Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Barn (Peoria)

In the early 1970's, concert promoters Bill Love of Love, Inc and Jay Goldberg, then owner of Budget Tapes & Records in Peoria, organized a series of rock concerts at the Barn (9201 N. Galena Rd., Route 29) just north of Peoria, Illinois.  These shows featured some of the top touring rock bands of the era along with various local groups.  Nearly two dozen shows have been identified over a one year period but there were likely several more.   

We need your help documenting this short-lived but important venue in central Illinois' rock history!  If you attended a show at the Barn in '71-'72 and can add to the list of shows or just have a story to tell we'd love to hear it.  Also, if you have any photos, posters, flyers or recordings of any kind we'd love to see and hear them.  Please reach out to us at: 

  • May 22, 1971  Canned Heat
  • Jun 4, 1971 Bloodrock
  • Jun 19, 1971 Spirit
  • Jul 9, 1971 The Byrds, Sunday, Godzilla
  • Jul 16, 1971 Edgar Winter's White Trash, Morning Morning, All Star Frogs
  • Jul 23, 1971 Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station
  • Aug 14, 1971 Crow, Fanny, Podipto
  • Aug 21, 1971 Teagarden & Van Winkle (Bob Seger), Brownsville Station
  • Aug 27, 1971 Sugarloaf, Remedy, Morning Morning
  • Sep 4, 1971 Black Oak Arkansas, The Mackinaw Valley Boys
  • Sep 11, 1971 Mason Profitt, Wilderness Road
  • Sep 22, 1971 Alice Cooper, Mike Quatro Jam Band
  • Nov 9, 1971 Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, Savage Grace
  • Dec 31, 1971 Edgar Winter's White Trash

  • Jan 23, 1972 Uriah Heep
  • Feb 20, 1972 Allman Brothers, REO Speedwagon
  • Feb 25, 1972 James Gang, Point Blank
  • Mar 10, 1972 King Crimson, Black Oak Arkansas, Sweathog
  • Mar 17, 1972 Ajax Maggot, Mannish Boy
  • Mar 24, 1972 Mike Quatro Jam Band, Finchley Boys
  • Mar 31, 1972 Saylor, Smack Water Rye
  • Apr 8, 1972 Cactus, Bloodrock, Pot Liquor
  • Apr 20, 1972 Ten Years After  (CANCELLED?)
  • May 7, 1972 Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • May 13, 1972 Fleetwood Mac, McKendree Spring, Ashton Gardner & Dyke
An incomplete live recording of the King Crimson set from March 10, 1972 has been released by the band in several different formats over the years.  One track from the set, "Peoria" aka "Groon Peoria," was included on the band's 1972 live album Earthbound.   

In 2011, King Crimson officially released more of their set digitally (seven tracks total though several are incomplete) and again in 2017 on CD & Blu-Ray audio as part of their Sailors' Tails box set.

A bootleg recording of the Alice Cooper show from July 23, 1971 can be found on YouTube.

Special thanks to Bill Risoli for sharing these images. 

REVIEWS & ADS (click image to enlarge)

Located seven miles north of Peoria, the Barn was build in 1937 and was originally known as Riverview Stables.  At the time it was one of the best showplaces for horses in central Illinois and was once home to the Peoria Riding Club.   In 1949 it was bought by Max Baty who renamed it Baty's Barn.  In addition to horse shows, the venue hosted farm auctions, hog and cattle sales as well as tractor, boat and RV shows.  

