Thursday, December 30, 2021

Carl Giammarese and Lisa McClowry Team Up for New Song in Time for 2022

One of the best things about being a creative artist is that the New Year is a time to look back at the preceding 365 days and assess where you’ve grown and stretched the preceding year. Asking yourself frankly, “So what did you do last year?” “Did you change any lives? “Did you tackle any new challenges?” you must answer honestly.

For an established musician or band, almost anytime you take a step away from “home base,” or the thing that audiences and fans know you for, you take a chance. What if, someone decides it’s a little different, or far afield, from what you’ve done before? What if, it showcases you in a brand new light? What happens to the original thing you’ve come to be known for? The answer is: You just made “great” become “greater.”

Simply put, it’s like the Grammy-winning Jim Peterik model of music. One day, he cowrites a new song with Brian Wilson for The Beach Boys (“That’s Why God Made the Radio”), or he presents his World Stage Project, or he does a video for his song “Prom Night in Pontiac” and then he’s off to perform with his fellow band members of 50+ years, The Ides of March, for a Cornerstones of Rock concert, and a few months before, he’s teamed up with fellow singer-songwriter Carl Giammarese in one of the shows they staged in Chicagoland in 2021: “Stories Behind the Songs.”

Bottom line: innovative performers need room (i.e., audience permission) to stretch, to grow, and to improve and to continue doing what they love best every day, without being confined to a singular musical framework under which we know them best. All this leads to our New Year’s Eve story of fortuitous happenstance and a new collaboration that has been part of a dynamic year of creativity for Carl Giammarese. As most worldwide music tours were on hold as the nation learned to adjust a little longer to the safety issues brought about by safety against COVID-19 variants, there was more “at home in the studio” time that Carl invested in building music projects he’d had on his desk to “do someday.”

Thanks to his having built his own recording studio at home, Giammarese’s ability to create new music extended beyond his guitar and a legal pad. His most recent solo project, “Living in the Moment” contained ten new love songs he wrote, while reflecting on his career up to 2016. His gratitude for being able to spend the past five decades doing what he loved every day of his life, performing with The Buckinghams, was enhanced by his newfound acceptance as a songwriter who really had something to say.

Fellow musician, Jim Peterik, iconic for multitasking creating new music, continuing hit songs with The Ides of March, producing and showcasing new artists to Chicagoland, some on his World Stage projects, and writing contemporary chart hits with other established hitmakers (e.g., The Beach Boys) are all part of his daily workweek.

It was Peterik who was among the first to encourage Carl to break out and continue as a songwriter, after having heard “Living in the Moment.” In the year 2020 Giammarese had the opportunity to put on his producer’s hat for two albums of originals and covers in the country-western genre from former Chicago resident and good friend, Ron Materick. Jim and Carl also performed together in 2021 for three sold-out audiences with their show, “Stories Behind the Songs” for appreciative audiences.

Carl then invited his cousin Gerald Elarde (original founder of The Centuries band) to sing on some tracks that he produced. The collaboration was dynamic and they’re on Spotify if you want to check them out.

Next, filmmaker Greg Bizarro (Jaffe Productions) suggested to Giammarese that he hear the work of singer Lisa McClowry, who calls Chicago home currently, as he thought there was a special potential blend to their voices. Without meeting in person, in this day of technical wizardry, a collaboration began. Lisa suggested a new arrangement for “Don’t You Care,” a signature hit for The Buckinghams (written by James Holvay and Gary Beisbier), a song Carl had been singing fulltime for over 40 years.

Willing to try something new, though, Giammarese and McClowry worked back and forth by phone and e-mail and their first song, “Don’t You Care” resulted. Buckinghams’ fans were enthusiastic and appreciative for the new music. McClowry is a respected singer and collaborator on many music projects among Chicago’s musicians. Following the debut of the song, a virtual official video was constructed and both singers liked the feedback they got.

A second collaboration on the Melody Gardot-Sting hit, “Little Something” proved successful for Giammarese and McClowry. The new collaboration had already been doubly productive and the two singers had still not met in person due to Lisa’s busy travel schedule as part of the highly respected Legends showcase, a tribute to the icon herself, Cher. Coincidentally, in the 1960s, Sonny & Cher were on tour on the same package shows with The Buckinghams for a time.

In the meantime, Carl had also been working on a driving dynamic duet with Chicago-based singer Dave Mikulskis. Of course, this is what you do if you’re a musician during a world pandemic, right? More on that later.

Carl had been reviewing songs he’d written recently and sent Lisa a track for review. She loved the song and suggested they rewrite some of the words to turn it into a duet vs. a solo song. Carl agreed and on January 1, 2022, their newly coauthored song, “I Will Love You Forever” drops across all digital streaming services. The duo could not be more excited for audiences to hear their collaboration.

