Poplar Creek/Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

It was at Poplar Creek that I saw Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band on July 6th in 1991. Our seats were located in the covered pavilion and were comfortable; the band easy to see and hear. Actually it was a great night and I am not the best at large, outdoor scenarios. The theatre opened in 1980 and closed in 1994. It consisted of a covered pavilion and grass seating area, and had a capacity of 25,202 people: 7,202 reserved seats and 18,000 lawn seats. John Denver was the first to perform along with great bands such as James Taylor, Chicago, and Jefferson Starship.

Poplar Creek began to face declining audiences even though it was suppose to be used for theatre productions, graduations and other shows. World Music Theatre was opened in 1990 in Tinley Park and shows declined even further at Poplar Creek. Sears acquired the property and now the Sears Centre opened right near the former Poplar Creek. At World Music Theatre, Cher was the first performer and I saw Garth Brooks on August 28th 1992. Friends were drunk during that concert and I did not enjoy like my experience at Poplar Creek.

Now called Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, it is one of the largest music venues in the Chicago area, with a capacity of up to 28,000 spectators: 11,000 reserved seats and 17,000 lawn seats. It is a venue pulling fans from the city of Chicago, as well as surrounding suburbs and neighboring states and had over 1,500 concerts.

Believe it or not, many concert ticket stubs from Baby Boomer days are on sale at Ebay. For those into collectable items, ticket stubs are a valuable commodity. Ticket collecting for sports fans is an avid interest and tickets can sell for hundreds of dollars.

Watching the skies on July 4th

By Caryl Clem:

Night’s opaque curtains close

Across America, waiting, watching

For the breathless spark igniting

 July 4th’s freedom show.

Searing red, white, blue flashes

Breaking the darkness into pieces.

Shattering the cloud of Britain’s domination

Our Forefathers wisdom illuminated citizen voices

A government shaped by rebels

Breaking bonds with outdated norms.

A continual battle seeking balance

Citizens united and divided under one flag

Feeling inspired by the fireworks

Aspiration’s symbols showering bright energy

Washing away the fear of a dark night

Observers, our marbled veined granite foundation   

Sharing Hope to strengthen our country’s diversity.

My first 45 rpm records

Sunday was National Record Day and I could write many articles concerning record collections. But let’s talk about 45 rpm records. They were my first before albums because they were cheap and I was young…only about 10 to 12. Singles were popular with the young crowd more than albums and rock and roll artists. Along, with my first record player, I also received an off white box with a gold gilded design to fill a decent collection of 45 rpm records. My first ones consisted of Downtown by Petula Clark recorded n 1964,  I Know a Place, also by Petula Clark in 1965, Bend me, Shape me, by American Breed in 1967, Woman, Woman by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and Spirit in the Sky, by Norman Greenbalm. It was after Norman that I moved on to bands and albums.

The most common form of the vinyl single is the “45” or “7-inch”. According to sources, the names are derived from its play speed, 45 rpm, and the standard diameter, 7 inches. The 7-inch 45 rpm record was released March 31, 1949 by RCA Victor as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the 78 rpm shellac discs. The first had recordings on both sides but the other side was generally not a popular song by the same artist. Most ran about 2-4 minutes.

History Dumpster offers some interesting information concerning 45 rpms. John Lennon once asked how long he could record his song to George Martin in 1968 and George Martin, after some experimenting, found the answer – 7 minutes, 11 seconds. And thus the playing time of “Hey Jude”.  I guess Bruce Springsteen made one longer. Portable battery operated phonographs were also made for taking your music anywhere. Though you were lost without your record inserts.

These records did last longer than I expected though declined in the 1980’s when cassettes became the rage. Some were still being recorded in 1990. Thursday’s Golden Goodies offers some great vinyl records today that you can order online. Their Internet store has more than 47,000 different vintage 45 rpm & LP records in stock. You can actually get a carrying case for your 45 rpm records and spindle domes to properly center your record on a turntable.

Of course, you can sell your 45 rpms directly on Ebay. There is collection of country (not my favorite) for over fifty dollars. It has been awhile since I have seen my childhood box and records though clearly remember the collection. I know the box is somewhere but while writing this story, I found the exact box online. Back in our day, the variety was not as vast as it is today. And it is only seven dollars.

 

Go Noodle…I’m Still Standing and Footloose

There called brain breaks in elementary classrooms which I have talked about before.  In our kindergarten, its Go Noodle kids videos and it varies from year to year what the kids really enjoy. GoNoodle is free for teachers, parents, and kids! In addition to energizing content, GoNoodle has 300+ dance videos, mindfulness activities, and super engaging videos for kids!

Last year, the popular, always requested number was Boom Chicaka Boom-Moose Tube.  A favorite both years is also Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a comic team that does a variety videos that include a funny ride on a roller coaster and weird sounds, just to name a few. This year, right before the next animated movie came out, it was Snap Along with the Addams Family. But now a new hit has become the winning choice.

