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Monday, July 2, 2018

Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy did much more than join the Blues Brothers

Posted By on 07.02.18 at 08:32 PM


Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who've been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place. Older strips are archived here.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RIP Chicago techno marvel and international cult figure Dan Jugle

Posted By on 06.20.18 at 05:20 PM

Dan Jugle performing with Chandeliers in 2010. - GIANT SYSTEM
  • Giant System
  • Dan Jugle performing with Chandeliers in 2010.

Chicago producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Jugle got hooked on electronic music in the mid-90s, when he had to find his way to raves without being old enough to drive. Shortly after he turned 16, he started messing around with analog equipment to make his own music. He fell in love with techno, and in recent years he'd earned a reputation for the waterlogged club tracks he made with Juzer (a duo with Beau Wanzer) and the raw, throbbing cuts he recorded with Dar Embarks (a duo with childhood friend Ken Zawacki). Last Thursday, Dar Embarks played Smart Bar, one of the most respected electronic-music venues on the continent. But it was the last time Jugle performed live—he died this past weekend at age 37.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Remembering soundman and musician Patrick Kenneally, who nurtured scenes in Chicago and Portland

Posted By on 06.18.18 at 01:44 PM

Patrick Kenneally - SARAH COOPER
  • Sarah Cooper
  • Patrick Kenneally

If you play any kind of amplified music in Chicago, you've probably dealt with enough live sound engineers to know that you'd be lucky if the one working your gig was Patrick M. Kenneally. "Playing in bands, sound guys are often your first introductions to venues—seeing Pat made you feel a little more at home," says Metro talent buyer and Lasers and Fast and Shit vocalist Joe Carsello. Kenneally, who died at age 43 on Wednesday, June 6, spent the past couple decades doing sound at clubs such as Darkroom, the Empty Bottle, and Lounge Ax. (Recently he worked mostly as a building superintendent, but he still picked up the occasional gig.) He'd ingrained himself in the local scene, becoming a vital piece of the largely invisible infrastructure that keeps it healthy. He wasn't just punching the clock—he cared about the music community and supported it with more than his labor.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Vlogger ZackTV devoted his life to making Chicago’s fractious rap scene into one community

Posted By on 06.04.18 at 07:26 PM

Zack Stoner, aka ZackTV - IMAGE VIA ZACK STONER'S FACEBOOK
  • Image via Zack Stoner's Facebook
  • Zack Stoner, aka ZackTV

Zack Stoner dedicated his life to documenting parts of Chicago that few outsiders with video cameras ever bother to visit. He uploaded his interviews to YouTube as ZackTV, so you could call him a vlogger—his channel, ZackTV1, has more than 175,000 subscribers. You could call him a journalist too, because he did tremendous work capturing local artists in their elements, sometimes before anyone outside Chicago knew who they were—Chief Keef, 600 Breezy, Rico Recklezz, Queen Key, FBG Duck. But neither "journalist" nor "vlogger" adequately describes him. He pursued his work with an activist zeal that bordered on the missionary.

Stoner was about support and healing, not just reportage—he gave voice to Chicagoans who had none, quashed beefs between artists and cliques, and strove to create positive change in resource-deprived communities burdened by a history of systemic racism. It's impossible to count how many people he touched with his work, but after he was shot dead at age 30 on Wednesday morning in the South Loop, it seemed like all of Chicago began grieving. "It's a dark cloud over the city," says rapper and G Herbo manager Mikkey Halsted.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Singular pianist and musical mind Cecil Taylor has died at 89

Posted By on 04.06.18 at 12:34 PM


This morning I woke to the news that pianist Cecil Taylor had died on Thursday in his Brooklyn home at age 89. Sometimes artists of Taylor's stature are so ingrained in your consciousness that they become part of you, whether they're alive or dead. He came out of jazz and belonged to it, but beginning the late 50s he bucked the tradition in every way, blazing a trail all his own. He was an artist in the largest possible sense, and he committed his life to making something unique and personal. He never faltered in that commitment, and like a handful of other uncompromising artists to emerge from jazz at the time—especially Ornette Coleman—he endured years of neglect and ridicule before people eventually caught up with his original vision and recognized it for its genius.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Masterful but overlooked Chicago jazz drummer Robert Barry has died

Posted By on 03.06.18 at 02:24 PM

Robert Barry, left, with Fred Anderson - JIM NEWBERRY
  • Jim Newberry
  • Robert Barry, left, with Fred Anderson

It's always sad when an important artist passes away, but it's sadder when that passing goes unnoticed. Today I learned that great Chicago drummer Robert Barry died on January 8 at age 85, at Chalet Living and Rehab at 7350 N. Sheridan. And as far as I can tell, aside from his obituary nothing has been written about it—the only reason I can imagine for this state of affairs is that the people in a position to publish something just don't know he's gone. Barry was a quiet man in life and music, a lean and subtle drummer with a tightly coiled swing and an adaptable aesthetic—but as powerful as his presence, creativity, and rhythmic drive could be, he never let them distract from the design of whatever band he played in.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

This guy loved Mark E. Smith more than you ever did because he got a Mark E. Smith tattoo

Posted By on 01.25.18 at 08:19 AM


Mark E. Smith as a tattoo - CLIFF DOERKSEN
  • Cliff Doerksen
  • Mark E. Smith as a tattoo

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.


There will be many tributes to the Fall's Mark E. Smith, who died yesterday, including a very fine contribution by the Reader's Peter Margasak. But there will be none more heartfelt than the one spotted more than seven years ago by the late, great Cliff Doerksen at the Berwyn YMCA on the upper left arm of a fellow gymgoer: a tattoo of Smith's face.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Mark E. Smith, the acerbic voice of influential Manchester postpunks the Fall, dead at 60

Posted By on 01.24.18 at 04:57 PM

Mark E. Smith at the Hammersmith Palais in London in 2007 - JIM DYSON/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jim Dyson/Getty Images
  • Mark E. Smith at the Hammersmith Palais in London in 2007

Mark E. Smith, the cantankerous, lacerating wit who was the only constant member of influential British rock band the Fall throughout its more than four decades of activity, died at his home this morning at age 60 following prolonged health problems. In August, the group canceled what would have been its first U.S. tour in a decade. No details about the cause of Smith's death have been made public, but the group's manager, Pamela Vander, has confirmed his passing.

The Fall released 32 full-length albums, including last year's New Facts Emerge, after debuting with the brilliant 1978 EP Bingo Master's Break Out! There was a time when I tried in vain to keep up with the band's release schedule—when I was in high school, Smith's idiosyncratic, questioning, cynical worldview represented the essence of punk rock to me, far more than the cartoonish Sex Pistols (or just about any other British band). The Fall didn't follow any particular template, apart from making an art form of abrasiveness.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Groundbreaking Chicago drill rapper Fredo Santana died this weekend

Posted By on 01.22.18 at 12:46 PM

Fredo Santana in fall 2017 - COURTESY OF FREDO SANTANA'S INSTAGRAM
  • Courtesy of Fredo Santana's Instagram
  • Fredo Santana in fall 2017

Few lyrics are as emblematic of drill as "Fredo in the cut / That's a scary sight," from Chief Keef's 2012 breakout hit "I Don't Like." Guest rapper Lil Reese delivers the blunt, menacing lines with a hint of playfulness—and all those characteristics apply to the man they're about. "Fredo" is Chicago rapper Fredo Santana, born Derrick Coleman. He's there in the "I Don't Like" video, bouncing around an apartment shirtless along with most of the rest of Keef's GBE crew. But Fredo hardly blends in: he shoots the camera a quick glower that can send shivers down your spine, and the cross tattoo between his eyebrows makes an instant impression. "Fredo stood out to me," 50 Cent wrote in a memorial Instagram post on Sunday. "When he said he looked up to me, l wanted to work with him but we didn't get the chance to do anything."

Fredo died Friday in Los Angeles at age 27. Chicago Tribune editor Kevin Williams wrote on Saturday that the LA County medical examiner's office had confirmed the death. TMZ reported the same day that Fredo died as the result of a seizure. Speculation has run rampant online that Fredo's death was linked to his addiction to lean; he'd vowed to kick the cough-syrup habit after he was hospitalized for liver and kidney failure in October.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

From the archive: Remembering radio storyteller Joe Frank

Posted By on 01.18.18 at 08:57 AM

An ad for Joe Frank's radio show after he moved to California - SANZIBAR
  • sanzibar
  • An ad for Joe Frank's radio show after he moved to California

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I first heard a Joe Frank monologue on the radio, but, like many others, I do remember how it felt: like an antenna, snapping to alert in my head.

"What was that?" was the question it raised.

The voice was distinctive and compelling—as intimate as if he were in the room, leaning in to confess a jarring and deeply personal tale to me alone.

I was hooked.

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