Ron Onesti: Another year older, another year of lovin’ my music!

BACKSTAGE with the Arcada Theatre’s Ron Onesti

I was born in 1962 so you do the math … it’s a bit painful for me! I know some of you reading this are thinking, “Oh, you’re still a baby!” And some of you are right around my age. Regardless, musically speaking, I don’t think I would have preferred to be born any other time.

I have on many occasions referenced my dad in this column. He was a World War II hero from Taylor Street that kept the Big Band sound of Glenn Miller and the cool vibes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin going every night through dinner. His foxhole stories made me feel as if I was dancing with the WACS (Women’s Army Corps) at the USO dance halls myself! He would talk about the “Cadre Club” where he would go on his rare three-day leaves, similar to the “Stage Door Canteen” (a great film starring a host of 1940s-era stars — ya gotta see it!).

Even though I was young when the many music milestones of the ’60s happened (which actually means late ’60s, early ’70s), just living through them and the years immediately after exposed enough of it to me that it affected me the rest of my life.

Woodstock, Motown, The British Invasion, Elvis … yes, a pretty powerful era I would say! And I experienced it all!

It was either on The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand or Soul Train that I witnessed the musical forces making history right in front of my very eyes. Once in a while, Johnny Carson would have somebody on, but that was more of those crooners and comics — Sinatra and Martin, Rickles and Rivers.

Of course, “my” music is the classic rock of the mid-to-late ’70s. My high school years were full of “rock-ortunity!” Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, RUSH, YES, America, Chicago and The Beach Boys … THOSE were the bands that kept my “thirty-three and a thirds” turning!

As much as I was a flannel shirt, corduroy pants and Earth shoe-wearing guy back then, I DID love my “Glam-Rock” of the ’80s. Arrowsmith was part of that generation, so was Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Poison, Motley Crue, Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses. I loved them all!

Then I began opening up my musical tastes to include songs that got my “dance” on! The Stylistics, The Gap Band, Parliament, Smokey, Gladys and Luther! The effect that “Saturday Night Fever” and The Bee Gees had on me helped define my personal “groove,” even more than the early days of The Temps, The Tops, The Jackson 5 AND The Supremes!

Then, “American Graffiti” and “Grease” came out. I saw both of those films about teen life in the ’50s and fell in love with the doo wop sounds of Dion and the Belmonts, Bill Haley’s Comets and The Big Bopper. When TV jumped on the bandwagon with “Sha Na Na” and “Happy Days,” that sealed the deal and I wanted to wear a white T-shirt, slick my hair back and find a drive-in diner!

Now I can’t get enough of that Rockabilly sound of the ’50s and ’60s either!

As I got older, and my love for all things retro (another word for old) became even more exciting to me, I learned more about the music of the Jazz Age in the Roaring ’20s and ’30s. So much so, I opened authentic Speakeasies with period costume-wearing servers, Prohibition-style cocktails and fabulous musical acts that re-create those fringe-shaking sounds of old-time Chicago.

So there you have it. Look at all that music from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s I have come to love just because I was born at the right time! I don’t feel old, not because of the year I was born, but because the power that music has is that “Fountain of Youth” that keeps you young. If you are feeling down, or troubled, or just need a helping hand (thank you, James Taylor), it is simple. You Got A Friend in me … and music! Come to the theater and celebrate when you can, live the music, love the music!

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp., the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and the Des Plaines Theatre. Celebrity questions and comments? Email

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