Gone were the long hair and bell bottom blue jeans of their days. Not a sniff of marijuana drifted in the cold night air. No albums, eight-tracks, or cassettes around.
But they gathered, now as grandparents and senior citizens, on Cass Street in Joliet to worship rock-and-roll, Illinois style that is.
Were they there to see the inaugural lighting of Gigantar, a 24-foot aluminum guitar outside the Illinois Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame or to see Rick Nielsen from the band Cheap Trick and other legends?
Nielsen, who never left hometown Rockford, was still the wild quick-witted frontman of this rock show while exclaiming a certain body part of his was cold.
Then there was Jim Peterik of the Ides of March, a better singer than speaker he admitted, leading the crowd in 60s rock-n-roll merriment.
Peterik, who grew up in Berwyn, formed the rock band Survivor with “Eye of the Tiger” and wrote songs with 38 Special like “Rockin into the Night,” “Hold on Loosely” and “Caught Up in You.”
Artist Shannon McDonald created the Gigantar guitar, saying “if it was scaled down, it would be playable. With a tiger flamed neck, it’s more like an Eddie Van Halen neck.
She has been dubbed “The Greatest Beatles Artist Ever” in Liverpool.
“I painted a portrait of Paul and Linda McCartney and a painting of Ringo Starr and John Lennon.”
After the guitar lighting, the largest ever hand-made, the 74-year-old Nielsen was inside the soon-to-be opened Illinois Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame on old Route 66.
From the Buckinghams and their hit “Kind of a Drag”, Carl Giammarese was exuberant, saying it’s fantastic to honor Illinois rock-n-rollers, claiming Gigantar is the only guitar that Peterik or Nielsen don’t own. Peterik owns 193 guitars, topped by Nielsen’s 2,000.
An Illinois band for the last 20 years, singer Tom Garrett was there, representing The Classics IV and their songs “Spooky,” “Stormy,” and “Bring Back that Sunny Day.”
“This is an amazing event to happen here in Joliet,” said Garrett. “Let’s rock-n-roll!”
Playing on songs like “Bend Me Shape Me” and “Tell Me Something Good,” bass guitarist Charles Colbert, Jr. announced he is working on a new song “Bring Back the Love,” an anti-racist, anti-hate anthem featuring Chicago and Illinois musical artists.
“Keep the love going,” said Colbert, Jr.
Yes, we survived those rock-n-roll days with a transistor radio and the nights by the glow of the stereo receiver.
As for our parents, Rick Nielsen would sing “...they’re just a little weird...”
You can listen to Mark Harrington's radio story by clicking below: