Even before he wrote The Chicago Music Scene 1960s and 1970s (Arcadia Publishing), Dean Milano could claim that he "wrote the book" on music from back in "the day."
Milano, 58, of Elmhurst, is a new author but a veteran musician, part of the Chicago music community since his early teens.
Estimating that he has played with upwards of 75 bands of all genres, Milano made a living as a full-time musician for over 20 years. He has played rock 'n roll, folk, country and western, jazz, show tunes, Cajun music, and more.
"Years ago, in the '60s, you were in one band. Then, about 1980 or '81, the work started to get slim, not enough to keep one band busy. So musicians started jobbing with different bands, and even forming different bands for various (styles of) music," he said.
Milano subsequently worked as a product developer for Revell-Monogram, designing model series, kits, and writing descriptions and instructions. He opened a Toy and Model Museum, which he operates as an online business at www.toys-n-cars.com. But, even during the lean times, he always kept playing music. Well-respected as a bassist (upright and electric), Milano has emerged as a singer-songwriter in recent years, releasing two albums of original material that has seen widespread airplay.
But Milano couldn't forgot the way things used to be for musicians in the Chicago area, how vibrant and busy all the musicians were in the '60s and '70s.
"Then, in June of 2008, a friend of mine, Rusty Ward, showed me a book he had written on the history of Glen Ellyn. I was really impressed. But my wife said, 'You're such a good writer, you could write a book.'"
Milano thought about her comment, and soon knew what topic he could write about: the Chicago music scene of the '60s and '70s, something he knew all about and which he had personally experienced. Running the idea by Arcadia Publishing, who had published his friend's book, Milano got the green light to go ahead with his project.
"Arcadia publishes 'pictorial image' books. I liked the concept of the photos with the acts," said Milano. "I decided I wanted to give recognition to all of the players who did so much for music, many who aren't recognized any more."
Milano's book was released on Nov. 9, and is now on the shelves at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and also available through amazon.com. With Lonnie Brooks on the cover, grooving before a crowd of enthused onlookers, the book is chock full of vintage photos, many from private collections. Milano's succinct but descriptive text revitalizes all-but-forgotten bands like H.P. Lovecraft and Bangor Flying Circus. There are scenes from the Old Town School and The Earl of Old Town, the Wise Fools Pub, among many others. There are also a few youthful pictures of the author, at his first paying gig at Richards Restaurant in Berwyn in 1966, and later with the rock band, Grope. Chapters cover folk and acoustic, blues, R&B, soul, country, bluegrass, jazz, big band, rock and pop.
"It's great to look back at these pictures, as opposed to just pages and pages of text. You can almost hear the music just by looking at the faces. The people I've shown the book to can't put it down, can't stop looking at it," Milano said. "What's really cool is that some bands from that era are getting back together because of the book, like the Roseland Band."
A Chicago Pop Festival is being planned for spring, which will feature more than 50 vintage and ongoing acts included in Milano's book.
The Chicago Music Scene 1960s and 1970s
By Dean Milano.
Book launch and Pop Festival preview party 1-6 p.m. Nov. 22 at The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, Chicago. Book signing and concert 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Guitar Works, 709 Main St., Evanston. Book signing 1-3 p.m. Nov. 14, at Barnes & Noble, 1550 W. 75th St., Downers Grove and signing with music at 9 p.m. at Gabe's Backstage Lounge, 214 Green Bay Road, Highwood. www.chicagopopfestival.com.