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Media: August 2023 • Road to Rock’s New Class

| July 31, 2023

The Illinois Rock and Roll Museum, Joliet.


The Illinois Rock and Roll Museum on Route 66 is going to induct a new class to the Hall of Fame on September 17.  This year’s musical acts include Earth Wind & Fire, the Cryan Shames, the Shadows of Knight, Nat King Cole, and Miles Davis. John Prine is being inducted into the songwriting category.

“Despite the words rock and roll being in the title,” Chairman of the Board Ron Romero points out, “we also include other musical genres. And it’s not just the artists themselves. Outside of musicians, we are also honoring disc jockey Bob Sirott and The Loop radio station for their support of the Illinois music community. Alligator Records will be honored as well.”

There are a few guidelines for what makes someone eligible for induction.

“They have to either be from Illinois or have significant ties to Illinois,” Romero explains.

This year’s inductees join the first two classes in the Hall of Fame, which featured musical acts Chicago, Cheap Trick, Ides of March, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, REO Speedwagon, the Buckinghams, Dan Fogelberg, Styx, and Chuck Berry. Bob Sirott joins his old colleagues Dick Biondi, John Records Landecker, and Larry Lujack in the disc jockey wing. The Loop becomes the third radio station, following WLS and WXRT.

Romero was inspired by other museums around the country.

“Obviously, Cleveland and Nashville were inspirations for the way they honor the history of music,” he says. “Certainly, Illinois has the pedigree for our own museum.”

And this is not just a virtual Hall of Fame and museum. They now have a physical structure.

“We bought a three-story building in downtown Joliet in 2019 and we’ve been renovating it,” Romero says proudly. “It’s the perfect spot, really. There are wide open spaces in the building, and it’s built like a tank. We chose Joliet for a bunch of reasons. One, it’s near a lot of highways. Right at Rt. 66 and Rt. 30, the crossroads of mid-America. There’s a lot of tourism that comes through here, and we wanted to contribute to the economic development of the town. I’m confident this will be a major destination. Although we’re not even completely open yet, we’ve had people come to visit us from places like Portugal and the Czech Republic, and New Zealand. I know when we’re fully open, we’re going to continue to grow and grow.”

It’s been a long arduous process to get to this point.

“This has been a grassroots effort from the beginning,” Romero says. “I didn’t come in here as a developer. I didn’t come in with millions of dollars. We now have over 900 charter members from 37 states. We have corporate and private donors. We have sales from the gift shop. This is what is driving me forward, being surrounded by people who are simply crazy about music—particularly Illinois music. There’s been great support from the local business community. We’ve still got a long way to go. Our total budget was $6 million and we’re only about a million and a half into this so far.”

By the end of this year, at least a portion of the museum will be open to the public. Some of it already is.

“We just got occupancy on the first floor,” Romero says. “The gift shop is open. We’re just now putting in exhibits on the first floor. We had a lot of infrastructure to improve first. We had to update the wiring. Put in breaker boxes. A grant from Com Ed allowed us to install LED gallery lighting instead of fluorescent tubes. By the end of this year, the whole first floor will be open. The top two floors will open over the next few years.”

The Hall of Fame will only be part of this museum when it fully opens.

“The Hall of Famers will have a special section that will feature their plaques, and there will also be exhibits. We’re a museum that happens to have a Hall of Fame, so it’s much more than just the Hall of Fame portion. We’ve been picking up stuff from bands like Styx and Cheap Trick and slowly but surely putting together these exhibits, and they are going to be very cool. We have some one-of-a-kind items.”

The excitement in Romero’s voice is palpable.

“I’m a kid in a candy shop,” he admits. “To meet these people and to see these great artifacts from the bands and their superfans. It really is like a dream come true.”

This year’s celebration culminates in the ceremony at the Rialto Theater on September 17 from 5-8 pm. Romero gave us a preview of what to expect.

“Don’t think of it as a concert,” he says. “It’s more of an award ceremony. There will be some performances. The Cryan Shames will be here. We’ve reached out to the others as well. Tom Higgenson of the Plain White T’s will be there. Two of Ramsey Lewis’ sons are coming out to honor their dad. The whole weekend will be a party. Rick Nielson’s son is playing that Friday night. There will be a record show on Saturday and then the ceremony at the Rialto on Sunday. People are flying in from all around the country. We want to make sure they’ve got lots to do.”

For more information or to donate or become a member, go to the website

-Rick Kaempfer



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