Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who’ve been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place.
I’ll be the first to admit that many of the artists I’ve covered for the Secret History of Chicago Music are obscure for a reason. Some played totally uncommercial music; some were ahead of their time, and thus out of sync with what was popular; some had members who lost the plot. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why late-70s rockers the Kind weren’t huge–all the ingredients were there. To borrow the words of guitarist and vocalist Sam Skora, they had a Beach Boys mentality, but a decade later–with a fifth of Blue Oyster Cult and the Sex Pistols, all bright and shiny with a new white shirt and tight sleeves like the Knack.
The Kind can trace their roots to the Belmont Heights area in 1975. A few years earlier, drummer Carlo Iaccino had formed the band Local 710. When that three-piece lost their guitarist, Iaccino hired Frank Jalovec, who came recommended by a local music teacher. The bassist in Local 710 then split, leaving the band in the lurch for an imminent gig, so Chris Massa learned all their tunes in two days (and ended up staying until the first version of the Kind dissolved in 1980).
In 1976, Local 710 changed their name to the Schoolboys and added keyboardist and singer Toby Rhodes. After auditioning 78 players to be their second guitarist, they hired Skora, who till then had been their sound man. The band officially became known as the Kind in late 1977 or early ’78, and shortly after lost Rhodes.
The Kind practiced on South Boulevard in Oak Park, sharing a space with legendary power-pop group Pezband. They bought a pink-painted mail truck at a local auction for $50 and started playing every gig possible: pool parties in Rolling Meadows, dances on downstate air force bases, suburban high school proms.
Skora describes each member’s influences in classic rock terms, comparing Jalovec’s glammy guitar to Mick Ronson from David Bowie and Ian Hunter’s bands, Massa’s heavy bass to John Entwistle of the Who, Iaccino’s swinging beats to Danny Seraphine of Chicago and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, and his own style to Neil Young and Jimmy Page. They got out of town as often as they could, working for a time with road manager Ed Chuman, who was also a pro wrestler and wrestling impresario. The Kind rubbed elbows with rock royalty, opening for the likes of the Raspberries, Skafish, and Off Broadway. At a Madison gig with Mitch Ryder (“Devil With a Blue Dress On”), they got a great crowd response–though Ryder, apparently trying to compliment the band, told them they were “well paced,” which left everyone scratching their heads.
Sadly, this version of the Kind properly released only one song, the catchy “She’ll Make Everything Right,” which appeared on the 1978 LP compilation WKQX Hometown Album Volume II. In 1979 the band recorded a jam session with Thin Lizzy front man Phil Lynott and touring guitarist Midge Ure (also of Ultravox), but Iaccino left that year, to be replaced by Sam Cortese. Despite label interest from the likes of Ovation, Polygram, and Bomp!, the Kind dissolved in 1980. Skora says the Bomp! contract still exists, unsigned because the band knew the end was nigh.
The story doesn’t end there, though! Jalovec asked if he could keep the Kind name and formed a new group in 1981, where he was joined by Frank Capek on guitar, Mark Gardner on bass, and eventually drummer Frank Sberno. This incarnation was much more commercial in sound, and opened for huge acts such as Duran Duran. Their self-titled debut LP, released in 1982 on their own Three-Sixty Records, had a glossy power-pop sound–not unlike the records Cheap Trick were making around then. The Kind also played ChicagoFest that year, the same day as Albert Collins, Joan Jett, and previous SHoCM subjects the Ashby Ostermann Alliance.
The Kind dropped a second album through Three-Sixty, Pain and Pleasure, the following year. On this slick LP, the band explores territory bordering on the melodic radio rock and hair metal of Enuff Z’Nuff or Loverboy. The second version of the Kind called it quits in 1985, after exhausting avenues for the distribution of their music.
But once again, the Kind saga wasn’t over. Beginning in the late 2000s, Skora assembled an archival LP of early sessions by the core late-70s four-piece, with a couple songs featuring Rhodes or Cortese. Over the course of several years, he and a few other musicians–including Massa–polished them up with newly recorded overdubs and the addition of old lead-guitar parts from live recordings. The result, entitled Volume!, came out through Skora’s Black Parrot Music label in 2018.
Jalovec played in classic-rock cover band the Legends until his untimely death in 1993–he was crushed by an escalator he was repairing at Union Station. Massa has worked with Uriah Heep, Marilyn Manson guitarist Zim Zum, and Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers. Cortese was a choir master in the Elk Grove community for many years, and Iaccino has settled in Elk Grove after a long stint performing in bands on the west coast–he’s collaborating again with Massa and Skora, and a few years ago he reunited Local 710.
Frank Capek, guitarist from the second, more popular version of the Kind, now plays in the classic-rock band Five Guys Named Moe. Sberno went on to teach tennis in Palm Springs, California, and Mark Gardner became the owner of venerable instrument shop Naperville Music.
Skora also continues to write, play, and produce from his current home in Perth, Australia. This fall, he says, he plans to release the Kind’s Thin Lizzy jam session (which includes a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”) on a Black Parrot Music compilation that also features other acts from that era such as B.B. Spin and the Odd. v
The radio version of the Secret History of Chicago Music airs on Outside the Loop on WGN Radio 720 AM, Saturdays at 6 AM with host Mike Stephen. Past shows are archived here.