This is Part 2 in a continuing series of interviews documenting the Rockford Illinois music scene for an upcoming book currently in production…
By Theron Moore
My first exposure to Cheap Trick was my cousin holding up the “Dream Police” record he unwrapped on Christmas eve 1979 if I remember right. It wasn’t long after I saw the video for the title track “Dream Police” on maybe “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” or something akin to it and becoming a fan for life.
Cheap Trick is blue collar rock N roll at finest that embraced the Midwestern work ethic of “hard work pays off” and it did and it connected with the good folk of Northern Illinois who could relate to that. It wasn’t just the music of Trick they loved but the connection they had with the band and vice versa. They weren’t afraid to be seen in public and mingle with their fans.
I remember my first time meeting the band at a local McDonalds I worked at when they stopped in for dinner before heading to Poplar Creek Music Theatre outside of Chicago to open for Motley Crue on their infamous “Theatre of Pain” tour and before they left they passed out free tickets to those of us who could go. And all these years later, at age 64, Bun E. Carlos is still that hard working Midwestern rocker who embodies all of this and more.
Although he isn’t touring with Trick he’s still the hardest working man in rock today. His side bands include The Bun E. Carlos Experience, The Monday Night Band, Tinted Windows, Candy Golde not to mention a brief reunion with pre-CT band “The Pagans” (1966 to 1968). He’s the chief archivist of Trick history and a walking rock N roll encyclopedia and if I haven’t mentioned it yet, he’s one of the coolest, nicest guys you’ll ever talk to. This is Bun E. Carlos.
Church of the Necronomicon: In terms of playing gigs and attending rock shows in Rockford and Northern IL in general, when was it most fun for you? When you were established with Cheap Trick, when you were a kid or chasing the dream of a record deal?
Bun E. Carlos: Concerts were always fun to attend. Chasing the dream was fun and work.
Church of the Necronomicon: As a kid / young man in the 60’s and 70’s, what were the standout concerts that you attended in Rockford or Northern IL and where were they?
Bun E. Carlos: Byrds at Rockford College, Yardbirds at the Rock river Roller Palace, Cream in Beloit, Beatles, Stones, DC5, Who Hendrix in Chicago.
Church of the Necronomicon: What about Forest Hills Lodge, I bet you saw quite a few shows there. Did you catch the MC5 show by chance? Which bands do you remember seeing ?
Bun E. Carlos: I didn’t see MC5, had a college class that night. I did see Lovin’ Spoonful, The Vogues, lots of local bands at Sherwood Lodge.
Church of the Necronomicon: What were some of your favorite venues to see shows at in the 60’s and 70’s in Rockford?
Bun E. Carlos: Harlem High School, Rockford College, Ice Chalet.
Church of the Necronomicon: There were big time rock acts getting booked at Rock Valley College and local high schools back in the 70’s. Did you attend a lot any of those shows back then or did Cheap Trick keep you pretty busy?
Bun E. Carlos: I saw Delaney and Bonnie at RVC with Mitch Ryder and Billie Preston, otherwise didn’t see many school gigs.
Church of the Necronomicon: If you did show up to a concert were you in the crowd hanging out or watching the gig from side of the stage?
Bun E. Carlos: Always looking for the best line of sight.
Church of the Necronomicon: What local gigs did Cheap Trick do in Rockford or Northern IL in general that standout in your mind as memorable and why?
Bun E. Carlos: CT did gigs at over 50 local venues, when I counted them 10 years ago. Northwest Community Center was fun.
Church of the Necronomicon: Did you see the Ramones when they came to Rockford for the first time, in what, 1979? Had you heard of them at that time?
Bun E. Carlos: I saw The Ramones in 1977 with The Nerves opening at The Purchase on Main Street. Both bands were good, I was familiar with both bands.
Church of the Necronomicon: Is the local Rockford rock scene still vibrant now or how would you characterize it?
Bun E. Carlos: Slowly fading…….
Church of the Necronomicon: What’s the future of rock N roll in Rockford? Do you think the city’s economy is a factor?
Bun E. Carlos: Like all forms of topical pop music, I think rock is slowly getting older……..
Church of the Necronomicon: Any closing thoughts on local Rockford music you’d like to add?
Bun E. Carlos: Rockford’s always been a good place to play and has always had a good talent pool of players. As long as the schools teach music that shouldn’t change.