By Jean Lotus
A benefit concert for prostate cancer awareness at WIRE on Roosevelt Road will pay tribute to the sports and musical heritage of the Roosevelt strip by honoring the late "Big John" McConachie Jr., 87, one-time proprietor of Berwyn's legendary Sportsman's Lounge.
The McConachies — Big John and Marge — ran the Sportsman's in Berwyn while raising their family in Forest Park. Later in the early 2000s they opened McC's at Madison Street and Beloit Avenue in Forest Park.
The McConachie family is part of a local restaurant and real estate dynasty. Big John's father, John McConachie Sr., opened the Pines Restaurant on Harrison Street in the 1930s. Cousins operated McConachie's Home Builders in Oak Park.
McConachie's son and namesake, Johnnie, a blues player and studio musician, helped set up the show with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Chicago to raise awareness of the disease that took his father. Materials on prostate cancer and the newest treatments will be available at the performance.
"People are afraid of prostate cancer," the younger McConachie said. "Some of my friends have it and are too scared to get treated." But helping his father deal with the disease over the past few years, he learned new treatments are less invasive and simpler.
"This event is a way to get the word out," he said.
Johnnie's career as a musician began at the Sportsman's, at 7039 W. Roosevelt Rd., during the '70s. Chicago Bears and Blackhawks team members would drop in at the colorful watering hole, as well as members of 16-inch softball team American Rivet and the Sportsman's Lounge Chiefs. The bar became a "hot music club" for a while, and Johnnie performed with local bands as well as promoting concerts and working as a studio musician for Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett.
After it was sold, the Sportsman's slid into decline. The McConachies opened McC's restaurant in 2003. Johnnie has lived his whole life in Forest Park, and sister Vicki Bertuca owns a beauty salon on Madison Street.
Performing at the WIRE benefit will be the Kid Blue Review: Bluesman Studebaker John and members of his band, Hawks, with Johnnie McConachie sitting in. Also playing will be Omega 3, a supergroup consisting of Ted Aliotta, of "Lake Shore Drive" fame, along with local rockers Terry McGovern, Christopher Mizyk, Herm, David Grundhoefer, and Rick Ippolito. Also playing will be the Marla Vickers Project, a country duo.
Johnnie said his father's death was a surprise to many who didn't get a chance to attend the funeral Mass, Oct. 20, at Divine Providence Church in Westchester.
"I was touched that the [Prostate Cancer Foundation] wanted to make this a benefit in his memory," Johnnie said.
What: Prostate cancer awareness night in memory of "Big John" McConachie
Where: Wire, 6815 W. Roosevelt Road, Berwyn
When: Saturday, Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.
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