The multitalented McClowry also designed the cover art as she called on other of her gifts and talents as an artist who studied at Chicago’s prestigious Art Institute.

Noted producer John Blasucci, keyboardist for the Dennis DeYoung band and gifted creator of the brilliant ensemble Luminare (currently based in Utah) added his skills to the track, and the result is your New Year’s Day gift from Giammarese and McClowry.

You’ll get to preview the track if you tune into the Steve King and Johnnie Putman show on WGN Radio (720 AM) starting at 3:00 p.m. Friday, December 30th. Both Carl and Lisa will be guests of Steve and Johnnie’s show at approximately 6:15 p.m. A few giveaways are promised, too.

Check out the debut of their new single, and then you can go to Facebook/YouTube/Spotify/Pandora/Apple Music or wherever you hear your digital streaming, starting on New Year’s Day 2022 and save the song to your Likes and your Library.

So much creativity in the air from 2021 bodes well for exciting new outcomes for 2022. The Buckinghams will be on Concerts at Sea later in January, plus they will be special guests of America (on their 50th Anniversary Tour) on Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL. UPDATE! In case you missed hearing Steve and Johnnie's interview with Carl and Lisa on New Year's Eve, visit this link to hear the interview.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Cornerstones of Rock Concert Host Ron Onesti Inspires Record Donations for Dick Biondi Film Documentary

When you get a concert ticket to a show you're looking forward to, you’re not expecting anything out of the ordinary beyond a great performance.

For Chicago filmmaker Pamela Pulice, though, Saturday’s Cornerstones of Rock Concert was an unforgettable surprise, thanks to the generosity of Arcada Theatre owner Ron Onesti and the Cornerstones artists. [Photo by Jim Summaria.]

When Ron called Pam Pulice and Joseph Farina, Director of Marketing & Communications for the film, to the stage, they didn't realize that two music lovers were in the audience, both of whom were poised for maximum generosity, could change the film's future so quickly. Backstage, all the musicians of the Cornerstones bands had autographed a guitar for auction. Onesti went to work as auctioneer and funds for the Biondi documentary were secured. In fact, a second guitar was signed and auctioned to another winning bidder for the same amount.

This photo shows Ron Onesti, Pam Pulice, and Joe Farina, congratulating Greg Ellis and Lynn Steffen for the guitars they won, each with winning bids of $3,500. These funds, together with monies Onesti helped Pulice and Farina raise at the September Cornerstones concert were--at last--sufficient to pay for the remaining music licensing needed to take the documentary to the next level.

Yes, even more contributions are needed before fund-raising concludes, but this was a major hurdle that was achieved thanks to substantial generosity by all involved. They are “almost” to the finish line. Yes, you can ask how many more times can fans hear that and not be slightly frustrated, and you'd be right. Then, you just have to ask yourself how many people would be touched by the inexplicable desire to offer homage and respect to a man on the radio whose kindness to Chicagoland teens and up and coming bands would change their lives forever?

It's more than special that the two winners of the bidding on the guitars are Ellis and Steffan.

Saturday's Cornerstones event marked the 127th time in the past years that Greg Ellis has seen The Buckinghams perform in concert. That's in Chicagoland and regionally as well. Greg has traveled to support the music of the band he highly respects and he has the ticket stubs as well as some videos he posts on Facebook. That's a record number of concerts for any one fan to have attended.

Also, Lynn Steffen has been on board as a major sponsor of the Biondi film for at least two years. You can see a brief clip of Lynn with Joe Farina here:

Here’s a trailer of the film hopefully to appear commercially very soon:

If you listened to Dick Biondi during any of your teenage years, whether he was on air at WLS in Chicago, or in Los Angeles or on any other station where "the wild Itralian" was broadcasting, find out how to join this worthy endeavor here.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Reflection: Year-Long Planning Produces Spectacular Chicago Columbus Day Parade

To those in Chicago who look forward to attending the annual Columbus Day Parade, it is especially memorable for those of Italian heritage, thanks to Christopher Columbus, whom we celebrate for discovering America in 1492. Pride in family heritage runs strong, in Chicago and in every city across the country, but in the case of Chicago's Columbus Day annual celebration, one need only look to the JCCIA, which stands for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

When JCCIA current president Ron Onesti, CEO of Onesti Entertainment (The Arcada, Des Plaines Theatre, and several other venues), was planning for the 2021 Columbus Day Parade, he reached out to the Sanfilippo family (Jasper’s widow Marian and their five children who are involved in the success of the business still today—John, Jim, Jeffrey, Lisa, and Jasper). Jasper B. Sanfilippo was one of Chicago’s most respected philanthropists, who founded a company built on nut and snack foods called John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. Jasper instilled his personal pride and passion in working your hardest and best to help your community. His recent passing made it only right to honor the elder Sanfilippo at this year's parade.

