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A cornerstone of Chicago rock dies

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The Shadows of Knight

Pictured is The Shadows of Knight promo shot from the 1960s. Sohns is seen in the front row, far left.

It is with great sorrow we report the death of Chicago rock icon, Jimy Sohns, a founding member and the lead vocalist of the '60s garage rock group, Shadows Of Knight. Sohns, a 2005 inductee of the Chicago Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, died July 29 of complications from a stroke. He was 75.

The band was regarded as a ‘quintessential’ American garage rock group and scored a Billboard Top 10 hit with their version of the Van Morrison-written song "Gloria" in 1966. Nationwide stardom followed and a dedicated cult following around the world was born, a following that saw them still out touring on their own, and as part of the "Cornerstones of Rock" shows alongside other legendary Chi-town groups like The Buckinghams, Cryan Shames, New Colony Six and Ides Of March.

The Shadows of Knight stood far removed from their Chicago peers, who were more pop-oriented and often leaned on orchestrated arrangements. Shadows of Knight were gritty and grungy rockers, perhaps best described as a Midwest version of early Kinks or Rolling Stones. In fact, they did some tour dates with the Rolling Stones. Aside from "Gloria," the group scored other minor hits like "Shake," "Dark Side," and "Oh Yeah." The latter is still a staple on this writer's current radio program, "Midwest BEAT Blues."

The Shadows of Knight began in 1964 by a group of friends from Prospect Hills High School, with a 16-year-old Sohns on lead vocals. The band's line-up shifted and changed drastically over the next 6 years they recorded, mostly for the Chicago-based Dunwich Records label. Among the key members helping Sohns attain the band's indelible trademark sound was guitarist/songwriter Jerry McGeorge (of Highland, Indiana), who later joined Chicago psychedelic rock band H.P. Lovecraft.

By 1967, Sohns was the only original member remaining, but he continued to record for a few more years and continued performing with a version of the band up until 2016. The Shadows of Knight inspired a generation of garage rockers stateside. Shadows' songs remained so in demand, that the group's first two studio albums were lovingly and painstakingly re-mastered and reissued worldwide in the early 1990s by international archival label, Sundaze Records, which a few years later also released a trio of live concert albums from board tapes long stored in a vault.

In 1988, this columnist served as the publicist for a management and booking company which was home to many Midwest bands, including The Buckinghams, The Cryan Shames, The Kingsmen and The Shadows Of Knight.

While interviewing Jimy in 1988, he shared some great stories from his incredible life in rock 'n' roll. One that has been memorable was when the band was invited to play on "Dick Clark's American Bandstand." "We knew we were popular in Chicago, but to get on 'Bandstand' was a pretty big deal. It took us to a new level," he recalled. He told of being in his hotel room while in town to do 'Bandstand', and there was a knock on the door. He opened it up and a bunch of screaming girls rushed into the room. "It was like -- 'Yeah, we've made it!'," he said.

Jimy Sohns was one of the most colorful rock personalities this columnist had the pleasure of interviewng over the years. He was funny, told great stories, spoke his mind and man did he love to perform.

During a last interview with Jimy, which was at College of DuPage during a show that was the first run of what would later became the "Cornerstones of Rock" project, Jimy talked about the first time he felt like a "rock star." It's a story about a street race car, a McDonald's double cheeseburger, WLS deejay Dex Card and a girl. Find the full interview with Jimy and other famous Chicago rockers on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/v6PWkNWlppg.

Jimy had the respect of his peers worldwide, often being asked to jump on stage with both regional and international artists to delight audiences with a rendition of "Gloria." There are many clips on the internet of Jimy doing just that over the years, including one with Little Steven Van Zant, who frequently plays Shadows songs on his "Underground Garage" radio program.

A public visitation is planned from 5 to 8 pm this Saturday (Aug. 6) at Michaels Funeral Home & Cremation Care (800 S. Roselle Road) in Schaumburg. For information please call 847-891-2900 or visit michaelsfh.com.

Jimy created so many memories for so many people over his years as a performer, tour manager, sound engineer and an ambassador of Chicago rock 'n' roll. Rest in Peace Jimy Sohns, knowing that your music will forever be a cornerstone of Chicago rock music history.

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