Sly Joe doing his thing

Sly Joe doing his thing

BY George Halas

The Inquisition begins this month with an expression of gratitude to The Universe for allowing participation in something that greatly transcends the usual fabulousness of this column and is generating a significant amount of positive energy throughout the greater Fox cities area…and beyond.

If metaphysics is not your thang….howzabout fun and good times in the service of a great cause?

Either way, The Inquisition is feeling blessed to present Jonapalooza for your review and consideration.

Jonapalooza is a series of upcoming events designed to support the family of Jonathan Leahy, a musician, teacher, husband and father. Jon has been fighting multiple myeloma since being diagnosed in April and will need stem cell transplant. The money will go to help the family with expenses while he is recovering.

The Inquisition has been very impressed on multiple occasions by the generosity and support of the musicians and bands in the area as well as the willingness of all to get enthusiastically involved. Positive energy is generated en masse – a great vibe, if you will – and the spirits of all are lifted. June’s Gepstock serves as a perfect example.

Regular readers know that for effusive wisdom and insight, the first call is to Stevie March-Torme to explain why this is a very good cause and worthwhile endeavor.

Ask Your Mother not taking no for an answer

Ask Your Mother not taking no for an answer

“I’ve been doing business with and been friends with Todd and Dede Heid for at least five years now and one of the people who always helped me at Heid Music when I’d come in to see a guitar or piano or just to ask for info on local musicians was Jonathan Leahy,” March-Torme recalls. “I knew from friends that we was a fine drummer and I eventually hooked up with him to give me drum lessons. He was not only helpful but he was patient (trust me, that was an absolute prerequisite for this gig!) and often went beyond the time we were scheduled for to make sure that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing to “get it.”

“When it came time for me to put together my Paul McCartney Tribute concert this last year,” he continued, “I looked for someone who could play guitar, who could sing and who had at least a pretty good familiarity with the Beatles’ songbook. I asked Jonathan if he knew anyone who’d fit the bill and without hesitation he came back with ‘well, what about me??’ I should’ve known better. Not only does he play guitar really well, sing harmonies and know those songs but if I’d needed another keyboard player, he could’ve filled that bill, too. He’s one of the most versatile musicians I’ve ever met, he’s humble and he’s a team player, a trait that is not always found in even the best of players. Despite being considerably under the weather, he did a great job in the concert and continues to be my friend, which is a lot more important to me than being able to play the lead on “Drive My Car.” Jonathan is what I call an “aces” guy and I don’t know anyone who’s interacted with him who doesn’t feel the same way. I plan to be his friend for a very long time.”

Jonapalooza kicks off with a musical extravaganza Saturday, November 1st, from 2:00 p.m. until midnight at The Algoma Club in Oshkosh. Some of the best bands in the area including Sly Joe and The Smooth Operators, Erin Krebs and Jeff Johnston, Ask Your Mother and Men In Suits have already committed to perform.

Jonathan Leahy

Jonathan Leahy

“We’re glad we can help Jonathan and his family,” said “Sly” Joe Slyzelia. “He’s an incredibly dynamic, talented musician whom we’ve been fortunate to share the stage with on several occasions. One Smooth Operator for sure! A caring father and husband, and a good friend for many years, we all wish a full, speedy recovery for Jon and his family.”

“I didn’t even hesitate to donate my time for the benefit to help their family,” echoed Krebs. “First off, I have known Jon and (wife) Jenn since college and have done gigs with Jon. He’s a great drummer and musician! In addition, I realize that there’s not only large medical bills involved, but also the missed income from time they need to miss work. As a musician, and in many part-time jobs, when you can’t work you, don’t get paid. There are no built-in sick days. That’s got to be especially tough and stressful when you have increasing medical bills. So I am very glad to be a part of this event to help raise money and show support for them during this tough time.”

The event will also feature raffles, auctions, CD’s for sale and a five dollar cover will be asked. The Inquisition notes that these events, once the vibe gets going, tend to be “organic” and fully expects more of everything – fun, musicians, etc. to be added after we go to press.

A second event, Neenahpalooza, will take place on Thursday, November 13th, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at five venues featuring five different musical styles on Wisconsin Avenue in Neenah. The Copper Still Bourbon Bar will host blues band Tin Sandwich, The Paper City Pub will showcase pop rock vocal duo ON2, piano virtuoso Noah Harmon will play at Uncorked, rock band Kyle Megna and The Monsoons will play at Greene’s Pour House, Cannova’s will host an artist to be named and The Holiday Inn Riverwalk has some of the best jazz players in the area including pianist Mike Kubicki, trombonist Ken Skitch, bassist John Gibson and drummer Danny Lueck as well as other very special guests.

(As we go to press, musicians, bands and venues are continuing to get involved, so an additional venue or two may be added and more musicians and bands will be added to the mix….yes, organic)
“I’ve known Jonathan for years as a fellow musician,” Kubicki said. “What can I say – he’s a gem. Most recently, Jonathan and I got to work together on Steve March-Torme’s “Here, There and Everywhere” Beatle tribute project. He played just about every instrument during the course of the show – and all of them well. Really talented guy, and yet really humble and selfless about the music. And anyone who knows him knows that he brings a positive energy with him wherever he goes – he just gives off a good vibe. Of course, it is an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this benefit for Jonathon.”

men_in_suitsFuture Neenah will provide assistance with publicity and promotion, but expect others to follow the lead of Bob Gillespie, co-owner of Knox Furniture Gallery in Neenah, who, upon hearing of the events, asked “what can I do to help?”

Jean Detjen, Director of Marketing and Communications for The Community Blood Bank in Appleton and a major player in the Mile of Music festival is planning an event but details have not been finalized as yet…please look for information on all these events on Face Book , and other media. If you are interested in donating prizes or helping at events, post on the Jonapalooza Face Book page, contact one of the bands or venues, and/or simply show up at one of the events.

Jenn Leahy got the Jonapalooza ball rolling, but did not anticipate the huge and growing out-pouring of support.

“This whole process has been a lesson in humility and gratitude,” she said. “The number of people that have shown their support for us is overwhelming and ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem enough. We will forever be grateful.”

Based on previous experience, The Inquisition is certain that, better than the music, the fun, the prizes, the greatest value to anyone who participates will be the positive energy and the sense of community that will remain long after the fun is over. It is one of the best buzzes… ever.

George Halas is a writer for the Scene.

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