My late father loved music.|
He adored big band and jazz performers and, with my mother, often enjoyed dinner and a musical show at Moline's legendary Plantation restaurant. The late Louella "Lou'' Faucett was a longtime Plantation staffer and a family friend. My father and Mrs. Faucett often debated the merits of the famous performers who graced the stage of what was once the area's premier nightspot.
Their musical back-and-forths always ended in agreement: The Val Eddy Duo, which featured the legendary combo of Val Eddy (DeCastris) and Homer Carlson, created the best music ever played at the gorgeous club atop Moline's 7th Street hill. The duo performed at The Plantation nightly from 1959 to 1971.
Carlson, it should be noted, passed in 2004 at age 80. Sadly, Eddy, known worldwide, died Monday, Aug. 4, at the age of 88. There will be a visitation for Eddy -- with jazz performances by friends -- from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at Fitzgerald Funeral Home, 1860 S. Mulford Road, Rockford. Visitation will be at Holy Family Parish from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. and burial at Calvary Cemetery.
"We had such wonderful times at The Plantation,'' Valeri DeCastris, Eddy's daughter, said via email while recalling her father's amazing career. She noted that Carlson and Eddy shared the stage for nearly 50 years. "When we lived upstairs, I felt like a princess walking down the grand staircase.
"We have fond memories of the Quad-Cities, and I went to school there up until my sophomore year of high school. My Dad absolutely loved his years at The Plantation.''
Eddy, humble and gracious to a fault, was self-taught on the bass, mandolin and banjo. He performed across the globe, was recognized glowingly across the United States and gave his life to his family and his musical calling.
Born at home in South Rockford's Italian neighborhood, Eddy began his illustrious seven-decade career in the 1930s with a mandolin he nailed together. Listening to his next-door neighbor, Gabriel Giorgi, father of state Rep. E.J. "Zeke'' Giorgi, play mandolin on his porch, Eddy was inspired.
Ever the adventurous spirit, Eddy performed with his first band at age 12, and, while in high school, he was invited to tour with the renowned Boyd Raeburn Band. His father nixed the idea, forcing Eddy to finish high school before allowing him to tour nationally with the Del Courtney Band. Courtney 's band featured vocalist Bob Vincent, who gained international fame appearing with Lawrence Welk.
During Eddy's early touring years, he worked alongside the great Jack Benny at Las Vegas and at the same venues as greats like Louis Armstrong, the Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Les Brown and Martha Raye. By his early 20s, Eddy was playing in music's big leagues.
A World War II veteran, Eddy played in the Army's Marching and Dance Bands, entertaining at USO events around the world. After World War II, he married the lovely Patricia Macaluso, an Arthur Murray Dance instructor, who Eddy said was responsible for his success. Patricia DeCastris toured with her husband and chronicled -- to the final detail -- every aspect of his career.
He then began his partnership with Carlson, performing at some of the finest clubs, resorts and hotels across the land. Adding guitarist Dave Pitta (Lamond) to the duo, the Val Eddy Trio starred in the "Song Shop,'' a live, five-night-per-week musical show that aired on Rockford's WTVO.
Eddy and Carlson remained on the national music scene well into their 80s, slowing only when Carlson took ill. Eddy, a band leader, vocalist and music instructor, performed music until June 2014. He was a personal musical favorite of former Deere & Co. CEO William Hewitt and his wife, Patricia Hewitt, from his days playing at the famous Plantation.
Debate is good. Opinions are always welcomed, but the book is closed on who was the best to play The Plantation. That honor goes to the great Val Eddy Duo.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or Jmarx@qconline.com
Memorials to fund scholarships
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to Val DeCastris in care of 918 Cunningham St., Rockford, IL 61102, to provide music scholarships for needy youths.
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