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Backstage with Ron Onesti: Music-Bowl Champs

Ron Onesti: Music-Bowl Champs

As I have mentioned time and time again, I am the most fortunate guy on the planet!  I get to be around the music of my childhood, prepare my favorite recipes and meet many of my idols.

The music has also given me the opportunity to meet legends in sports and in business!  One group that regularly comes to mind is The Chicago Six, especially as Superbowl Sunday rapidly approaches.  The 6 was a group of hometown Bears and Blackhawks superstar musicians that loved to jam together, performing for charities and having a blast.

The original 1987 lineup consisted of: Chicago Bears’ ’85 Superbowl Champs Dave Duerson, Dan Hampton and Walter Payton.  Also in the band were Hawks’ legends Troy Murray, Curt Fraser and Gary Nylund.   They would do Motown and Classic Rock, thrilling audiences off the field in the same fashion they did at Soldier Field and the Chicago Stadium.  Just imagining “Sweetness” (Walter Payton) bangin’ away on the drums to “Sweet Home Chicago” gives me musical chills.

But as we lost Payton, and the years went on, the group went somewhat by the wayside until Hampton enlisted two of his Superbowl buddies and put the band back together.  The smooth and sultry vocals of Otis “Mama’s Boy” Wilson and the brash Southern-Rock guitar of Steve “Mongo” McMichael joined Hampton with three other local musicians to keep The Chicago 6 alive.

I hired the band for several gigs including an opening slot for Eddie Money at The Arcada Theatre.  As big of superstars as they were, they were starstruck at the guy who made “Two Tickets To Paradise” a household song.  Aaaaand they rocked the house!  This new lineup created a fabulous show-band with a variety of material suitable for any audience.  They wrote some original material that were parodies of classics, poking fun at the team, “Da Coach” (Ditka) and themselves.  Hampton did the classic rock, Otis performed Motown faves and Mongo did the country-rock thing. And of course, their rendition of the “Superbowl Shuffle” got EVERYONE out of their seats!

The chemistry those guys shared on stage was magical, especially because of the guy who stole the show, Steve McMichael.  His sense of humor and “Big O’l Teddy Bear” demeanor won the hearts of everyone present, including his teammates on stage. It’s hard to imagine these burly, macho guys on stage swaying to the Temptations hit, “My Girl” were the same members of that unbeatable defensive wall of the ’85 Bears that instilled fear in every 350-pound opponent they faced.

Now, as Steve faces the toughest battle of his life, we pray for him daily.  His bout with ALS has gotten the best of him physically, but has not tarnished that spry spirit he has always been known for.

I think about the times we did the music thing together.  Dan is such a pro, the reason why it remained together as long as it did.  These guys had fun.  They had nothing to prove, and it sure wasn’t about the money.  It was the thrill of performing and the opportunity to spread joy that fueled their musical fire.

I’ll never forget those times.  I have worked with the best of the best when it comes to rock stars.  But nobody will have the heart that Dan, Otis and Steve had up on that stage, and under those lights.  We will always be in their debts…Ditka, McMahon, Dent, The Fridge, Singletary, and those other guys on that legendary ’85 team for what they gave to us Chicagoans.

But I will always have a special place in my heart, and a place in my soul for the musical memories they created with their guitars and bongo drums.  The Chicago 6 were champs in their own right.  They experienced joy and pain, but just like the professional they are, they never let either get in the way of giving the fans their all.

There are many people in this world with microphones, there are fewer with Superbowl rings.  But how many have both?