As the teacher selected the hit and it began to play, I wasn’t paying attention to the kids dancing on the screen. It was the music, the song that hit before I looked up. It was Elton John from 1982 when I’m Still Standing was released and played over and over…yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact when I hear the song one time, I can’t get the lyrics to stop playing in my head. And now I’m Still Standing is recorded by Go Noodle; a top hit in another decade. But it is the dance troup that the kids follow which is two girls and a boy that perform a variety of dance moves that the kids truly take the time to figure and follow. It is amazing to watch the kids become better after each time the video is played.

After researching Noodle Television, there are more from the Baby Boomers era from this kid trio including Footloose. Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small western town where he lives with his mother, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the movie, McCormack is seen attempting to overturn the ban on dancing, which resulted from the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow).

The movie received mixed reviews but the song by Kenny Loggins has been popular. Another Footloose movie came out in 2011 where city teenager, the same Ren MacCormack moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace.

Lose your blues, kick off your Sunday shoes. The video has a row, top and bottom, of dancing shoes. When it first came out in the early 1980’s, many rock and roll fans thought it was a stupid song. Not anymore. Not for the elementary students today following their favorite dance troupe.

Earth, Wind and Fire: Kennedy Center Honors

Oh, after the love has gone… How could you lead me one…And not let me stay around? Of course, just heard on the radio reminding of my own breakup sadness when this song came out in 1979; After the Love is Gone. But it was September recorded in 1978 that was always my favorite and when played in the early years of its recording, I would ask who sang that song! September reached No. 1 on the US R&B chart, No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart.

Another legendary music group that combined the elements of jazz with pop and who many have said changed the sound of music, Earth Wind and Fire began in 1969 Chicago. Maurice White who was the founder actually played with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and a session drummer at Chess records, which helped his vision for the new band.  After signing with Columbia Records, the band rose in recognition with songs such as Shining Star in 1975, one of their most inspired songs.

Your a Shining Star…no matter who you are.… Shining Star for you to see what your life can be can a great dance song during club time in the 1980’s when I was a young adult but a great song to play as background music in the classroom. A song that when many students were down…they truly listened, smiled, and shined with accomplishment.Also a song for the my own young children to play and dance in their living room…singing the words directly to each other or their friends, making a new day of love and friendship.

Maurice White passed away in 2016 but still in the heart and soul of all of their music. The three original members – Phillip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson — have been together over 40 years. Earth Wind and Fire continues to travel throughout the country with elaborate and dynamic performances.They built their legendary status with numerous albums to this day, garnering 20 Grammy Award nominations (winning six as a group) and a Hall Of Fame Induction along the way.

On Sunday, December 8, 2019 in a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, Earth, Wind and Fire will be honored at the 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors. Sally Field, two time Academy Award winner and Linda Ronstadt, with worldwide album sales of more than 50 million, and Michael Tilson Thomas,Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony will also be celebrated that evening.

Styx

Best Thing was the first hit which came out in 1972 and I really did not know the song that well. It was that  Lady, from the moment I saw you..…. that captured my passion and the many hearts of others. The song was popular in Chicago in 1974 with the help of radio broadcaster, Dick Biondi, but was finally heard nationwide by 1975. Hitting number 6 in the charts. However, it was Come Sail Away in 1978 that would bring tears to my eyes because I loved the sea; especially sailing at that time in my life when the song hit the charts in 1978.

It was true irony when I was writing and researching Styx that I happened to overhear a young third grader, Cannon, talk about his dedicated knowledge of songs and love for the band. Knowing the songs of today, Cannon talked about the discs Regeneration, Volume 1 and 2 recorded in 2011 which included Grand Illusion. His ten year old sister, Ella, discussed the new high-fidelity, analog, studio album Mission currently on sale. Her favorite song was Radio Silence.

In August 1961, at 12 years of age, twin brothers Chuck (bass) and John Panozzo (drums) first played music together with their 14-year-old neighbor Dennis DeYoung who played accordion and sang, while living in the Roseland, Chicago area. Eventually they began using the band name ‘The Tradewinds. Many I have met through the years remember going to school with the band members, living in the same neighborhood, seeing them at high school concerts or listening to their music at summer fairs.

According to Wikipedia, Chuck left to attend seminary school for a year but returned to the group by 1964. Tom Nardin had been brought in to replace Chuck on guitar, and Chuck decided to play bass guitar when he returned to the band. John Panozzo was the drummer, while DeYoung had switched from accordion to keyboards. In 1965, the Tradewinds name was changed to TW4 (There Were 4) after another band, the Trade Winds, achieved fame nationally.

By 1966, the Panozzo brothers had joined DeYoung at Chicago State College and kept the group together by performing at high schools and fraternity parties while studying to be teachers. In 1969, they added a college friend folk guitarist, John Curulewski, after Nardin departed. Hard rocker guitarist James “J.Y.” Young came aboard in 1970, making TW4 a quintet. In 1972, the band members decided to choose a new name when they signed to Wooden Nickel Records after being spotted by a talent scout at a concert at St. John of the Cross Parish in Western Springs, Illinois. The name Styx was chosen.

Today, Styx continues to tour but band members have changed over the decades.  However, Tommy Shaw, James “J.Y.” Young, and Chuck Panozzo are considered the main musicians. John Panozzo passed away in 1996. Drummer Todd Sucherman, keyboardist Lawrence Gowan and bassist Ricky Phillips have been with the band for many years. The band is still known as the band with everything; a powerful mix of sound and creativity.

Dennis DeYoung, founder of Styx and writer of many songs, sings with his own band that showcases many of Styx’s greatest hits.

Celebrating black Chicago style music legends

By Caryl Clem:

Rhythmic music vibrates as Earth, Wind & Fire starts a song and you feel yourself jumping onto the dance floor.   Since the band first played in 1971 under the direction of Maurice White until today currently playing in Las Vegas, their unique blend of funky disco soul creates a sound you never tire of hearing.  Love experiences were featured in popular chart hits such as “Reasons”, “After the Love Has Gone”, and “Got to Get You into My Life.”  EWF music is often positive and inspiring thus giving you a feel good vibe as you is listening.  EWF has won 6 Grammys.

Love songs that last for decades were born in Chicago.  Lou Rawls rich baritone voice croons, “You’ll Never Find another Love like Mine”   a romantic favorite holding couples together on countless dance floors.  A perfect song for gentlemen wishing to win any lady’s heart was Lou Rawls performing, “Lady Love”.  Lou was born on the South Side of Chicago on December 1, 1933. His paternal grandmother was in charge of his upbringing introducing him to church and singing in the choir by the age of seven. Connections made through his church activities led to meeting influential black musicians Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield.  Over 40 million records during 40 years of performances testify to Rawls legendary status.

Curtis Mayfield, a singer born in Cabrini-Green Housing Projects of Chicago born June 3, 1942.   Curtis taught himself to play guitar that he found in a closet when he was about 8 years old and piano at his church. His golden tenor voice was discovered while he sang in his church choir by the founder of the group, The Impressions, Jerry Butler.   He became a song-writer producer with his record label Curtom while performing with this group.

During the 1960’s Curtis advocated civil rights in songs like,” Keep On Pushing”,  and  “ Get Ready”.  By the 1970’s Curtis became a voice to express what black culture felt, personal struggles and successes. He wrote the soundtrack to the 1972 album  “Superfly”. He produced songs with divas Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips. “In the 1990s, the musician inspired two different tribute albums (including 1994’s All Men are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, featuring Whitney Houston, Elton John, the Isley Brothers and Aretha Franklin)

Over the past several years, his songs have been sampled or covered by a host of performers, from rappers like Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Coolio and Dr. Dre to singers like Herbie Hancock, Deneice Williams, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.” https://www.biography.com/people/curtis-mayfield-9542244

A featured line dance during the 1950’s was The Stroll.  By the 1970’s “ getting the groove on” transformed into lively adaptions titled, The Hustle, The Bump, YMCA, The Funky Chicken, Disco Finger, The Bus Stop, The Robot, The Lawnmower, The Sprinkler, and The Electric Slide.

The absolute star of the 1970’s was produced by Chicago radio star, Don Cornelius. Showcasing 1970’s era style and flair featuring the rock star groups from coast to coast with spectacular dancers appearing on stage, “Soul Train “aired on WCIU-TV. The dancers became a HOOK for developing loyal followers.  As important as the dancers were, they performed without pay in the beginning.

From 1971 until 2006, youth discovered the latest music sensation from home. Five days a week for an hour, professional and amateurs paraded and sang the latest hits. Barry White with his 42 piece Orchestra, The Jackson Five or James Brown could be watched from the comfort of your living room. The excitement of a theatre showing could be enjoyed without tickets or parking worries. Several books describe the various acts and social impact this show made on America, Questlove culled personal memories and full-color photographs in Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of Generation (HarperDesign).

While Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments (Backbeat Books) Ericka Blount Danois is more of a commentary about what happened on this show.   Reliving this time period is easy with pulling up YouTube on your computer while you travel through time.

As February ends, I am thankful for the contributions from our Chicago born black musicians.

Rush Street Chicago: Yesterday and today

My aunt always told me that my grandmother Amelia owned part of Rush Street in the early 1900’s. She said it was located near the Rush street bridge. Though I had heard this story as a child, wasn’t sure what to ask and my Aunt died in the late 1990’s. Other family members have never confirmed the reality. That was the first time I heard about Rush Street.

It wasn’t until the 70’s and early 1980’s that I heard about Rush with an invitation to go party and drink. This was the Las Vegas of Chicago even more popular in the early years before I was able to drink.  The most popular places I visited was Faces but I probably spent more time on Division Street at the Original Mothers and Butch McGuires, the latter that opened in 1961.

The following describes some of the popular places on Rush; yesterday and today:

Whiskey Go Go is still a nightclub in California and has opened the doors for many including the Doors, Van Halen and Steppenwolf. The first opened in 1958 at the corner of Rush and Chestnut in Chicago.

The Backroom a great jazz and blues venue and probably one of the oldest jazz club that began in the 1960’s. It continued on into the 70’s and 1980’s. Musicians specializing mostly in jazz but also touching on soul, funk, R&B and blues, play on an elevated stage on the east side of the room and under a most impressive sculpture created from brass horns, to match the column-like structure that looks like a coatrack made of horns near the southeast corner of the room.

The Happy Medium  was built in 1960, located at Rush and Delaware, which was a combination theater and disco. Helen Reddy actually stared at the club. The owners, George and Oscar Marienthal, also owned Mister Kellys, also on Rush and the London House. The London house opened downtown Chicago in 1946 and created the popularity of jazz musicians including Ramsey Lewis.

Punchinellos was a theatre bar and again celebrities such as Barry Manilow and Della Reese would frequent the bar.

Mister Kellys was launched in 1956 and was truly the leading example of night club celebrity elegance, combining music with comedy, which included the beginnings of Bill Cosby, Bette Midler, Woody Allen and Barbra Steisand. Mr. Kellys was restaurant that also featured the best steak and their famous green goddess salad.

Rush up another bar where many talk of meeting Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa.

Faces opened in the early 1970’s and you could become a member of the club for 50 dollars. I went to Faces a couple of times in the lates 70’s and not sure how I got in, but it was loud though fun for dancing compared to many clubs in Chicago. This was supposedly the best place to meet and greet.

Today,  some of the best bars and restaurants include the following:

Pippins: A great Irish pub with an excellent hotdog, serving from the Downtown Dogs next door, and an extensive beer selection. Pippins has been a part of the Rush Street scene for over 45 years and offers a very authentic Irish experience.

Hugos Frog Bar: Also located in Naperville, Hugos offers excellent mussels and oysters on the half shell including an expansive wine list sharing with the iconic Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. Gibsons is the first restaurant group to be awarded its own USDA Prime Certification

Tavern on Rush: A great bar and restaurant with a DJ located in the heart of Rush street. They are known for the best calamari and excellent horseshoe bar along with split level seating.

Jellyfish:  Located on the second floor across the street from Hugos and Gibsons, this is a great place for enjoying the cuisines of several countries that include Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. From 3-6pm, you can experience signature cocktails during happy hours.

If you missed the Christmas Story

Decades ago, my wings were cockeyed and my Mom was not happy. Dad was coming to church that day to see me in the Christmas Pageant. Of course, I was an angel and my first time in the Christmas story. I didn’t have to say anything but just look pretty. Ms. Elaine, who was Mom’s best friend and my Sunday school teacher, adjusted my wings just perfectly. How I loved to perform for Dad. In later years, I played piano solos in the small sanctuary at St Lukes Church in Chicago’s south side. In The Bleak Mid Winter was Mom’s all-time favorite. Dad admired my courage to memorize the notes.

Somehow, it all came back to me as I watched the children perform the same story at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Downers Grove. Joseph surprised me with such character and enthusiasm that you can tell he, actually in real life…. a girl named Ella, is a true, professional actor. Joseph’s brother, Cannon, showed amazing charisma as he sang the final song….a diversion from time and place…We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Mary had a beautiful presence and strong voice while the Christmas Star…a brilliant cloth covered star had a wonderful smile, which was about all I could see of the real person.

And the Angels…..they were dressed in a variety of gowns and white accessories looking their best in song for the hundreds of parishioners watching their performance. The Dads,Moms, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins; so excited to be a part of their lives. Or just friends like me who felt the expressive spirit of the true meaning of Christmas as they described the birth of the baby Jesus.

In later years for me, our church burned downed by arson and though some of us continued on to another church, I remember the blackened sanctuary that was damaged the most. But it could not destroy the memories of beautiful plays, piano recitals,  genuine pastoral sermons of such a close community and most of all, trusted friendships.

First Congregational United Church of Christ  is like that……united in faith, love, service and community. No matter who you are, or where you are in life’s journey, you are welcome. The church offers a wide variety of children’s programs, music opportunities and mission trips. Its a place where questions are answered and you can grow together in respect, trust and build those same family memories. If you can’t attend,check out their service online.

There is always a place there…….. for another angel!