By September of 1954, Baty had replaced the arena floor with concrete and started to hold dances and benefit concerts.   Here are some of the shows we were able to identify from 1954-1967:
  • Sep 10, 1954 Leo Lukehart & His Band w/ Barbara Waldron
  • Sep 11, 1954 Bill Reardon & His Rambling Playboy Entertainers
  • Sep 17, 1954 Joe Evanick & His Orchestra w/ Sharon Evans
  • Sep 26, 1954 Leo Lukeheart & His Band
  • Nov 12, 1954 The Rhythm Rascals w/ Dusty Rhoads
  • Nov 20, 1954 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Nov 27, 1954 The Rhythm Rascals w/ Dusty Rhoads
  • Dec 18, 1954 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Jan 22, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Jan 30, 1955 Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm
  • Feb 5, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Feb 12, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Feb 15, 1955 Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
  • Feb 16, 1955 Leo Peeper & His Orchestra w/ Judy Martin, Penny Kunard and Jackie Jay
  • Feb 22, 1955 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Mar 12, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Mar 19, 1955 Ted Lewis, His Orchestra & Revue
  • Mar 26, 1955 Rudy James & His Orchestra
  • Apr 8, 1955 Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra w/ Julio Maro
  • Apr 17, 1955 WPEO Barn Party: Oklahoma Wrangers, Tommy Sosebee, Buddy Wright and Viola Trussley
  • Apr 23, 1955 Art Mooney & His Band
  • Apr 24, 1955 WPEO Barn Party: Oklahoma Wrangers, Tommy Sosebee, Buddy Wright and Viola Trussley
  • Apr 30, 1955 Jerry Mercer with David Carroll & His Orchestra
  • May 13, 1955 Sammy Kaye & His Orchestra
  • May 14, 1955 WPEO Barn Party: Oklahoma Wrangers, Tommy Sosebee, Buddy Wright
  • May 21, 1955 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • May 28, 1955 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Jun 3, 1955 Oklahoma Wranglers, Kay Clark, Tommy Sosebee
  • Jun 4, 1955 Johnnie Kaye & His Orchestra
  • Jul 9, 1955 Pee Wee Hunt & His Band
  • Jul 23, 1955 Webb Pierce w/ His Wondering Boys, Red Sovine, Peach Seed Jones
  • Jul 30, 1955 Ray Anthony & His Orchestra
  • Aug 6, 1955 Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys
  • Aug 13, 1955 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Aug 18, 1955 Billy May Orchestra
  • Aug 27, 1955 Leo Lukehart & His Orchestra
  • Sep 2, 1955 The Crew Cuts
  • Sep 10, 1955 Pat Boone, Ernie Rudy & His Choral Recording Orchestra
  • Sep 17, 1955 Jan Garber & His Orchestra
  • Sep 23, 1955 The Commanders w/ Eddie Grady
  • Sep 24, 1955 Harry Cool w/ Freeddy Stevens Orchestra
  • Sep 30, 1955 Night Beat Record Hop w/ DJ Johnnie Coy
  • Oct 1, 1955 Ralph Marterie & His Downbeat Orchestra
  • Oct 8, 1955 Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
  • Oct 23, 1955 Blue Barron & Orchestra
  • Nov 4, 1955 Wayne King & Orchestra
  • Nov 12, 1955 Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra
  • Nov 26, 1955 Freddy Barnes & His Orchestra
  • Dec 10, 1955 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Dec 18, 1955 Les Elgart & Orchestra w/ Don Forbes
  • Dec 31, 1955 Freddy Barnes & His Orchestra
  • Jan 21, 1956 The Crew Cuts, Bill Hardesty Orchestra
  • Feb 4, 1956 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Mar 3, 1956 Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra
  • Mar 24, 1956 The Hilltoppers w/ Jimmy Sacca, Bill Hardesty Orchestra
  • Apr 21, 1956 Freddie Barnes & His Orchestra
  • Apr 28, 1956 Ted Weems & His Orchestra
  • May 19, 1956 Bill Viehmeyer & His Orchestra
  • Jun 9, 1956 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Jun 23, 1956 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Jun 30, 1956 Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
  • Jul 28, 1956 Ted Weems & His Orchestra, Phyllis Powell
