Route 66 news:  events calendar update & Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Instead of the ghastly Chicago summer humidity of the last two weeks, we had a nice, dry sunny day on Friday.  Excellent weather for starting a weekend road trip!  But there is one good thing about warm weather, even with a bit of humidity:  eating and listening to music al fresco, whether it’s at your favorite grill or tavern, neighborhood street fest/art fair, or a downtown extravaganza like the gargantuan music fest descending upon Chicago this weekend.

I mean Lolla, of course – short for Lollapalooza, the event that will be monopolizing a good chunk of Grant Park, starting immediately south of Jackson Drive/Route 66 and centering on Congress Plaza and Buckingham Fountain (with all the stages, scaffolding and speakers, you’ll be lucky if you get so much as a teensy glimpse of that fountain before next Monday or Tuesday).

We recommend that route-roadies heading for Chicago this weekend bunk down north of the river or perhaps further down the route (like on Jackson or Adams in the financial district, or in the West Loop/IMD – there’s a Marriott on the medical campus, for example), or even in suburban Countryside or Willowbrook (it might be worth it just this once to sleep outside the Loop, if you want to get any sleep at all: those Lolla folks party hearty, no matter where they’re staying).  On the other hand, if you don’t intend to sleep, by all means: hang around.  But expect to pay for the privilege – all too many hotels, restaurants and bars downtown will be capitalizing on the event and charging up the wazoo for whatever.  Don’t even dream about street parking.

Buckingham Fountain:  get a good look at it now, because you won’t see much of it behind all the stages, steel lighting scaffolds and thousands of sweaty, overindulging bodies surrounding it for three days.  (Photo courtesy of Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia Commons)

Buckingham Fountain:  Get a good look at it now, because you won’t see much of it during the 3-day Lollapalooza bash behind the stages, steel lighting scaffolds and thousands of sweaty, overindulging bodies surrounding it.  (Photo by Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia Commons)

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Route 66 update: pond dedication to a Route 66 hero a success


We did it.  At last!  Monday morning’s 10 a.m. dedication of Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge, IL came off without a hitch.  Even Mother Nature co-operated somewhat:  it was still a humid bad-hair day for some of us (yours truly included, no matter how much hair product I used), but the cool breeze off the pond took away from the growing heat of the day, making the morning quite pleasant.  Sitting on the west bank of the pond helped in that respect and gave us all a lovely view.

Schustek Pond with the new plaque, in all its glory (Photo copyright 2015 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

Schustek Pond with the new plaque  (Photo copyright 2015 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Louis Jordan


Happy birthday, Louis Jordan!  Cooler and hipper than Cab Calloway, who covered a number of Jordan’s many hits, Louis Jordan was one of the biggest black musical stars of the 20th century.  Those of you who don’t know about Jordan obviously don’t know about jump blues, either, in that case.  Jump blues, aka Jump Jive, was a genre of blues that led directly to rock ‘n’ roll.  Wikipedia’s bio of Jordan describes jump blues as “a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie” that often involved fast-talking, hip lyrics about black urban life.  It’s true, as Muddy Waters claimed, that blues begat rock, but it wasn’t Muddy’s style of blues, nor Bessie Smith’s, nor even that of B.B. King – it was jump blues, which makes Louis Jordan, as jump blues’ most successful exponent and innovator, at least the granddaddy of rock ‘n’ roll if not the actual father.  Even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized him as such in 1987.

Louis Jordan, circa July 1946  (photo courtesy of William P. Gottlieb via Wikimedia Commons)

Louis Jordan and his alto sax, circa July 1946  (photo courtesy of William P. Gottlieb via Wikimedia Commons)

However, Jordan’s music crossed musical lines, from blues and jazz to swing, big band, R&B and even comic ‘novelty’ songs.  He also crossed color lines:  Jordan was one of the first black entertainers whose records did well on the pop charts, and he did duets with several of his Decca Records label mates, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.  A gifted instrumentalist as well as a vocalist – who could sing a ballad as well as he could jive lyrics – he played piano, clarinet, and alto, tenor and baritone sax, though his instrument of choice was the alto.  He was also a bandleader and a clever songwriter, though he didn’t get credit or royalties for some of his songs (that was his own doing:  in an attempt to get around an existing publishing contract, he credited some songs, including the famous “Caldonia,” to his third wife, childhood sweetheart Fleecie Moore; but as that marriage was tempestuous and, thankfully, short lived – Fleecie stabbed Jordan on two occasions during domestic disputes, once near fatally – they soon divorced, but she retained ownership of songs she’d never written, much to his dismay).

Some performers come to music by accident or by desire, but not Jordan – he was born into it on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas, to Adell and James Aaron Jordan.  His mother died when he was young; his father, however, was a musician, music teacher and bandleader for two local groups, the Brinkley Brass Band and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and young Louis was surrounded by music before he could walk.  His father taught him music, starting with the clarinet, and as a youth he played in his father’s bands whenever school was out.  Jordan briefly attended Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, where he majored in music.  He also played piano professionally early in his career and played with other local bands, including Bob Alexander’s Harmony Kings.  When he moved with his family to Philadelphia in 1932, he played clarinet in the Charlie Gaines band and also did gigs with pianist Clarence Williams.

