This Tuesday, among the thousands of classic rock fans who will be settling into their seats on May 28 at the United Center in Chicago to hear the music to be performed that night, two people from Des Moines, Iowa, Chris and Jenifer Owenson, will have made the trek to Chicago because, for them, the concert is all part of living the dream that includes an abiding devotion to the music of the Rolling Stones. For the Stones, Chicago is where they made history some 49 years ago. This week, they bring their “50 and Counting” tour back to Chicagoland for three nights, Tuesday, May 28, Friday, May 31, and Monday, June 3.
In the same week that the Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary with all of their faithful American fans, in the American heartland of rhythm and blues, Iowa music fan Chris Owenson is celebrating his 50th birthday, and he’ll joined at the United Center with the woman he loves most in the world, his wife, Jenifer. So what? Owenson is a classic example of how the music best described as part of the British invasion can and did change his life forever. Yes, it’s a big deal, at least to Chris and Jenifer Owenson, as Jenifer explained in an interview today.
There is undoubtedly a story like theirs in every seat in the house, just as surely as Chicago and the Rolling Stones have history together. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were just 20 years old when they first crossed the threshold that led them to Chicago’s iconic Chess Studios. They’d been influenced and moved by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and so many Chicago blues artists who’d been part of Chess Records’ signature sound coming from 2120 S. Michigan Avenue.
The Rolling Stones would go on to record “Satisfaction,” “Time is on My Side,” and other classic gold there in 1964. At Chess, they’d be recorded by Ron Malo, the same brilliant recording engineer who’d later record the first tracks by The Buckinghams, Chicago natives who’d reach #1 on the Billboard charts a few hundred days later.
The Stones are an example of how classic rock lives on, and on, and on again for those Baby Boomers who own every album, know every word to every song and live for a chance to sing them, some accompanied by an air guitar or in a karaoke setting. The energy, enthusiasm, and dynamic delivery of all of the Rolling Stones’ hits are as ever as much a part of the “soundtracks of your life” for American Baby Boomers as those of The Beatles.
Today, Jenifer Owenson shared a tribute of love she wrote about her husband, in advance of their going to the United Center to hear the Stones on Tuesday and it’s too good not to share “as is,” because it’s emblematic of how so many young men Chris’ age feel about the Stones and their music.
Said Jenifer, “What does a young man aspire to be when he grows up? For my husband, he would have loved to be talented enough to play an instrument, sing and be a rock star. His after school job as a kid growing up in small town Iowa, was in a gas station. There, while changing oil and filling gas tanks and washing windshields, he daily memorized a repertoire of rock tunes that played on the am radio in the Champlin Station. Still today, he knows the lyrics and artists to practically any song played on the radio during the 70s and 80s. He’s your man, for a game of ‘Name that Tune’.”
Jenifer continued, “While Chris imagined playing a guitar in front of large audiences of swooning women, his vocal and instrumental talents being virtually non-existent kept him from that dream. Instead, he did what every self-respecting music wannabe does: went into insurance. Don’t get me wrong, it has been good,” but his wanting to be one of the Rolling Stones has “dogged him into middle age.”
Owenson told a story that resonates with virtually anyone who’s dreamed of being a part of their favorite bands. “A couple of years ago, Chris and I donned our fancy clothes and headed to a black tie Holiday party at Wakonda. The Dweebs, a band we had never heard of before, were playing that night.”
There is a reason that The Dweebs deserve the title (at least in the entire midwest) of “America’s favorite party band.” Jenifer said, “As they started to play, the songs of my husband’s youth filled the Panorama Room. One by one they came, (Van Morrison’s) ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ (The Who’s) ‘Pinball Wizard,’ and then it happened…The Rolling Stones and ‘Satisfaction.’ The band members, with microphone in tow, entered the dance floor, seeking a willing accomplice.”
Jenifer said next, “A microphone was put in my husband’s face and he began singing along. The inner rock star took over. The tie was loosened, the jacket came off, and he bellowed the words for all to hear as he strutted the stage.” Chris would have made Jagger proud.
“The audience rallied behind him, prodding him on. Tears began forming in my eyes. To this day I have not confessed whether they were due to laughing hysterically, embarrassment, or the sheer joy of seeing someone live out their secret dream. I tell my husband it’s the latter. The band leader was trying to be a human teleprompter by giving him the words during the song. Little did he know that Chris didn’t need the words! These were words he had sung a million times rehearsing for this very moment. That night at Wakonda was one we’ll always remember. After Chris got down from the stage, the other Wakonda revelers shook his hand, patted his back, and for a very short moment in time, he got to ‘move like Jagger’.”
Everyone should have the chance, in their lifetimes, to see, and maybe meet, their musical idols live in concert. Even better is when there’s a chance to say “Thank you for giving me a lifetime of music.” Every fan sitting in the United Center in Chicago will have paid a substantial price to get into the doors. Others will have driven from “all over the place” to have reached that night. One thing is for sure. Chris Owenson’s wife, Jenifer, dearly loves her husband, and on Tuesday night, he’ll be living his dream, celebrating his 50th birthday as the Stones celebrate theirs.
Great music never dies. It just goes on and on. For Chris, Mick, Charlie and Ronnie, oh—and Chris, in Chicagoland this week, the party’s just getting started. To see the set lists from recent shows on this tour, click here. For remaining tickets, click here. If you’re headed to the United Center on Tuesday, before the music starts, just look to your left and then to your right and ask those next to you what “their” Rolling Stones story is. Odds are good they’ll have one to share.