Home Rock music Rock critic Don McLeese looks back on his path to sobriety

Rock critic Don McLeese looks back on his path to sobriety


Image courtesy of Ice Cube Press.

Chicago native Don McLeese has chronicled the hard-core music scene for decades, including his stint as rock critic for the Sun-Times.

What is happening: McLeese will discuss recovery, rock and cover the local music scene with Monica at Hideout on Wednesday evening.

  • We asked some warm-up questions:

Q. What inspired the book?

  • “Trying to figure out how the worst day of my life became one of the best days of my life. I often understand something better by writing about it.”

Q. What surprised you about the process?

  • “How one thing in my life led to another, including parts of my life that I hadn’t thought about in decades that almost seem to have happened to another person.”

Q. What do you want people to get out of it?

  • “That you don’t have to be a drunk for sobriety to change your life in a very rewarding way. But I hope more generally that they consider it a story worth telling and well written.”

McLeese’s Greatest local rock bands of all time?

  • “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: I could give a long explanation of their rock heritage and their crucial connection to Bob Dylan.”
  • “Cheap Trick: Yeah, Rockford, but good enough to get over that distance.
  • “The ever-expanding universe of Jon Langford’s bands: he came to Chicago after I left and made a deep impression on the city’s music, art and culture.”

Readers’ responses to the same question:

Paul T.: “Anna Fermin and Trigger Gospel. Fermin had a soaring voice that made me think she might have Linda Ronstadt DNA swirling around in her body. One night at the album release party of Fitzgerald, his Filipino family showed up with food and fed the audience!

Arianna V.: “What about fruit bats?

Maggie B.: “Hi Fi & The Roadburners, Rockin’ Billy & the Wild Coyotes, Three Blue Teardrops, The Moondogs, Moonshine Willy, Material Issue, The Mummies, The Slugs (of Hyde Park!) whatever Phil Angotti was into, Love Kit, The Elvis Brothers, Deal’s Gone Bad, The Aldermen, Shellac.”

Parenthesis oxen

Here are some people who had trouble with matchups in our recent tournament to best determine Chicago Group:

Jen P.: “These are unfair confrontations! Urge Overkill was a fantastic band but Chicago is THE band from Chicago. And Naked Raygun versus Wilco? Wilco is the darling of the past twenty years but Naked Raygun was huge for us older readers!”

Jon C.: “I’m not saying any particular band should be kicked out of the ballot, but pitting Ides of March against Earth, Wind, and Fire in the first round didn’t do those two great bands any favors. Based on quality other matchups, they should each have reached at least the quarter-finals before facing each other.”

Maggie B.: “Are you going to harm Jim DeRogatis and not mention VORTIS?”

  • “Oldies: If you’re going to have the Ides of March, where are The Buckinghams, Cryan Shames and Shadows of Knight? Buckinghams & Cryan Shames have always been a big combo list for Magic 104.3 summer shows.