Hall of Fame will honor Chicago’s impact on music
February 2, 2018

Photo courtesy Arcada Theatre
Ron Onesti of Onesti Entertainment plans to create a new Chicago Music Hall of Fame in the Taylor Street community.

By Madeline Makoul

From underground rock bands to jazz and blues, Chicago has been a musical hub for decades. To commemorate musicians influenced by the Windy City, Ron Onesti, president of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, will create a Chicago Music Hall of Fame.

Onesti counts 35 years on the Chicago music scene and is negotiating to bring the new Chicago Music Hall of Fame to Taylor Street. While the location of the Hall of Fame has not yet been finalized, Onesti has already begun to build an advisory board with some of Chicago’s biggest musical influences.

WLS-AM radio host Bob Sirott will act as one of Onesti’s advisors, saying that cities such as New Orleans and Detroit are sharing their “musical legacy” in a way Chicago is not. Sirott said this Chicago Music Hall of Fame could recognize and honor the contributions Chicago has made to many genres of music.

Onesti also recognized Chicago’s lack of celebration for its musical influences, something the Hall of Fame will address.

“Chicago has been a major player in the evolution of popular music in the country,” Onesti said. “I have a sincere love for that music and Chicago, but there wasn’t a needle and thread that sewed it together.”

Jim Peterik, Grammy winning singer, songwriter and guitarist for The Ides of March, is not only serving as an advisor for Onesti, but will be one of the inductees in the Hall of Fame. Peterik, who hails from Berwyn, IL, said the music in Chicago influenced his own band, which was initially inspired by Bri-tish bands such as the Beatles, yet started to evolve with Chicago’s rhythm and blues and jazz scene, transforming the band into a worldwide success.

Ides of March “started veering into the jazz-rock direction which spawned our biggest hit, ‘Vehicle,’” Peterik said. “It’s all because of that Chicago melting pot.”

Onesti hopes to show the impact the diverse Chicago music scene has had, yet plans to do it in a way unlike the others. Different from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH, Onesti said that, instead of having yearly nominations, he wants to induct many of music’s greatest influencers right away. This approach will ensure more musicians involved in the evolution of music in Chicago can receive recognition for their work, Onesti said.

“It doesn’t make sense to have people who have worked 30, 40, or 50 years to create a career and have touched so many people and make them wait year after year for a nomination to come,” Onesti said. “They deserve it. It’s important to me to honor all those people. I call it a Hall of Fame, which it will be, but it’s going to be more of an attraction with an educational element.”

According to Onesti, the Chicago Music Hall of Fame will offer a multimedia experience, featuring videos, recordings, and even live music. This video-centric approach will not only help cover a great deal of history made by musicians from across the decades but will help keep the focus on entertainment.

That focus will make the Hall of Fame more than just a place to learn about Chicago’s musical influencers, Onesti said. He and Sirott hope to host concerts and other events to allow viewers to connect further to the music.

“I hope we see concerts and broadcasts remote from the Hall of Fame and sessions where artists can talk about their craft as they’re interviewed by different hosts as well as audience members,” Sirott said.

The Chicago Music Hall of Fame will not only act as a place for fans of Chicago musicians but as a space where younger generations can learn. This is perfect timing, Onesti said, as what was considered old is “in” again. While kids rock the logos of bands from past decades as a trendy fashion statement, they now will have a place to experience the impact these artists had, Onesti said.

“My main goal is to have a fun, educating, and enlightening experience for music lovers and people with Chicago pride,” Onesti said. “I’m building this for the 22-year-olds of today who don’t know who Benny Goodman or Jelly Roll Morton are. I’m building this for you.”

Onesti is familiar with the community, as his Onesti Entertainment has run the Taylor Street Festa Italiana at times, and will do so again later this year.

For more information, go to https://www.chicagomusichalloffame.org/.