Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The MOB--From Chicago to Sioux Falls, SD in 35 years or less: Prelude

The following is the first in a series of “How The MOB (Chicago’s first horn band) landed in the South Dakota Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” in April 2011, and how one woman’s spark of ingenuity brought four strangers together in a single goal. Their mission? To give the gift of remembrance to 7 men who likely thought they’d long been forgotten, overlooked, disregarded and worse yet, cemented into obscurity.

Lord, Bonafede, Pytel, and Shrank—Ever heard of them? Probably not. No, they’re not a Michigan Avenue law firm, but they’re a powerhouse group nonetheless. They are behind-the-scenes movers and shakers who made their acquaintances two years ago, via Facebook, not in person, and managed to make some pretty exciting things happen for musicians who had not been together, much less seen each other, in 35 long years.

No, there was no acrimony that had broken up one of Chicago’s first-ever horn bands better known as “The MOB”. It was just that the music business had moved along without them, despite multiple attempts to harness the attention and support of national labels. As a fall-out to lack of results measured in vinyl sales, the young men, some newly married, had to face their futures square on. They could either remain traveling troubadours living in the world of “the band”, while playing at having a real life, or they could get off the road, find ‘real’ day jobs, and delight their families by settling down, once and for all, and getting perfectly serious about their futures.

‘Real’ life wasn’t such a bad alternative, but a choice was necessary—one or the other. You really can’t keep one foot in one world, and one in the other. When you’re on the road 250-300 nights a year, your home life can easily implode, as some members of the band known as The MOB would come to realize. The final trumpet sound was heard on New Year’s Eve, 1980, at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. And with that sound, ended an era for a beloved band of Chicago natives, formed in 1966.

The group that had been the amalgam of three professional band entities had sought fame and fortune and toured as faithful road warriors for 14 years, many sacrificing personal lives to do so, and amassed a large fan base who, seemingly, forgot all about them after the music ended. Or so they thought.

Not the case. Memories of The MOB, their music, their songs, their countless 45s demos and singles, some LP albums, continuous club-booking and attendance records, in fact did not die, not completely. It’s possibly still unknown, by even some of the band members, how the 35-year musical drought ended and how their ‘old’ life came back to life one more time and culminated in one unforgettable night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Those responsible ‘movers and the shakers’ are not names known throughout the music business, not really. But it’s often those outside the key lights who make big things happen. Their secret? Passion. Because they are passionate about their subject, these ‘kingmakers’ invested hours of hard work, for days, weeks, months, and even years, overlooking obstacles and frustration, to reach their goal. It’s a story worth sharing.

How ‘this’ version of The MOB came to find itself in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the third week in April, 2011 is also a poignant tale. Four separate independent variables intersected to revive the enthusiasm and the memories, for a groundbreaking reunion attended by over 2,000 people. And the kicker is that only one of the four kingmakers actually got to attend the awards evening they’d made possible. The best news is that the one who ‘did’ make it is a first-class photographer and graphic artist, so the pictures made up for the others missing the show. And there’s a DVD to talk about as well.

This, then, is the series on a superb Chicago horn band that waited politely for some 35 years to be heralded formally by a group of appreciative music afficionados, not in their own home town of Chicago, but in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The next story introduces The MOB, its members, and helps clear up some of the present-day confusion of “Who really is a (real) MOB member?” or “Who can truly call themselves a music MOBster?” To quote Alan Schrank, “The party’s not quite over”. Check out Part II of The MOB--From Chicago to Sioux Falls, SD in 35 years or less“.

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