Ron Onesti: Keep on lovin' your heroes … in person!
Yes, there is the harsh reality that we are losing the "masters of music" we grew up with, almost on a daily basis. I know, of course, generations before me had to endure this terrible phenomenon, but it is still devastating.
They say "your" music is that which surrounds you at the age of 16 or so. That would be 1978 for me, a time when what is now classic rock battled the disco era, and soul was there to join the two on the dance floor. I loved it all.
But that was 40-plus years ago. Most of those involved in the music of the day are well into their 60s, if not their 70s or even 80s. It's not that age makes any difference at all, as we are losing our heroes no matter how many birthdays they had.
Having the honor of presenting and working with so many artists from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, I have come to be friends with not only the legendary frontmen or women of the era, but also bass players, drummers, guitarists, keyboardists, sound men, managers and even tour bus drivers … all of whom are losing battles with cancer or other life-taking diseases. Whether it was cancer, auto accidents or depression, each loss was tragic and too soon.
The recent passing of Eddie Money hit me very hard. He was a special guy. From the first time we worked together he made me feel like we were best friends. The warmth, sincerity and true caring he had for people was rare in the biz. He knew his fans loved him, and he gave it right back. He would go out of his way to make us all feel special, never saying "No" to any request from a fan.
I just hosted another "regular" at The Arcada, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees. He also is an artist who just gives and gives and gives, both on and offstage, no matter how late it is or how exhausted he may be. As he was performing the Monkees hit "Cheer Up Sleepy Jean," I thought about another Monkee "brother" who loved to play by us, Davy Jones.
We definitely lost this guy too soon. He was endearing, charming and as fun offstage as he was on the television show. He had a great sense of humor, a British form of slapstick I would say. Always smiling, he treated his fans as family.
After a show by us once, he came out for an encore song, and was so appreciative of the standing ovation from the screaming audience, he thanked them by saying, "I would love to hug you all!"
Not realizing the audience took him for his word, he emerged from the dressing room after his show to find 900 adoring fans patiently waiting for their hug.
Three and a half hours later, Davy posed for his last photo. A rare thing these days.
Dweezil Zappa, Frank Zappa's son, has completely embraced the genius of his legendary father's music. Although we lost Frank in 1993, his music lives on with the legacy of his son. Dweezil's show, "Zappa Plays Zappa," is a powerful re-creation of the many albums and individual compositions his father penned. At first, as a budding guitarist, he was more about rockin' out Van Halen tunes. But, as he told me backstage at his show a few days ago, performing the music of his father is a labor of love that "makes so many people happy," he said. I loved the sheer awe and admiration even he has for his father.
As I watched the audience during his show, many were definitely from the 1969 Zappa era. Some still sported the style, both in clothing and with their hair. But when the music began, there wasn't one audience member passed the age of 17.
Every day, I open my Daily Herald with fearful eyes, hoping NOT to see a familiar face connected to an obituary. That's how I first found out about Peter Tork, another of the Monkees, and Aretha. As the day goes on, internet notifications inform us of other losses in the entertainment industry.
Joan Rivers, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Patti Page, Don Rickles, Frank Sinatra Jr., Paul Revere … yeah, they all played for us here at The Arcada. I miss them so. Many other band members from groups that played our stages have left us too. Guys from bands including the Smithereens, Stone Temple Pilots, UFO, Molly Hatchett and many others are gone, not ever to be forgotten.
This is not meant to be a group obit, or even a salute to those who have passed. This is more a word of sincere thanks to all of you who support live music, and come to see your musical heroes. What you, as an audience, gives back to these performers is far more valuable than you know. These artists, especially those from eras gone by, are so appreciative of the love their fans continue to give to them, decades after their songs were on the WLS music charts.
I will keep doing my best to bring your music and showbiz favorites to the stage. Enjoy every last note of their performances. A day will come when all that is left are tribute bands, the ones the "purists" love to hate. I have great respect for these salutes, but still, while we still have the original rockers we do, we gotta keep them going as long as they want to give their talents to us.
Every live show is another story to share with generations to come. Keep the music alive while the musicians are still rockin' like it is 1979 all over again!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.