BB Bugaloo

BB Bugaloo, Chicago ’93

I was introduced to BB Bugaloo by Vince Salerno in summer of ’85.

BB was born Justice Obed, living in Takoradi, Ghana near the central western coast of Africa. Friends from his soccer team heard him singing to James Brown and Sam Cook songs in a nightclub. One of them played bass in a local band and invited him to audition. BB joined the band and they were soon opening for one of Ghana’s top acts, BB Dynamite. Around this time, Justice Obed became BB Bugaloo.

The band quickly gained a following. It was said that BB Dynamite had the showman moves, but BB Bugaloo had the voice. Soon the band was touring extensively. First, throughout Africa, then across Europe with extended stays in France, Sweden and Italy. In 1979, a member of the American consulate saw BB performing at a nightclub. He complimented BB, and promised that if he ever wanted to take his talent to the US, he would help him with his visa.

BB arrived in the states in spring of 1980, spending a short time at Berkeley School of Music in Boston. After his money ran out, friends convinced him to join them in Chicago. BB was soon fronting African reggae band, Asafo, playing African expat bars on the south side at night, during the day parking cars as a garage attendant. That’s where he heard Vince practicing his sax under the Columbus Drive bridge, and invited him to join them.

In the summer of 1985, BB went into the studio with Asafo to record his first American album. The project was produced by Eric Schuurman for African businessman Robert Barimah Minta who released it in Europe.

Vince and Eric have since collaborated with BB on numerous recordings and performances in Chicago, and a festival appearance in Sopot, Poland.

BB is currently living in Ghana.

Soul Roots
  • Love Dangerously by BB Bugaloo
  • Mr. Pitiful by BB Bugaloo
  • Brand New Cadillac by BB Bugaloo
  • Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Sad Song by BB Bugaloo
  • Love Dangerously Demo by Eric Schuurman

Richard Schuurman Article

A successful insurance executive, Barrington resident Richard Schuurman decided to leave the business world and now commutes every other week to Washington D.C., where he uses his managerial skills to help improve housing for the city’s poor.

The Sunday Herald
November 2, 1980

A Closer Look
Richard Schuurman:
Turning inner city despair into jubilation

by Anna Madrzyk

“The place was really in bad shape. Like no heat, no hot water… We would get up, and we would have to heat water to wash up in the morning; plus we would have to turn on our ovens to keep warm. It was just terrible.

We didn’t have any security in the halls, and addicts were running in and out. I was afraid for my kids to just come over here and visit… I wouldn’t dare to open my door, because so much went on in the hall. Addicts were beating up their girlfriends and things. A man got hit, beat up. Right in front of my door.”

Viola Taylor is black, middle-aged and poor. She lives with her husband, Charles, in a Washington, D.C. ghetto just two miles north of the White House.

But today, the rat-infested, crumbling apartment building the Taylors moved into is an inner-city success story, rather than a pit of despair.

It was purchased by Jubilee Housing, Inc., a non-profit organization that grew out of a small church’s mission to help the poor.

Since 1973, Jubilee has bought several slum buildings and, through the efforts of tenants working side-by-side with volunteers from across the country – including a contingent from the First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights – is turning them into decent places to live.

Jubilee’s unique approach to inner-city housing rehabilitation spurred big-name corporations and high-powered legal firms to offer financial help and donate their expertise. It attracted such Washington, D.C. movers and shakers as First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Washington Post Publisher Katherine Graham and former Secretary of State William Rogers to serve on its support committee.

And it inspired Barrington resident Richard Schuurman – a 54-year-old former executive whose career included nine years as president of an Oakbrook insurance firm – to change his life.

At a time when most people would be looking forward to a few years on easy street, with their children grown and heavy financial responsibilities over, Schuurman accepted a volunteer position as director of Jubilee’s development office.

He spends every other week in Washington, leaving his spacious suburban home – with its view of 2 1/2 wooded acres, spectacular sunsets and a water lily pond stocked with golden fish – for the inner-city of the nation’s Capitol. There, he sleeps on a mattress in a small row house right in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood that Jubilee is helping rehabilitate.

“The first night there I was very, very apprehensive,” Schuurman recalled. “If you’re afraid of roaches, you’d better stay out of the whole area. It’s just a way of life out there.”

He pondered the decision to leave the business world for months before joining Jubilee. “I guess I look at life differently than when I was 24 or 34 (years old),” Schuurman explained. “I just came to a point where I said, ‘what’s this all about?’ I was not particularly unhappy with what I was doing, but I just didn’t find anything really fulfilling in it anymore.”

“It was a difficult decision. It meant shifting my whole life, turning it around 180 degrees.”

Schuurman says he had the complete support of his wife, Ann, who has her own business: three very successful employment agencies, located in Barrington, Streamwood and Elgin.

“I had to work through the idea of working for a pittance while my wife would be the chief breadwinner, because we live in a culture where your identity is tied in with your breadwinning activities,” he said. “It was my problem, and I am so thankful I was able to work through it. We still have an adequate income to live the way we always did… I can’t say it was a great sacrifice in that sense.”

As director of development for Jubilee, Schuurman will be traveling around the country during the next few months with his associate, a tenant of one of the apartments, seeking desperately needed funds from selected private foundations and firms.

