Many things happened over the last year on the regional music scene and this week's column reflects back on some of the key moments, including new releases, sad good-byes, and events of note.
This was a year when a lot of folks felt the need to tell their stories, as books by and about some of the Chicago music scene's movers and shakers were published. Popular radio DJs became first time authors as they led the pack. Bobby Skafish ("We Have Company: Four Decades of Rock and Roll Encounters") and Mitch Michaels ("Doin' The Cruise") each dropped their titles via publisher Eckhartz Press.
The same is true of John "Records" Landecker, who updated and re-issued his previously-released 2013 autobiography "Records Truly IS My Middle Name" (Eckhartz Press), to tie-in with his being inducted this year into the National Radio Hall of Fame and being awarded the Hoosier state's prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash Award. Landecker is a resident of Michigan City. FYI: eckhartzpress.com.
Local drummer and previous author Billy McCarthy switched from writing fiction to writing about his own life as a struggling musician in "Beat Me 'Til I'm Famous," which traced his journey from Chicago clubs to the underbelly of the Hollywood music scene and back again. FYI: facebook.com/billy.mccarthy
• In June, East Chicago native Jamie M. Harrison -- guitarist, keyboardist, singer and musical director who tours full time with the international groups Pink Flamingos and ARTRAGEOUS -- released his solo debut single, "Maybe I'll Write That Down," via indie label 829 Records. It's the same label which is now home to the music of his famous father Jim Skafish. FYI: 829records.com
• Northwest Indiana's Steepwater Band did two multi-week tours of Europe this year and will soon be leaving again as part of the all-star line-up for Joe Bonamassa's "Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea IV" cruise trip from Miami to Jamaica (Feb. 26 to March 2). FYI: steepwater.com
• The Grammy-nominated neo-folk group The Decemberists which features Valparaiso native and Valparaiso High School graduate Chris Funk, teamed up this past summer with British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney to form a new recording/touring project called Offa Rex. FYI: offarex.co.
• Chicago's multi-platinum-selling songwriter Jim Peterik of The Ides of March released his first ever calendar titled "The Guitars That Followed Me Home" for 2018. FYI: jimpeterik.com
• Many regional music makers spent time in the recording studio putting their art down for public release. Their EP -- "3 By Four" -- marked the first public release from Northwest Indiana's Rocken Horse in decades. Original members Glenn Reyna (guitar/keys/vocals), Ken Silvestri (guitar/vocals) and Jim Koranda (bass/vocals) formed the band in 1975, released their first Rocken Horse album in 1981 and disbanded shortly after. The trio regrouped in 2015 on the suggestion of drummer Rick Stanislavski, who now completes the band's line-up. FYI: facebook.com/rockenhorse.
• Portage's Jef Sarver, a prolific songwriter with well over a dozen albums to his credit added "Scribbler on the Roof" to that catalog in 2017. This 10- song collection of dark songs was recorded at Thunderclap Studio in Hammond with co-production by John Carpenter and guest appearances by members of Hammond's Nomad Planets.
• Along with established older artists, the Region saw rise to some fresh new original artists. Among the best of those are NWI country music artists Jimmy Sarr with his full length "We Fought Hard" album, and Jerica Paliga with her new full length "Better Than That" album. Lansing's Sarr got some national radio attention with his single, "When The Whiskey Gets Me," while Chesterton's Paliga has won some national online competitions. Also starting to shine this past year as both a writer and performer is St. John's country/pop artist LeAnn Stutler, best known for fronting the local band Capernaum.
• The Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso got a wonderful make-over in 2017, to complement the new, state-of-the-art production it recently added. The MOH is now one of the Region's finest places to see and hear concert and theater performances, a venue NWI residents can be very proud to call their own. FYI: mohlive.com
• Northwest Indiana enjoyed the debut of a successful new concert series at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso this past summer that looks to become annual. FYI: taltree.org.
• As is the case every year, we had to say goodbye a few times and that is never easy. The most recent "death" was that of Star Plaza Theatre, which after 39 years of being the magnet that drew top name artists to Merrillville, closed its curtains and went dark for the final time on Dec. 17. The Star Plaza sometimes welcomed home-grown music-makers to play there over the years, making performing on that stage a realistic goal and a much chased after dream for many regional musicians.
SOME LOCAL GOODBYES
• Midwest music fans lost Skip Haynes, who was one-third of the popular 1970s Chicago recording group Alliota, Haynes & Jerimiah. He died Oct. 5 at the age of 71.
• The entire NWI music community mourned when the news came that Laurell Kinsey, the beloved wife of Northwest Indiana bluesman Kenny Kinsey of The Kinsey Report and also of Funky Mojo Daddy, had lost her battle with cancer on Nov. 13.
• Blues fans everywhere mourned the loss of Chicago Bluesman Lonnie Brooks who passed away April 1 at age 83.
• Blues harmonica master James Cotton who recorded for Chicago's Alligator Records, died March 16 of pneumonia at his Austin, Texas home at the age of 81.
• Rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry died March 18 at the age of 90.