IN THE END, ROCK ‘N ROLL is all about attitude and energy.Somewhere on his path from Prospect High School to “American Bandstand” and beyond, Jimy Sohns was gifted with an overload of both.He didn’t just sing songs. He defiantly summoned all of the suggestion of dark siding that a white suburban teen of the 1960s could.With Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” he told us about his baby. You know, she come around. Adolescent imaginations could fill in the rest.SOHNS DIED FRIDAY at age 75. Forty years ago, it was even money that he’d make 40.The Prospect Heights native did, with a relentless élan. His later life knew bumps and bruises. But his onstage attitude and energy held to its final coda.The classic backdrop of Sohns was a decade pulverized by LBJ, Vietnam and the political resurrection of Richard Nixon.The British invaded in large part because America needed some sort of distractive social Librium to enable it to crawl, catastrophized, away from the horror of JFK and Dallas.Two years later, with four mates from the Northwest suburbs collectively known as the Shadows of Knight, Sohns helped the nation kick-start a part of its restitched rock ‘n roll heart.”Sohns … James Sohns,” he was fond of offering as punctuation during live performances.Ian Fleming — the creator of “Bond … James Bond” — would have approved. The singer had that sort of holstered swag and compelling charisma.HE DABBLED IN BASEBALL at Prospect High (Class of ’64). But his enduring playing field would instead involve thumping bass lines three guitar chords and a cock’s strut.The great professional booster of Sohns’ ascent was a fellow named Paul Sampson. Sampson worked at the Arlington Heights Post Office. He also had the prescient ambition and good fortune to open the Arlington Record Shop on Miner between Dunton and Evergreen just before the Beatles hit.By the summer of ’64, Sampson didn’t need a weatherman to tell which way the local teen musical winds were blowing. He rented the main hall of the Arlington VFW on Northwest Highway to hold weekend teen dance sessions called “The Blast.”Sohns and the Shadows became a favored band. Under old guard heat at “The V,” “The Blast” was moved to temporary sanctuary at the Mount Prospect Country Club. Finally, Sampson rented a basement space at Eastman and Vail in downtown Arlington Heights and called it “The Cellar.” By popular consensus and Sampson’s business intuition, Sohns and the Shadows were designated as the house band.AS A LOCAL TEEN IDOL, his primary rival was a charmingly talented singer/guitarist named Ray Herr (St. Viator, ’65).Herr played in bands called Second Story and Orphanage. He was Jerry Mathers inside of a Paul McCartney mien. Herr eventually advanced on to Berwyn’s Ides of March in time for their national hits “Vehicle” (1970) and “L.A. Goodbye” (1971).But at “The Cellar,” teen girls were torn between Sohns and Herr. Years later, one of those young ladies — by then AARP-eligible — said: “Ray Herr was the guy we all wanted to cuddle with. But Jimy Sohns was the guy we all wanted to wind up in the back seat of a car with.”SOHNS GOT FIRST RUN on Herr when he and bandmates Joe Kelley, Tom Schiffour, Warren Rogers — the son of a Paddock Publications pressman — and Jerry McGeorge were summoned by Michigan-based Dunwich Recorsds to record a sanitized version of Morrison’s “Gloria.”

Read More


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: