In an age of quick sound bytes and YouTube messaging, it’s nice to learn that inspiration can still spring from simply reading a book. Such is the case with Ken Dix who picked up “The Ride of Our Lives” and took author Mike Leonard’s message of “following your dream” and “doing it now” to heart.
Dix had always dreamed of playing on stage and decided then that it was time to stop hemming and hawing. He needed to get on the horn in order to reach his goal. So, on a wintry January day in 2007, Dix cold- called the owner of Peggy Kinnane’s Irish Pub in Arlington Heights and asked him to book his band in July with the assurance that he would fill the place up.
Once a date had been set, there was no turning back for Dix. He needed to recruit others for the July gig. He started hitting up friends in his Mt. Prospect neighborhood and asked if they would be interested in joining him on the Peggy Kinnane’s stage for a song or two. Pretty soon, he had a group of like-minded neighbors ready to take the stage.
The band was together, but they still needed a moniker. So when Peggy Kinnane’s pressed Dix for a name he came up with “Just Joken” since the core performers at their inaugural performance would be Ken Dix and Joe Cornelius.
Peter Lambesis, one of the neighbors recruited to play that night, recalled that “it was awesome with a lot of different musicians and singers stepping up to join in for a song or two and the project was a success. So much of a success, that we begged Ken to do it again and against his wife Katie’s wishes —who is now our biggest fan—he agreed and we have now been playing out now for over five years.”
Lambesis continued with the band’s colorful history as he noted, “Due to the lameness of the first name of the band, a lack of ambition to take the whole thing too seriously, and the enjoyment of coming up with new names, the band has changed its name for each gig—tailoring it to that event. We have started repeating some of the names out of laziness.” He added that, “My favorite name was for a Halloween gig we did when we named ourselves “Strangers with Candy.”
While the band’s name and 6-8 yearly engagements vary widely, they DO have an annual post-Thanksgiving gig at the place where it all began—Peggy Kinnane’s in Arlington Heights. That’s where the newly christened “Cold Turkey” will play on Friday, November 28th at 8:30 pm.
Their set list is equally diverse as the band “plays a variety of music from Johnny Cash to Mumford & Sons to the Talking Heads, some country, some Irish stuff, a couple of originals and a lot of covers that we grew up hearing on WXRT.” The set list is eclectic and the band of “9 guys and 1 girl” is so large that “we barely fit on some stages!”
As might be expected, the band is “just doing it for fun” and Lambesis said that, “While we get paid, it usually goes back into the beer tab or the purchase of equipment. “
Lambesis added, “We have been fortunate enough to have gone to Ireland with most of the band over the past 3 years and to have played in Westport, Ireland at Matt Molloy’s.”
At their October 14th engagement in Ireland, the group played as the “Chicago Cousins,” but the familial ties can be problematic when it comes to securing practice time. Lambesis said, “Collectively, the band members have 39 kids, most of whom are teenagers so it is tough to find time to practice but we usually try to get together once a week during the winter and the spring to learn new songs and try stuff out. Once my in-laws head to Florida after the holidays we move into their basement and set up a mini studio during the winter.”
Whether it’s the “Chicago Cousins” or their current incarnation as “Cold Turkey,” the fan base is “mostly friends, neighbors and relatives who like a good time.”
The band is comprised of John Leazer on drums, Mike Depa on bass, Dave Mack on accordion, fiddler Tim Meyer, Lambesis on keyboard, Joe Cornelius and Pat Moroney on guitars and Lorelei McDermott, Ken Dix and Todd Nuelle on vocals.
Peggy Kinnane’s is located at 8 N. Vail Avenue in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The phone number is 847-577-7733.