  • Sep 2, 1956 Ray Anthony & His Orchestra  (CANCELLED)
  • Sep 8, 1956 Ray Pearl & His Musical Gems
  • Sep 22, 1956 The Four Aces
  • Sep 29, 1956 Dick Jurgen's Orchestra (CANCELLED)
  • Oct 6, 1956 Chuck Foster & His Orchestra
  • Oct 20, 1956 Bill Wimberly & His Country Rhythm Boys
  • Oct 21, 1956 Dixieland Jam Session
  • Oct 29, 1956 Chuck Willis & Roy Gaines
  • Dec 31, 1956 The Crew Cuts, Tommy Allen & His Orchestra
  • Jan 18, 1957 WIRL Night Beat w/ DJ Johnny Coy, Freddie Stevens Orchestra
  • Jan 19, 1957 Fred Dale & His Orchestra
  • Feb 1, 1957 WIRL Night Beat w/ DJ Johnny Coy, Cary Robards Jr. & His Orchestra
  • Feb 2, 1957 Chuck Foster & His Orchestra
  • Feb 23, 1957 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Mar 17, 1957 The Hilltoppers, Jimmy Featherstone & His Orchestra
  • May 21, 1957 WSM Grand Ole Opry: Marty Robbins, Louvin Brothers, Lee Emerson, Smiley & Kitty with Rita Faye, George McCormick and the Teardrops
  • May 25, 1957 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Aug 20, 1957 Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys, Wanda Jackson, Joe Carson, Buddy Wright
  • Oct 19, 1957 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Nov 9, 1957 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1957 Bill Viehmeyer & His Orchestra
  • Apr 11, 1958 Spring Swing Teen Dance:  DJ Wayne West, Joe Kilton & Band, The Rockin' R's
  • Apr 26, 1958 Chuck Foster & His Orchestra
  • May 24, 1958 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Jun 8, 1958 Hank Locklin, Jimmy Louis, Buddy Wright, Carl Trantham
  • Sep 27, 1958 The Rockin' R's, Clover Club Trio
  • Oct 5, 1958 Don Reid
  • Dec 31, 1958 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • May 16, 1959 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1959 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Apr 2, 1960 Bill Carver's Orchestra
  • May 14, 1960 Walt Coughlin's Band
  • May 20, 1960 WSM Grand Ole Opry: Kitty Wells, Marvin Rainwater, Bobby Helms, Johhny & Jack, Bill Phillips, Tennessee Mountain Boys, Webb Pierce
  • May 21, 1960 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • May 28, 1960 Zeke Sanders & His Orchestra
  • Aug 28, 1960 Bill Carver's Orchestra
  • Nov 12, 1960 Ralph Marterie & His Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1960 Paul Wireman & His Orchestra, w/ Carol Jackson
  • May 6, 1961 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Sep 9, 1961 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1961 Paul Wireman & His Orchestra
  • Feb 3, 1962 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • May 26, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Jun 2, 1962 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Jun 16, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Sep 15, 1962 Ray Price & Band
  • Sep 22, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Sep 29, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Oct 13, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Nov 10, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Nov 24, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Dec 8, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Dec 23, 1962 Booker T. & The MGs (CANCELLED)
  • Dec 31, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Nov 15, 1963 Ralph Flanagan & His Orchestra
  • Jun 13, 1964 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Jan 23, 1965 Jackie Wilson & His Upsetters
  • Aug 28, 1965 Seven Sounds, Lee Brown, Miss Joanne Baker & The Harvey Scales Revue
  • Sep 8, 1967 Tiny Hill & His Orchestra
  • Sep 23,1967 Bud Sherman & His Orchestra
  • Sep 29, 1967 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Oct 7, 1967 Gary Newton Orchestra
Exact dates for other shows from the 1960's such as James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Ike & Tina Turner  have not yet been identified.

