Sunset Concerts start the rock off right on Thursday night

By Gus Bode

Rock on the horizon

The Sunset Concerts will begin to roll on Thursday at Turley Park, marking the 24th season of humid, dusky entertainment – not to mention booze-addled fun, in spite of a dispute concerning alcohol last semester.

A recommendation by Chancellor Walter Wendler to ban alcohol at Sunset Concerts was overturned when the city council voted four to one against the proposed ban at Turley Park.


The concerts are a joint venture between the community of Carbondale and SIUC. They begin this Thursday when six men will unpack their briefcases at 7 p.m., and open a Pandora’s box of rhythm and blues. The horn section has been described as “dangerous,” and the lead singer is said to have a “teddy bear quality,” despite his 6-foot-5, 370-pound stature.

One of those dangerous horn players is Don Tenuto. He has been playing the trumpet off and on for 30 years. Every so often, he’d take a break to work a regular job, but the band has been full-time for about 20 years, Tenuto said.

The Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings won’t just be leaving the Windy City to rock out down South. Some of them will be returning to a blues legacy left behind before 1993.

“Some of the fellas [sic] started in Carbondale with Big Twist,” Sally Wright, superintendent of recreation with the Carbondale Park District, said.

Formerly the Mellow Fellows, the Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings were the power behind Big Twist, a legendary soul and blues singer who passed away in 1990.

Tenuto describes the music of CRBK as “feel-good music with a good beat,” but more importantly, he just wants people to be happy when they leave. The group’s influences range from the old masters Miles Davis and B.B King to modern names such as Eric Clapton. The sound comes from the heart of Chicago, but other styles can be heard as well.

“It’s not necessarily traditional; we’re trying to keep the blues alive,” Tenuto said. “We’ve got a Chicago R&B sound, and the horns give it that Memphis flavor.”


CRBK has played every major blues club in the Chicago area and in Carbondale more than once. The venues run from Buddy Guy’s Legends and the Slice of Chicago to Carbondale’s Turley Park. Tenuto said the band always looks forward to playing here because some of them still have family in the area.

“If the audience is out to have a good time and dance and tap their feet – we’re the band for that,” Tenuto said. “Hopefully, we’ll make new friends in the process.”

The Sunset roster has six concerts slated for the summer, but there will be no concert on July 4. This will be the first time that there has been no concert in the middle of the series, said Don Castle, university programming coordinator.

“The Fourth happened to fall on a Thursday this year,” Wright said. “We decided not to hold a concert as to not compete with other city events like the fireworks.”

The concerts will be shifting weekly between Turley Park, on Carbondale’s west side, and Shryock Auditorium, on the SIUC campus.

“The history behind the entire concert is that it’s an activity that is both campus and community oriented,” Wright said.

Reporter Arin Thompson can be reached at [email protected].