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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Setting the legend of Molly Zelko to song

By Ted Slowik

Several weeks ago, I got the idea to write a song about Molly Zelko. She was a Joliet journalist who went missing on Sept. 25, 1957. She's a bit of a legend here, and I was fortunate to be a colleague of Herald News columnist John Whiteside, who did much to keep alive the story of the missing reporter.

John and Lonny Cain wrote a series of articles about Molly in 1978 that pretty much cemented her place in local lore. By the time I arrived in town in 1991, the names of Zelko and Whiteside were permanently linked. John died in 2005, so Lonny carries the mantle of the Molly story now.

Anyway, I thought the Molly story would make a great song. There was still the matter of writing it. I read up on the story, carried it around in my head for several weeks, but no ideas sprouted. Finally, the other day I made a list of key words associated with Molly's story, and that did the trick. A short time later a melody arrived, and I was able to write seven verses fairly quickly.

There's not much more to say. Here are the lyrics, and a link to the first video demo of the song. When I write, I tend to imagine melodies in a fairly low register, so I've yet to teach myself to sing this song in a more palatable range. Hoping to get that done by Wednesday so I could perform this at Tribes Alehouse Mokena on what would be the anniversary of Molly's disappearance.

Molly Zelko   by Ted Slowik

In Joliet there's a famous mystery
Handed down through time and history
A story whose ending nobody knows
Whatever happened to Molly Zelko?

She was a bulldog worked for The Spectator
Big Bill McCabe owned that weekly newspaper
Exposing corruption until one night
Molly disappeared out of sight

Screams at midnight on Buell Avenue
All they found were her black pump shoes
A missing person where did she go?
Whatever happened to Molly Zelko?

The mob ran the pinball and jukebox machines
A gambling crime syndicate industry
The boss's name was Frank Curry
He caught the attention of Bobby Kennedy

The FBI they poked around
J. Edgar Hoover dug holes in the ground
Some snitch in Stateville said he knew
But they never found any solid clues

Did she cash in and run away?
Or was she done in some other way?
She wore on her finger a diamond ring
17 carats a beautiful thing

Whiteside and Cain brought back the tale
In '78 to no avail
It's a story whose ending nobody knows
Whatever happened to Molly Zelko?

P.S.--I've now uploaded the first audio demo of the song, with a harmony vocal and a fake violin track:

P.S.S.--Here's a video of how I intend to perform the song:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Excited to announce two shows, and other updates

By Ted Slowik

This week's post includes news about upcoming shows, updates about the website and debut recording, and a little about other musical adventures this week.

First, excited to say I'll play a set at the Halfway to St. Paddy's Day show Saturday, Sept. 21 at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet. The fun gets underway at 5:30 p.m. and live music continues until 12:30 a.m. My slot's from 7 to 8 p.m. The lineup that evening includes Anne Hatfield, Gavin Coyle, Aly Flood, Scott McNeil, Chris Flood, Jeff Lindblade and John Condron. Many thanks to Flood Management Group for the invitation to perform!

This is my first time being asked to perform at an Irish-themed festival so I'm learning a couple songs I think will be appropriate for the occasion, though the set will be mostly originals.

Also I'm very excited to announce a show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Philip Lynch Theatre's new black box Studio Theatre at Lewis University, 1 University Parkway, Romeoville. I'll play an hour of originals opening for the up-and-coming band Jack Be Nimble. It's an intimate space, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play for an audience of listeners! Also thanks Jo for hooking me up with the gig, presented by the PLT's alumni Heritage Theatre Company.

Last week I wrote about launching a website, Ted Slowik Music, and I'm overwhelmed with the response from people! Many great comments about the excellent work of Brian Powers Photography, and why not--Brian's work is awesome! I mentioned that one cool part about building this site myself is that I can add content whenever I have something important to contribute, and this week I made a VERY important addition of a Beer tab.

You see, the acoustic Americana music I write, perform and record seems to go hand in hand with craft beer, so I've listed a few microbreweries whose products I enjoy. This isn't intended to be a definitive listing of the nation's many fine craft breweries, just a sampling of ones that I can vouch for. I do like beer, after all.

Speaking of recording, John Condron, Bill Aldridge and I are scheduled to wrap production on the debut studio recording later this month at Bill's Third City Sound in Joliet. We accomplished much during one long weekend in August, but it turned out we needed another day to finish. Between John's busy schedule of performances and Bill's work at the studio and on the road as bassist with The Vaudevileins, we haven't been able to schedule any time sooner to finish, which is no big deal. I've waited nearly 30 years to make my first studio recording as a solo artist, another month or two is no problem! Thanks to many who have inquired about the status of the collection, which will be called "Comfort Zone" and be available later this fall. The plan is to sell the six-song EP for $5 and make it available through the website, iTunes, at shows and other places.

