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Monday, January 09, 2012

Starting the Year with a Loss - RIP Neil Lifton

Back when I was fronting the Mystery Band, I walked into Duke's Bar in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, hoping to get a gig. I met Neil Lifton, who had taken over Duke's around 2004 or so. Neil turned a true skanky dive bar into a marvelous neighborhood music tavern. He was a passionate roots music fan and a passable guitarist. Neil and his wife, Mary, became pillars of the east Rogers park neighborhood and had a lot to do with the revival of the Morse Avenue/Glenwood Avenue music/arts district. The Mystery Band played Duke's many times until I shut the band down in 2010.

Neil died on January 3, 2012. He was 60 years old. He was an exuberant, fun-loving, hard-working guy. He did his best to help musicians. His tiny music room was the venue of choice for many up-and-comers, blues/roots/jazz players and the occasional star. Neil decided that his bar would be dog friendly; I remember a pooch howling along with my vocals during a gig one night. And always, Neil was a genial presence, setting the tone and keeping the patrons under control, mostly.

It is jarring when a friend dies suddenly. There will be a memorial for Neil at 5PM on January 2211 at the Lifeline Theater, 6912 W. Glenwood Avenue in Chicago. Duke's Bar is right next door....