In 1962, Max Baty passed away and the Barn was sold to E.T. Biddison who renamed it the Riverview Ballroom.  The number of musical events at the venue declined greatly in the years that followed. One notable dance in particular, sponsored by the Challengers Club of Peoria, had disastrous results.    

When Booker T. & The MGs failed to show up for their performance on December 22, 1962 a riot ensued.   A crowd of 400 angry customers began breaking windows and plumbing fixtures.   The police responded in force with shotguns and tear gas resulting in at least one patron being treated for a head injury.    

In 1967 the Barn was sold again and remained Donovan's Ballroom.  Other than a few dances that year music did not return to the Barn until the rock shows of 1971 and 1972.   

After 1972, music at the location seems to have stopped for good.  Around 1990, the Barn returned to its original purpose, a place for horse shows and auctions.   It is currently the Heart of Illinois Arena.

This story was updated on 5/26/23.

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Rooks (Chicago)

The Rooks formed in the western suburbs of Chicago sometime in late 1964 or early 1965.  The original lineup consisted of:  

Tony Pietrini - vocals, harmonica
Jeff Pranno - lead guitar
Steve McGreer - rhythm guitar
Billy Haack - bass
Loren Charles (Pranno)* aka Loren Raphael - drums

Like so many other bands of the era, the group got their start by playing suburban teen clubs and dances with their biggest influences being the British R&B / rock groups of the day (The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things and Them).  

In early 1966 another Chicago-area band with similar influences, The Shadows of Knight, had turned a cover of Them's "Gloria" into a regional smash hit for Dunwich Records.  By the summer of 1966, The Rooks had landed a recording contract of their own with Chicago-based Mercury Records.

The band recorded two songs for Mercury in 1966: "A Girl Like You" written by Pranno and Raphael as well as a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Empty Heart."  White label promotional copies of their 45 were produced later that year.
Mercury # 72644, YW1-38898 / YW1-38899
Pietrini & Haack in studio
The group's drummer Loren Charles remembers the early recording session(s) being done at Sound Studios in the Carbide & Carbon Building in downtown Chicago (230 N. Michigan Ave).  Incredibly, a photo of two of the band members in the studio ran in the Sunday magazine of the Chicago Sun-Times on July 24, 1966 as part of an article about the "Chicago Sound."  

One of the group's biggest live performances came a week later when they opened for Herman's Hermits and The Animals at Chicago's International Amphitheatre on July 31, 1966.  Earlier in the month the group was one of several bands to open for The Dave Clark Five in Madison, Wisconsin.

Things seemed to be on the way up for the group.  They even had an official fan club (c/o Miss Carol Kedzior).  A photo of the band (below) ambitiously refers to them as "Mercury Recording Stars."

Unfortunately Mercury failed to promote the group.  The result was the record received little to no radio airplay at the time.   It likely didn't help that the English group The Troggs had released a similarly-titled track ("With A Girl Like You") that same summer.

Whatever the reason, Mercury decided against officially releasing the single and instead dropped them from the label.   For several decades afterward the few surviving promo copies of the 45 would serve as the only document of The Rooks' original lineup.  That is until Sundazed Music gave it a proper release in 2006 (more below).

Sometime after the Mercury recordings, guitarist Steve McGreer decided to leave the group.   He was replaced by John Brian Szmagalski who had been playing in another Chicago-area band called The House Of Blue Light.
New lineup: Haack, Pranno, Szmagalski, Raphael, Pietrini

Despite the Mercury debacle, the group continued to perform around Chicago and its suburbs.  For the Sundazed reissue, guitarist Jeff Pranno recalled, "we used to play the Hut, the Wild Goose, the Cellar, Surf's Up, Gospel Zone (!!!)... there were so many."

Another big performance for the group was at the World Teenage Show held at Navy Pier in June- July 1967.  Headlining the ten day event was Neil Diamond, The Crying Shames, The Electric Prunes and The Yellow Balloon.  The Rooks were scheduled to play two days (June 24th & 25th) which included opening for Dino, Desi & Billy.

Sometime in 1967 lead singer and harmonica player Tony Pietrini decided to leave the group as well.  

The group found a replacement in Tom Engel, a friend of bassist Bill Haack.  Prior to joining the group, Engel had been singing in another Chicago-area group called The Henchmen.  

A rehearsal / demo tape from August 9, 1967 captures Engel and the Rooks working on a few covers together:  The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight", Them's rendition of "Turn On Your Lovelight" and The Who's "Substitute."  (More details including audio)

In September of 1967 the group's manager, Jerry Young, opened a short-lived teen club in the Edison Park neighborhood called the Spectrum (formerly the Batcave, 6684 N. Oliphant Ave).  The Rooks were one of the first bands on the bill.
Photo of the band taken at The Spectrum:  Haack, Pranno, Engel, Raphael, Szmagalski
Not long after their performance at the Spectrum however, the band decided to change management.  The Chicago Tribune reported on October 6th that Michael de Gaetano, manager of the group The Faded Blue, had taken on two more Chicago-area bands, The Sons Of Adam and The Rooks.

With a new singer, the band's sound had evolved since the Mercury days and new management likely wanted to get them back into a recording studio.  Before the end of 1967 the group had signed with the Jo-Way Recording Company and recorded two new original songs written by Engel and Szmagalski (listed as John Brian):  "Turquoise" and "Ice And Fire."  Two versions of the single exist though it is not clear if they are the same recordings or not.  

Jo-Way Demo Record, S-5236 / S-5237
Jo-Way #5000, TM 2771 / TM 2772

The gold "demo record" version was produced near the end of 1967 whereas the blue label version came out in the spring of 1968.  Loren Charles remembers the band playing on Rush Street a lot during this period including week-long runs at Mother's.  

Twinight #115, TM 3204 / TM 3205
In early 1969 the band recorded two more songs for Jo-Way: "Hoping To Be Gone Soon" and "Free Sunday Paper."  Again, both songs were written by Tom Engel and John B. Szmagalski.  

Curiously, this single was released on Twinight Records which was primarily a Chicago soul label.  DJ copies exist but it not clear if there was ever an official version.

Around the time of this final single, the band went through more lineup changes.  Drummer Loren Raphael (i.e. Charles) decided to quit the group.  Bassist Bill Haack left as well.   Two new members soon joined, Russ Neiman (drums) and Willie Forst (bass).   Both had been in The House of Blue Light with Szmagalski.  This however seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the group.   Neither the Jo-Way or Twinight single made much of an impression and the band appears to have called it quits by 1970.

It would not be until 1985 that The Rooks would be recognized again when both sides of the Mercury single were included on Pebbles Vol. 17, a compilation of  garage-punk rarities from the psychedelic 60's.  

Over the next two decades the legend of this mysterious band with an obscure 45 on a major label continued to grow, culminating with the 2006 reissue by Sundazed Music which was remastered from the original tapes.  In their press material, Sundazed refers to the original 45 as one of the RAREST of all '66 garage singles.  

While perhaps not as desirable as the Mercury single, both the Jo-Way and Twinight singles have proven to be equally rare. 

Three of the four songs however were included on a 1997 CD compilation, The Quill Records Story (The Best of Chicago Garage Bands), despite the fact that none of The Rooks records were released on Quill.   Curiously, "Hoping To Be Gone Soon" was excluded and has gone mostly unheard for more than 50 years... until now (see video below).

In 2018, Loren Charles was kind enough to provide me with a detailed account of his time in The Rooks.  It is filled with memories and stories about the Chicago music scene in the 1960s and beyond.  For anyone interested, you can read his full story here: The Story of the Rooks

* Loren Charles no longer uses his given surname of Pranno.  While in The Rooks he often used the stage name Loren Raphael.  In the Sundazed reissue he was erroneously listed as "Charles Pranno," a name he has never used.  Loren Charles and guitarist Jeff Pranno are cousins.

THE MUSIC  (All the audio comes directly from the original 45s.)

Author's note: While this blog is typically reserved for bands and records from downstate Illinois, I've included this detailed post on The Rooks because of a personal connection and deep appreciation for their music and story.