Illinois Rock Hall of Fame’s first class
Eleven inductees honored at Rialto Square Theatre
By Steve Metsch
When Kevin Cronin heard the Ides of March song “You Wouldn’t Listen” playing on the radio – most likely WLS AM 890 back in 1966 – he had a revelation.
“I knew you didn’t have to be from England to be in a rock band,” Cronin told a near-capacity crowd Tuesday night at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
Cronin, of course, went on to become the lead singer for the hugely successful rock band REO Speedwagon, which started in Champaign.
And now, REO and the Ides have something in common beyond radio airplay.
Both bands were in the inaugural 11-member class inducted Tuesday night into the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum on Route 66 Hall of Fame.
The star-studded list covered radio, rock, pop and the blues during a ceremony that lasted just over four hours.
Other inductees included deejay Larry Lujack, WLS-AM Radio, Chess Records, Chicago, Cheap Trick, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, deejay Dick Biondi, and The Buckinghams.
Several performers took the stage. The night’s best musical moments featured Cronin.
After chatting about his career – giving much-deserved props to late great lead guitarist Gary Richrath – Cronin picked up an acoustic guitar and played “Keep On Loving You,” a huge hit song by REO.
The rest of REO was not there because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, Cronin said.
The ceremony, originally set for last year, was pushed back to Tuesday night because of the pandemic.
Noting that rock music grabbed his attention at a young age, Cronin, 69, quipped he needed “young blood with me.”
With that, out strolled The Millennials, a talented rock band that started in La Grange in 2015 when the members were in high school.
Now college age, band members had no problem backing Cronin for “Roll with the Changes” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” two oft-heard REO songs on classic rock radio stations. Cronin told of how he and Richrath, hiking in the Colorado mountains in 1972, fell victim to a sudden storm that inspired that song.
In an amusing moment, when Cronin said he “grew up in Chicago,” someone shouted “Oak Lawn.” Yes, Cronin grew up in that southwest suburb and is a graduate of Brother Rice High School.
There’s no doubting the roots of Peterik, who freely talks about growing up in Berwyn and starting the band with friends at Morton West High School in their teens.
His hair roots? Now that’s a mystery as Peterik, 70, still sports his trademark purple hair.
Peterik led the Ides on a musical tour of their songs which, of course, included “Vehicle,” the band’s biggest hit, to close the evening. It had everyone on their feet.
For each inductee, videotaped tributes were shown, mini-history lessons, if you will.
It was great to again see and hear “Superjock” Lujack, who succumbed to cancer in 2013 and who ruled the airwaves onWLS and AM Radio rival WCFL over the years.
We learned that WLS-AM, now in a talk format, played a key role in promoting local rockers over the years. The first song it played when switching to rock on May 2, 1960, was “Ally Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles.
Another nugget was that Leonard and Phil Chess, the founders of Chess Records, did much to promote black artists who performed the blues like Waters and Guy.
Mud Morganfield, the son of Muddy Waters, performed several of his father’s songs, including a rollicking “Mannish Boy.” We even saw a clip of the Rolling Stones with Muddy at the Checkerboard Lounge after their 1978 concert at Soldier Field.
While Chicago and Cheap Trick are busy touring and were not able to attend, Lee Loughnane and Rick Nielsen sent videos thanking the Hall for their induction.
To open the night, The Millennials played a medley of songs by Styx – how was that band not inducted? – Cheap Trick, Chicago, Ides of March, Muddy Waters, Etta James and REO
The producers of an upcoming movie about Biondi inducted the longtime deejay whose 89th birthday will be celebrated on Sept. 19 at the Arcada Theatre in Saint Charles. Biondi, they said, was fired 25 times in his legendary career.
The 11 inductees were voted by museum members from a field of 21. That had been narrowed down from a whopping 800, promoters said.
To qualify for the Hall of Fame, a performer must have been in the business at least 20 years; and must have ties to Illinois. That includes being born in the state, starting their career here, being based in Illinois or recording here.
Categories are band or solo artist, radio station, deejay, record label/company and songwriter.
The museum, at 9 West Cass Street in downtown Joliet, should be open sometime later this year, organizers said.
If you want a say-so in next year’s induction ceremony by casting a ballot, you can become a charter member of the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum by visiting the website: www.roadtorock.org. Fees vary depending on membership.