July 17 is the 17th anniversary of Mark Hannon’s passing. It’s amazing to me how quickly the years have passed. I miss Mark, and think of him often. He loved life so much that sometimes it’s still hard to get it through my head that he’s gone. He visits me in the occasional dream. We hang out and just enjoy one and others company. When something is bugging me and I can’t let go of it, I remember what he would say to me repeatedly: “Harlan, you worry too much.”
I met Mark in the mid 1970s. For a number of years, he held court at Minstrels on Tuesday nights. Minstrels was a bar on Sheridan Road in East Rogers Park, with a 4:00 AM license. A number of musicians passed through Mark’s band, and that is where I first met bassist Michael McKeehan, and his musical partner, guitarist Tom Thady.
The Minstrels scene, and the Lincoln Avenue scene were both a lot of fun, and we were all young and immortal. Mark was a blues shouter. Mike and Tom lived more on the country music side of the fence, but they fit in well with Mark’s freewheeling style.
Mike passed away suddenly in mid March. It has become an all too familiar event to open up Facebook in the morning and be faced with this kind of lousy news. He was, quite simply, a good guy. Good at what he did, never displaying a shitty disposition or petty resentment, which made him a better man than I. I related to his dry, laconic personality, and always enjoyed talking to him.
Mike worked for decades at Carol’s Pub, a late night country music venue on North Clark Street. Having worked for years at the Kingston Mines, I understood the 4 AM bar scene, but the first time he asked me to come by Carol’s, I admit to being a little freaked out by the place. Years later, I started hanging out there more, regularly attending the Sunday jam nights.
I recently heard that a saying of Mike’s was “Don’t touch my bass!” I had never heard that before. Indeed, he always asked me to sit in on those nights, and always graciously invited me to play his instrument. I subbed for him on occasion, and appreciated that he would ask me to, as I wasn’t totally familiar with the band’s repertoire.
When Mike’s son Matt offered to sell me one of his basses, I hesitated because the last thing I needed was another instrument. But I knew all along that I would accept. It still has a bit of a smoky aroma, and when I cleaned it, some nicotine came off of it. It reminded me of my 2 pack a day past, and how I used to clean the gunk off of my guitars, from the windshield of my car, and God knows what else. It’s good that I gave smoking up more than 30 years ago, or I’m sure that even as premature as Mike’s passing was, I’d have departed first.
I’m honored to have something that belonged to Mike. And I hope he would be happy for me to play it.