This article appeared in the July 19 issue of the Chicago Tribune.
MARK HANNON, 53
Blues singer on North Side club circuit
By James Janega
Tribune staff reporter
July 19, 2001
From four o'clock joints on Sheridan Road to Buddy Guy's Legends in the South Loop, Mark Hannon rocked and wailed for more than 30 years in Chicago's blues clubs and restaurants. It was unpackaged and deeply felt. There were no roadies, no fancy equipment, just packed dance floors and rollicking good times with bands known to legions of underground fans if not many recording executives.
Through persistence and his own sunny personality, Mr. Hannon, 53, managed to become an oddity in Chicago: a white kid who made a name for himself performing in a town where blacks had ruled the blues.
When he died Tuesday, July 17, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after a long battle with lung cancer, he was an indisputable fixture on the North Side club circuit, a versatile singer and harmonica player as comfortable with fronting bands as backing others up.
He had played with Lefty Dizz and the late "Hound Dog" Taylor, led the Mark Hannon Blues Cannon Band and the Fabulous Fish Heads, and performed alongside such notable Chicago names as Lonnie Brooks, Son Seals, Dave Specter and Muddy Waters.
"He always had this great stage presence that was a pleasure to work behind," said Specter, guitarist and leader of Dave Specter and the Bluebirds. "He just had a passion for it, sang from the heart. He had such an appealing personality."
Mr. Hannon had been immersed in music since his teen years, when he riffled through the stacks at Rose Records in Wilmette for Little Walter and other blues LPs. A native of the Pittsburgh area who moved to Glencoe as a youth, Mr. Hannon graduated from New Trier High School in 1965 and recorded with the Durty Wurds on Chess Records the next year. His frequenting of South Side blues venues led to a three-year performing relationship with Lefty Dizz in the 1970s, while a stint with Taylor led to his forming the Mark Hannon Blues Cannon Band. He brought an energetic approach to the classic blues and rock he played, specializing in uptempo, rhythmic and danceable music.
Like many white musicians, he struggled against the stereotype that only blacks could play the blues with authority--a view he staunchly opposed. "Mark never thought about things that way. His thing was, that it wasn't a black or white issue. He always had the soul of a musician," said pianist Ken Saydak, who played often with Mr. Hannon. "To him, it was just the music he loved. He was a sincere and soulful performer. And he was absolutely charming so that he could go in front of any audience, anywhere, anytime."
Musicians who played with Mr. Hannon said he thrived on meeting people and lively conversation, and he brought the same interaction to the microphone. He told the Tribune in 1992 he knew he was doing his job when he saw customers tapping their feet.
"Music is a pure thing," he said in 1992. "I've never got burned out. Music makes me forget my problems."
He married the former Jane Sanders in 1982, some years after meeting her at one of his club performances.
He is also survived by two daughters, Katherine Jane and Carolyn Nicole; his mother, Katherine; two brothers, Lawrence and David; and three sisters, Merrick and Barbara Hannon, and Amy Yazbak. Visitation for Mr. Hannon will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie.
A memorial mass will be said at 11 a.m. Friday in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1071 Tower Rd., Winnetka.
A musical tribute will be held from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Beat Kitchen, 2000 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Mark was a bluesman; anyone who ever saw him gained a greater appreciation for the music that he (and we) love. He also knew how to have fun. In honor of his memory, I suggest we all have some fun with the music (and the people) that we love this weekend.
Peace to you all