Every parade needs a queen so, on August 1, 2021, this year’s festival parade held its contest for choosing their queen. Ron invited Carl Giammarese John Leanardi, Diva Montell, Ivana DiPiero, Miranda Fenzau, and Carole DiFrisco to be judges for Queen of the 2021 Columbus Day Parade.

John Leanardi captured this photo of the judges (Ron Onesti, JCCIA president in the back).

The Sanfilippo Estate was a lovely and historic site for the competition to take place. In some of the photos, you'll see where Jasper Sr. had a great love of music and a strong collection of music instruments at his home, called the “Place de la Musique” in Barrington, Illinois. He passed away in late January, 2020, and because the 2020 Columbus Day Parade was postponed due to COVID, it was most appropriate to celebrate Jasper’s legacy this year, in a way that matched all the philanthropy he and his family provided the city during his lifetime.

Attendee Lyn Scolaro took these photos of the judging round of very tough competition. Contestants’ names were: Nica A, Isabella F, Olimpia G, Olivia G, Mackenzie L, Francesca R, Abigail Rose T. Other photos from JCCIA members.

The winner was Isabella B.

The entire Sanfilippo family is very generous in permitting the use of their estate for special events for nonprofit organizations they support. What a beautiful place to judge a competition!

Here's Ron Onesti with the Columbus Day parade queen and her court:

The next story that follows will look behind the scenes of the actual Columbus Day Parade.

[Special thanks to Stephanie Johnson of Onesti Entertainment for contributing to this story.]

Thursday, December 2, 2021

People Who Make a Difference in Celebrating Chicago’s Rich Culture

“The activities that have been made possible for The Buckinghams as a band and me personally have been substantial this year. It’s a period of reflection for me as we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, we’re in the season of Hanukkah, and the Advent season where we await Christmas. At this time more than any other time of the year, I reflect on how fortunate I feel to be “from Chicago” and to have made this amazing city my home for my entire life.” Those are the words of Carl Giammarese from a recent phone interview.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of “getting ready for the holidays” and the busy-ness of business, planning for concert appearances, making travel plans for the upcoming concert dates and then maintaining proficiency at keeping the highest performing caliber that audiences have come to expect.

This weekend The Buckinghams will be performing in what has come to be one of the most popular shows each year—the Cornerstones of Rock show, that started in the creative mind of the extraordinary Jim Peterik and became a reality thanks to Chicago’s most prolific impresario, Ron Onesti.

The recently updated beautiful Arcada Theatre was the original setting for the popular ensemble show featuring the icons of 1960s pop rock acts, “American Garage,” each hailing from Chicago and typically originating as a band in someone’s childhood home garage. Over more than 50 years, the bands have had varying levels of success, some on a national basis, others on a regional basis, and still some the heartbeat of Chicago’s favorite music hangouts.

This coming weekend, the bands featured include: The Buckinghams, The Ides of March, New Colony Six, The Cryan’ Shames, and The Shadows of Knight. Each group had multiple hits during their prime performing and recording days Today The Cryan’ Shames and The Shadows of Knight still perform to appreciative fans in Chicago; The Ides of March have had multiple regional performances for the band, still together after all this time. The Buckinghams travel nationally and internationally (cruises) and have full-time since 1982.

But it was thanks to the hospitality of the original gifted empresario, Ron Onesti, who welcomed the bands and always made the Arcada a home base for the concerts, even when they travel regionally to stage the show. In 2022, the Cornerstones show will, once again, travel outside Chicago for appreciative audiences, thanks to the solid backing it has here.

Every day is a gift for all of us, and even since the time of the first concert, Gary Loizzo (American Breed) has passed away and others have recovered from health challenges, and it’s important to remember how much these performers love what they do and the audiences they perform for, that they want to bring their music to all at least “one more time.” And yet, the Cornerstones of Rock shows continue to sell out the Arcada.

Thanks to Ron Onesti (who’s even been known to prepare a feast for the bands to enjoy before the show) and his brother Rich, plus theatre photographer Luciano Bilotti, you’re coming home when you come to the Arcada and you’re coming home to Chicago for the Cornerstones of Rock concerts.

Photo from "Hanging with Carl Giammarese" interview with Ron Onesti (Source.)

A few Cornerstones of Rock tickets remain for Saturday's show here, but they won’t last long. Concert begins at 8pm so don't be late.

Here's the Cryan' Shames, with special guest Jim Peterik, singing "I Want to Meet You," with the Shames' classic harmony blend:

Note: In accordance with the statewide indoor mask mandate, masks are required at all properties – regardless of vaccination status.

See you Saturday night and if you see Ron Onesti (who’s always at his shows), tell him thanks for bringing us back!