And speaking of John, he and Pat Otto, Tom Maslowski and Don Nudi put on a great show yesterday at the Will County Celtic Fest at St. Joe's Park in Joliet. This lineup of talented players really fits John's music well, and it was a great time hearing the Old Gang Orchestra and other great bands perform and seeing many good friends. The turnout was phenomenal!

As many of you know, John hosts the weekly acoustic open mic on Wednesdays at Tribes Alehouse in Mokena at which I regularly perform. This past week I performed a set of bluesy originals, including "Stand Your Ground," about George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin and gun rights. I made a new video of it and shared it publicly this week, so check out the link if you're so inclined. I make a lot of videos of myself performing, mainly to hear the flaws and work on correcting them, but once in a while I share some of them. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Creating and launching a website is an important step

By Ted Slowik

I've learned a lot in the last two years. I've learned there's a lot more to becoming a professional musician than simply writing songs and playing music. I've discovered everything from developing a stage presence to understanding the importance of networking with other musicians to setting up a publishing company.

Now I can add website developer to my resume! Over the past several weeks I've been adding content to a website for my music, and on Friday I made it live. The site is called, appropriately enough, Ted Slowik Music and you can check it out at

When I decided several months ago to do some professional recording in a studio, I knew I'd need some professional photography for the collection. I know many photographers from my years as a journalist, so the hard part was choosing which one to ask. I worked with Brian Powers at The Naperville Sun, and he was one of the 26 let go when the Sun-Times eliminated its photography staff. I figured he could use the work, so I reached out to him.

We connected in early August, just before he moved out of state to finish his degree. He took many photographs in a studio in downtown Aurora over the course of a couple hours, and delivered a great deal of variety. I really admire Brian's work in portraiture, and knew he'd produce quality work.

Once he had edited the shoot and sent along the images I knew as soon as I saw his many pictures that I not only had what I needed for the album cover, but plenty of content for a website, posters, press articles and social media posts for some time to come.

While I've had experience using content management systems to add stories and photos to websites through my work in journalism and public relations, I'd never actually created a website from scratch before. I heard of from various posts--the first I think was by journalism professor Kay O'Donnell at North Central College (thanks Kay!)--so I checked it out and found it pretty intuitive. I chose a template and just started replacing content with my own.

The big advantage about doing the website myself, as opposed to paying someone else to do it, is that I know how to change and add content and therefore can update it constantly. When the recording is finished this fall, I'll add a store feature to the site and be able to sell the release. I still have many questions and things to figure out about that whole process of selling the record, but this week I'm celebrating the launch of the website.

The website is just one step in the process, but it's an important one. It feels good to get it launched! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cheers and support for Time and the New Romans

By Ted Slowik

Having delved further into songwriting, performing, recording and all that goes with it these past two years, I recognize and appreciate when others do things well. And the guys in the band Time and the New Romans do it all well. In fact, very well, methinks!

They have great songs to start with, and you should know by know it all starts with great songwriting. Then they're exceptionally adept at performing. And their recordings sound great. Check them out and see if you don't agree. You can start with their website and Facebook fan page.

Members of Time and the New Romans are bassist John Lauler, guitarist Bill Ryan, drummer Mathew Roberts and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Greg Woods.

I was introduced to the band through Bill, who is a regular at the Tribes Alehouse open mics with other friends like Ryan Olsson. Bill's quite a good guitarist. After hearing him play, and admiring the clarity of his tone and confidence and ease with which he picks out notes, I wasn't too surprised to learn he holds a master's degree in classical guitar performance.

Bill has an undergrad in music business from Millikin University, which is where Greg also went to school and majored in commercial music. After getting to know Greg, it turns out his dad Bob knows several of my older brothers and sisters from growing up and hanging out at Timber Trails Swim Club back in the day. Small world!

I really admire and appreciate the hard work, focus and execution of this band. Music can be appreciated at many levels. The level at which I appreciate this band recognizes the quality of the subtleties of their art, and understanding of what it takes to achieve that greatness.

Over the summer I saw them perform live at a release party for their debut collection, an EP that you can buy on iTunes and other places (look for details on their website). At that show I met the bassist, John, who lives just a few blocks away, it turns out. I played bass for many years and can assure you John is very good. It was great meeting other members of his family like his dad and brother, because that kind of support is very special and meaningful.

Since that show they've brought in a new drummer, Mathew, a friend of John's, which is good because you want the bassist and drummer to have a special connection. The guys just recently spent a week outside Champaign recording their first full-length album. You can read more about that process on their blog, in which each member and their engineer/producer share their impressions of the recording. I think it's great when a group shares in the creative process in a collaborative way.

They've also got some video of the project, and have released a short trailer of a documentary about the making of the album.

Time and the New Romans have a big, fun, orchestral sound at times, like on their song "Your Eyes." They can also create entirely different moods with their music, using beautiful sounds and techniques to spin wonderfully soft and relaxing tones. My favorite song on their first collection is "Begin."

Anyway, just wanted to spread the word about a group whose work I admire, and I hope you're able to check them out.