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Library works to showcase Oak Lawn’s musical heritage


In Memphis, it is possible to stand in the footsteps of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, whose impromptu gathering at Sun Studio was later known as the “Million Dollar Four”.

Appointments for these tours historical studio Activities offered each day in Tennessee include the area where famous musicians are photographed around a piano, arranged to look just like they did then. A worthwhile way to spend an afternoon for anyone who is a fan of music and history.

Closer to Chicago, appointments are available that will allow you to visit another historic studio building where famous musicians created best-selling albums. But it’s a good idea to first check if it’s compatible with your health insurance.

The former Pumpkin Studios in Oak Lawn, now a physical therapy office, was where the rock band Styx recorded hit albums such as “Paradise Theater” and “Kilroy Was Here.”

Studio owner Gary Loizzo achieved his first fame in the 1960s with his band American Breed’s hit song “Bend Me, Shake Me”. In 1991, he assembled his recording equipment and moved the studio to his home in Orlando Park. Loizzo died in 2016, but Pumpkin’s work during its 15-year run in Oak Lawn remains a source of civic pride.

The Pumpkin Studios building may have been repurposed, but it still has the same floor plan, “so people can make their physical therapy appointments in what used to be the rec rooms,” said Kaye Jansen, archivist and local history keeper for the Oak Lawn Public Library. librarian.

In the same period and of the same type, Oak Lawn native Kevin Cronin He was topping the charts with the REO Speedwagon group. But that didn’t stop him from stopping by the library from time to time.

Jansen said colleagues who have worked at the library for years have noted that Cronin’s parents were regular customers and that Cronin would sometimes personally come and pick up things for his father.

“One of my co-workers told me that this rock star came but took the books that were on hold,” Jansen said.

Those are the kinds of connotations Jansen said they wanted to highlight with an exhibit about Oak Lawn’s musical heritage.

Last month, the library’s content coordinator Nick Malone launched a public survey to better uncover the village’s musical history.

“We are starting work on an ambitious new exhibition for our Local History wing,” he wrote. Called Music Legends of Oak Lawn and scheduled to open next spring, “this exhibit will feature first-hand stories, interactive live and studio recordings, memorabilia, and more of our neighborhood’s untold musical history.”

Although radio rock from the 1980s formed the village’s most notable connections, a long-standing legacy institution likely gave people a more direct connection to the arts.

A photo of musicians at the 1979 Oak Lawn Jazz Festival is among the archival material planners will draw from as they prepare an exhibit celebrating Oak Lawn's musical heritage at the Oak Lawn Pubilc Library.

For more than 20 years, jazz groups from across Illinois have traveled to Oak Lawn Community High School for the annual jazz festival. The competitive event drew groups from Chicago suburbs such as Elk Grove Village, Itasca and Buffalo Grove, and as far away as Rockford, Champaign and Decatur.

“This has become something that jazz bands far and wide would like to achieve,” he said. “They came to compete and have their performance recorded and released on vinyl.”

Festival organizers rented mobile studios to record performances. audio snapshots of some of the state’s best student musiciansAs judged by college professors and even the publisher and managing editor of Down Beat magazine in 1972.

Malone scans the internet at these sites: discogs.com I’m looking for recordings from the festival.

“It was pretty important to capture and digitize them,” he said. “People were very eager to share something from their collection. We found that they had these records in their collection and that there were people who had never lived in Oak Lawn. They don’t even know where Oak Lawn is. We reached out to them and it turns out they’ve been getting them from used record stores and circulating around the country over the years.

“I just talked to a guy who has records from the 1979 performance, which was the 20th anniversary of the show. He bought it at a garage sale in Wyoming and still has it there. It’s definitely a long way from Oak Lawn.”

There are some things in the library already. parts digitized and available onlinebut when the exhibit goes live next year, Jansen and Malone hope to add a personal audio element, a listening station where visitors can experience a direct connection to music created in Oak Lawn or by Oak Lawn residents over the decades.

Along with the music, planners connected with a photographer who works with Styx and REO Speedwagon and planned to include photos of the bands as well.

They also issued a call for works that community members are willing to lend or donate to the library archives. Jansen would love to add a guitar from the Rossi Music Center in Oak Lawn, where Cronin taught guitar lessons long ago.

“If Kevin Cronin lent us his childhood guitar and had something like this, it would be a dream come true,” Jansen said.

They also hope to obtain scores used at the jazz festival over the years, adding a direct visual analog to the sounds captured at the events.

“We’re looking for more works to fill in the gaps in the story,” Jansen said. “We need more documentation on this aspect of Oak Grass history.”

Musicians gather to take pictures at the 1984 edition of the Oak Lawn Jazz Festival.  Recordings of the festival from the 1970s will be part of the exhibit, showcasing Oak Lawn's musical heritage.

That’s why they hung up the call early. The exhibition is scheduled to open until the end of May to collect stories as well as items related to the village’s musical heritage.

“We want to hear from people,” Malone said. “Any image or photograph, first-hand accounts, bring to life much more than just historical fact.”

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They also hope to explore lesser-known aspects of Oak Lawn’s music history; this legacy includes connections with various artists. Liza Minnelli, Kanye West and its members metal band disturb. Gospel artists recorded at Pumpkin Studios with pop singers.

There may also be opportunities to combine performances by existing Oak Lawn musicians or ensembles from village schools.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Jansen said. “There is so much potential that can be done with this exhibit.”

For Malone, it’s also a way to showcase Oak Lawn, which is sometimes overshadowed by its proximity to Chicago and confused by outsiders with towns with similar names, such as Oak Forest or Oak Park.

“A big part of why this is such an exciting project for us is getting Oak Lawn to be recognized for the artistic contribution the town has made,” he said. “Cultural memory doesn’t take long to be erased.

“Oak Lawn isn’t always remembered as an artistic hotspot. We’re trying to change that.”

Landmarks is a weekly column in which Paul Eisenberg explores the people, places and things that have left an indelible mark on the Southland. He can be reached at: peisenberg@tribpub.com.


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