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Route 66 Song Of The Week, bonus edition:  Nat ‘King’ Cole


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Welcome to the holiday bonus edition of the Route 66 Song Of The Week.  Only a few days ago, we treated you to Natalie Cole’s take on her daddy’s big hit and our favorite road anthem.  But no sooner had we posted it than a hue and cry went up for Daddy Dearest.  Well!  This being the ultimate All-American Weekend, what with The Fourth, and it being the height of the road-trip season as well, how could we refuse? After all, who could beat the guy who held the title of King long before Elvis?

So:  by popular demand, we give you the definitive Nat King Cole and King Cole Trio’s YouTube version of “Route 66,” as uploaded by Gene Vincent’s Official Nat King Cole Fan Club.  This is clearly a filmed/videotaped version meant to look like a club date but is most likely a performance the group did for television.  It may even be from Nat Cole’s own brief TV show, which ran in 1956 and 1957.  It seems Cole was much more popular as a guest on other people’s TV shows and specials, at least where TV sponsors were concerned.

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Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Natalie Cole


Howdy, road music lovers!  We’re overdue for an installment of our favorite road anthem, and this week it’s Natalie Cole’s turn.  Given that her dad, Nat ‘King’ Cole, made this tune a big hit only a few weeks after Bobby Troup and his first wife Cynthia wrote it while driving down said route on the way to L.A. (Cynthia suggested the title), it seems only appropriate to feature the lovely Ms. Natalie right before the July 4th holiday.  Nat and his King Cole Trio were playing in L.A. at the time (yes, now you know how he got his nickname); before that, he and the trio spent a while making music in Chicago, a city to which Nat and his family had moved when he was four years old and to which he often returned.

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Route 66 update: Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge to be dedicated next week


It’s happening:  Schustek Pond will be officially dedicated to a hero of Route 66 next Monday, July 6, 2015, on the 85th anniversary of the selfless act during which Bruno Schustek lost his life.  The pond was named by the USGS’s Bureau on Geographic Names in April (that’s when we received the notification).  There are so many wonderful stories that have happened along Route 66 over the years, and it’s time for this one to be told to the larger world.

Starting at 10am, we and the staff of the North American Spine Society (NASS) will remember and honor this fallen pilot on the western shore of the pond.  The NASS headquarters stands next to the pond, about two miles northeast of another Route 66 point of interest, the historic Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket on Joliet Road/N. Frontage Road in nearby Willowbrook.

Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge, IL from Joliet Road/N. Frontage Road (Google street view)

Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge, seen from Joliet Road/N. Frontage Road  (Google street view)

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Route 66 calendar update:  Rivet Motors’ land jet takes off, car shows, cruise nights & more


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Well, we didn’t expect to be updating the calendar again so soon, but there have been more events added – and one change.  As you may already know if you tried to attend (as we did), the Romeoville Route 66 Car and Bike Show a few weekends ago was postponed due to the rainy weather.  Wow, there’s been so much of that here lately that Chicago is beginning to look like Seattle.  We’re waiting to see if Showcase Classics, the organizer, will reschedule the Romeoville show within the foreseeable future, most likely at Romeoville High School again.  Watch this blog for further details.

Also:  Did you know that the irrepressible actor and motorcycle fan William Shatner (yeah, that William Shatner, the one from the original Star Trek TV series and films, The Practice, Boston Legal, etc.) will begin a cross-country tour on June 23rd down the length of Route 66 on a new vehicle dubbed the Rivet One ‘land jet’?  Yes, indeed:  it’s a kind of streamlined, steampunk-style trike, with a detachable cockpit cover for bad weather.  Very different from anything he seemed to have piloted/helmed for the Star Trek franchise!

Apparently, all the futuristic stuff is under the hood this time.  The three-wheeled bike, which has some serious power (a V8 engine) between the driver and the front wheel, was designed by the folks at Rivet Motors – with input from Shatner – and American Wrench, an Aurora, IL-based custom motorcycle firm.   American Wrench has built bikes for others, including rock singers (e.g., Creed) and the guys on the Chopper cable TV program.  American Wrench is, in turn, owned by Illinois Auto Electric Co. (founded 1915), for which American Wrench’s Kevin Sirotek is VP of marketing and a fourth-generation stakeholder (that tells us it’s probably a family firm).  Their shop is located in an industrial area near IL 59 and Liberty Street, only a few blocks from Aurora’s Fox Valley shopping center.

Rivet Motors land jet, made in Aurora, IL  for a Route 66 road trip with William Shatner (no, seriously).

Rivet Motors land jet, made in Aurora, IL for a Route 66 road trip to be undertaken by William Shatner (no, seriously). (Illustration courtesy of Rivet Motors and American Wrench)

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