Today’s column is about a skinny kid from Berwyn, Illinois who has mined a considerable amount of precious metal over the years, both gold and platinum. Not with a pick-ax, but rather with a pen, a notepad and a piano.
Jim Peterik’s walls are full of gold and platinum albums and there is even a Grammy Award to underscore the songwriting skills he has mastered over the decades since his teenage girlfriend (now wife) Karen inspired him to scribble down some words on paper about how he felt he was being used as a private taxi.
Once put to music and with the help of one of the most instantly recognized horn parts in rock history, those scribbled words became the first number one single of Peterik’s career as recorded by his band, The Ides of March, who this year celebrate their 50th anniversary together.
The story behind that 1970 chart-topper song “Vehicle” is one of many “behind-the-song” tales to be told when Peterik returns February 9 at downtown Valparaiso’s Chicago Street Theatre.
Although well into his 60s, Peterik remains busier than ever with musical projects that in addition to keeping the Ides of March busy recording and performing; include a variety of side projects like his jazz group Lifeforce, his melodic hard rock band Pride Of Lions, mentoring a variety of promising young artists, and producing annual star-studded World Stage concerts.
And Peterik is still scribbling notes down in his ever present notepad or humming a melody into a pocket recorder, which he later sits down with at the grand piano in his home or takes into his private state-of-the-art recording studio.
“I’m always writing,” said the man from whose prolific pen sprang such infectious radio hits not only for his own legendary Ides band (“You Wouldn’t Listen,” “L.A. Goodbye,”) and his ‘80s MTV group Survivor (“Eye of the Tiger,” “Burning Heart,” “The Search Is Over,” etc.), but for other artists including .38 Special (“Hold On Loosely,” “Rockin’ Into The Night,” “Fantasy Girl”), Sammy Hagar (“Heavy Metal”) and others like Lynyrd Skynryd, REO Speedwagon, Van Zant, and Henry Paul Band.
Peterik said some of his biggest and best loved songs were written while sitting with friends like .38 Special’s Don Barnes at his kitchen table drinking coffee. The stories on how the songs were written, what inspired them and other fun factoids are the basis for Peterik’s intimate solo shows like the one on February 9, where he strips away all the arrangements and production to showcase the raw song with just his voice and an acoustic guitar.
The Valparaiso venue itself has played a part in some of the stories he shares about the songs, including how his Pride of Lions writing/performing partner Toby Hitchcock used to sing in the CST building before it was converted from a church to a theatre. Playing CST even prompted Peterik to resurrect a fan favorite that he had all but forgotten how to play.
“For years I had been apprehensive about performing ‘Heavy Metal’ the big one I wrote with Sammy Hagar, especially the idea of doing it unplugged and all alone,” recalled Peterik . “One night a few years ago during one of my first shows at CST while performing a solo show like the one I’ll be doing February 9th, Paul Braun who promotes the concerts at CST yelled out – ‘Play Heavy Metal!’ When others in the audience joined him in the request, I felt I had no choice. I had to re-learn it on the spot and gave it my best shot. It was pretty rough, but the crowd went nuts. The song has been a part of my show ever since.”
Do not expect to hear songs sounding just like the record at this performance; expect to hear them as they sounded at the time they were written. Peterik’s “Storyteller Concert” gives fans a chance to feel like a fly on the wall watching as songs that are part of their life’s soundtrack were created.
What inspired “Eye of the Tiger?” Did The Ides of March really get bumped off an early world tour because they were getting better reviews than headliner, Led Zeppelin? What Survivor song did Peterik give away that later went #1 for another group?
The answers to these and other questions will be discovered February 9 when the man behind the music tells tales and plays tunes at Chicago Street Theatre.
Peterik is raffling off a guitar autographed by himself, the Ides of March members and several of his famous World Stage friends like Mike Reno of Loverboy, Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger, David Pack of Ambrosia and Keith Burns of Trick Pony at his February 9 CST concert with all proceeds benefitting The Humane Society of Northwest Indiana. Tickets for the raffle will be $10.
· Don Wilson the lead vocalist of John Mellencamp tribute band, MELLONCOUGAR, has tossed his hat into the political ring and announced he is running for the District 30 seat in the Illinois State Senate. The popular singer and radio personality has a snappy hip-hop theme song for his campaign now posted on YouTube.com that was created by former John Mellencamp band member Moe Z who has also worked with Tupac and other rap/rock artists. The toe-tapping tune can also be heard at Wilson’s official campaign website: www.wilsonforillinois.com/give-it-a-listen
· Iconic multi-platinum selling Southern rockers – The Marshall Tucker Band – who cite one of their strongest fan bases to be Chicagoland, celebrates their 43rd year on the road with their “Take The Highway U.S. Tour” that includes three area dates – Tailgaters in Bolingbrook (Feb. 14), Watseka Theatre in Watseka (Feb. 15) and Mayne Stage in Chicago (Feb. 16).
"We wanted to brand next year's tour with something that would stick and make sense," says MTB lead singer Doug Gray. “And 'Take The Highway' is perfect not only because it is one of our big career songs but also because it's what we do 200 days out of the year!”
· The four members of Beatles’ tribute group American English and ‘60s pop star Tommy Roe (who was The Beatles’ opening act on their first U.S. concert date in Washington, D.C. on February 11, 1964) will be guests for a pair of “Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges” radio specials to celebrate the 50th Anniversary this month of The Beatles landing in America.
The two shows will air, respectively on February 4 and February 5 at 6pm on 89.1FM-Lakeshore Public Radio and steamed live in real time at www.lakeshorepublicmedia.org/radio .
Catch American English on February 14 for their 8pm “All You Need Is Love Valentine’s Concert” at Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville. “We’ll still take fans through all the eras of The Beatles, but because of the 50th anniversary, we’ll be spending a little more time on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ stuff,” said AE’s Eric Michaels who portrays Paul McCartney.