Ron Onesti: Peterik, the 'Rocky' of music

  • Musician Jim Peterik, right, shows his Grammy for "Eye of the Tiger" to Arcada Theatre owner Ron Onesti.

    Musician Jim Peterik, right, shows his Grammy for "Eye of the Tiger" to Arcada Theatre owner Ron Onesti. Courtesy of Onesti Entertainment Corp.

 
 
Posted7/15/2022 6:00 AM

By Ron Onesti

Special to dailyherald.com

 

"The Energizer Bunny," that's what they call me. "You are in three places at one time, ALL the time!"

People are so kind when they refer to my somewhat busy schedule, going from venue to venue, stage to stage, kitchen to kitchen. But the guy who truly impresses me with an unwavering energy and an infectious positivity is the great "music man" himself, Jim Peterik.

Peterik was born amid the bungalows of the South Chicago suburb of Berwyn in 1950. He put together his first organized band when he was just out of eighth grade at 14 years of age with his neighborhood buddies. That band went on to be the Ides of March, one of the principal forces behind the "garage rock" movement of the 1960s. Their blockbuster hit "Vehicle" still reigns as one of the most recognizable and celebrated songs in rock 'n' roll history.

I first met Jim in the 1980s as The Ides and the Buckinghams were the first national acts I booked. Jim has always had that "rock star" look, and a larger-than-life presence. However, as hugely accomplished and worldly as he was, and is, that is how grounded, down-to-Earth and truly nice he remains.

As I continue my journey through the music industry path I am taking, one of the constants has been Jim Peterik. Since my humble beginnings in the biz, Jim has always been there. Now I'm not just talking about booking him to perform. I mean almost everywhere I have turned over the past 30-plus years, Peterik's name has come up!

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On the rock scene, he has been involved with many household-name bands. He was a founder of the band Survivor, who along with Frankie Sullivan wrote huge tunes on the radio including, "High on You," "The Search Is Over" and "I Can't Hold Back." He also wrote the songs "Caught Up in You," "Rockin' into the Night," and "Hold on Loosely" for .38 Special.

Then, Sylvester Stallone came calling. He loved the Survivor sound and was looking for a theme song for his new film "Rocky III." He wanted something different from the original theme song of the Rocky franchise, "Gonna Fly Now," something that would appeal to the younger generation. Peterik and Sullivan strapped on their guitars and "Eye of the Tiger" roared from their amplifiers.

The song went on to win a Grammy Award, was nominated for an Oscar and became one of the most important songs in music history.

For "Rocky IV," Sly once again looked to Jim and Survivor. He came up with another monster hit, "Burning Heart," and the rest is cinematic theme song history.

Year after year, Jim would turn up in another band project, booked at a festival, or co-writing a song. And as the years have gone by, and other music icons rest on their laurels and residual checks, Peterik gets busier and busier. All the while, the music and the audience energy feeds his fire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Yet that is all the stuff you hear about in the press and on social media. You can be dazzled at his career accomplishments all over the internet.

What you don't hear about are the scores of budding young singers and songwriters he has so generously given much of his time to. How about the countless fans he has never said no to when it came to an autograph or a photo. And the way his eyes light up and his mind goes directly to creative ways of participating in a new project, way before any mention of money or time commitment is spoken about.

And every time I would call, whether it was to book he and The Ides, or to appear at a charity event, he always came running. He is rarely without one of his over 100 guitars around his neck, ready to share an "Eye of the Tiger" moment to a thrilled audience of one to thousands at any time, as he always gives his all, no matter how big or small the thrilled audience may be.

Recently, Jim was inducted into the Illinois Rock Hall of Fame. As I was sitting in the audience, I could see the humble glimmer in his eye as he was being introduced. He has the candor of a true professional, with the youthful excitement of his first time on stage. He is involved in so many projects -- singing, songwriting, music scores, recording, producing, advising. I don't really know of another performer who loves it like he does.

And once again, that can be attributed to the power of music. It seems as the years go by, Jim Peterik gets younger, his voice gets stronger, and his hair gets more purple. I am sure his "Sea of Love" for the music flows into his "Fountain of Youth" making him "Feeling Stronger Every Day."

That statement may be a bit over the top, but if you know Jim Peterik, there is no such thing as "over the top!" And as the Ides of March monster hit "Vehicle" ends (sort of), "Great God in Heaven You know we love, Jim!"

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of the Onesti Entertainment Corp. and the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email ron@oshows.com.

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