He’s In a race against time, because the strategically located Adams-Morgan neighborhood is rapidly changing. Already, there are $180,000 townhouses going up across the street from tenements. Soon, Jubilee officials fear, rising property values will push the cost of the apartment buildings way out of the non-profit organization’s price range. The process of “gentrification,” Schuurman says, threatens to leave Washington’s poor “with literally no place to go.”

Jubilee’s goal is to secure 20 percent of the housing in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood for poor families. To achieve it, the organization must complete an ambitious five-year expansion program, which will require raising $3 million in funds just the first year. Currently, Jubilee owns five small apartment buildings in Adams-Morgan and a sixth dwelling in another neighborhood.

While other inner-city rehabilitation projects have reverted quickly back to slums, Jubilee is successful because it requires that residents assume responsibility for their living conditions, Schuurman said. Renovation projects patterned after Jubilee have started in Denver, Louisville, Baltimore and Alexandria, Va.

“This is not a matter of a group of middle-income people who come into a neighborhood and want to ‘do good,'” he said. “We have a very deep commitment to getting these people to help themselves. We require the residents to attend classes, learn how to handle the operation of the buildings, preparing them to take over the building as time goes by as cooperative housing and eventually to own the buildings themselves.”

Resident Viola Taylor, who serves on two committees for her building – admissions and construction/maintenance – was taught how to spackle and paint by her husband Charles, who is chairman of the construction committee. “I don’t mind working, trying to make the hall look decent. I feel proud,” Mrs. Taylor told a Jubilee staffer who interviewed her for a publication.

Some residents were suspicious of Jubilee at first, Schuurman said, and there are still a few who are just “along for the ride” and don’t do their share of the work. But overall, participation is good and many residents are deeply involved. Besides decent housing, Jubilee offers below-market rents for residents whose family incomes average $5,000 to $6,OOO a year.

The Jubilee approach to improving the quality of life for ghetto residents is “holistic,” Schuurman said, encompassing a variety of social services as well as housing. In the neighborhood, there is a Montessori School for damaged children, a nutrition program for the elderly, a health clinic and Potter’s House, a combination bookstore-coffeehouse that was the first mission of the Church of the Savior, the tiny, ecumenical church on Washington’s Embassy Row that launched Jubilee.

Once a year, the Washington luminaries on Jubilee’s support committee attend a dinner with residents. “It’s dynamic to watch those with power sit down with those without power and see what happens,” Schuurman said. “They discover they have a lot in common – Mrs. Carter’s got Amy just like Rosa Hatfield’s got her four children, and the problems are the same.”

Like the other successful businessmen who have become involved in Jubilee’s work and who discuss their feelings about it on a 12-minute promotional tape used in fundraising efforts – Richard Schuurman finds his new job absolutely fulfilling. It has “deepened my spiritual life greatly,” he says.

“Up to now, I guess, I gave to the causes the church supports but I never had a sense of personal participation in it,” Schuurman said. “There’s a great deal of difference between writing out a check and working with poor people to help solve their problems. I am a lot more sympathetic to the plight of the poor people than I ever have been before.”

Schuurman said the experience has taught him something about his own lifestyle. “You can get by,” he says. “We live so lavishly in our suburban culture. You can get by on much, much less and still be happy.”


Vince Salerno

In late ’82, John and I spotted an ad in the Illinois Entertainer for a harmonica and sax player. We hired Vince Salerno to record tracks to new songs we were working on in St. Vitus Dance. Vince took the train from the north side where he lived, to Barrington, where our rehearsal space was next to the station. At the time, he was working with Pocket Watch Paul, who was making the rounds of the Chicago blues clubs. Also around this time, Vince was backing Vanessa Davis. Vince’s contribution to our music added an element of maturity, class, and production shine.

When I returned from my Europe trip in the fall of ’84, I called Vince and asked him if he knew anyone looking to share an apartment on the north side. In fact, he had just broken up with his girlfriend and was staying temporarily at his mom’s, and was looking for the same. We found a basement apartment in Lincoln Park on Wayne street just north of Fullerton and moved in a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I had wanted some way to get into the city and Vince, an older and more experienced player, was my channel.

By the summer of ’85 our immediate circle of friends included Polish musician Stan Borys, music writer Bill Dahl, ‘Lil Ed guitarist Mike Garrett Wolancevich, and girlfriend Mary Beutjer, who later became my wife. Vince and I recorded an EP as ‘Strange Romance’, which was reviewed favorably by Illinois Entertainer writer Mick Hans, who later put us at the top of his favorite local projects list for ’86. His piece was read by bowling alley manager and indy label owner Jeff Svoboda, which led to his financing Strange Romance’s LP ‘Charms.’ We all hung out at Kingston Mines, Buddy Guy’s Legends, Blues on Halsted, and the Get Me High Lounge in Wicker Park. Weiner Circle on Clark, the Maxwell St. Polish sausage grills, and El Presidente on Ashland were favorite night-ender eateries.

Vince made a point of sharing his rich knowledge of music history with me. At the Get Me High Lounge, he introduced me to the sounds of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, giving me back-stories and details that drew me into their music. He steered me to Jimmy Smith and the organ trio format, knowing I was a fan of the B3 and owner of a little Hammond M3. He put blues harp pioneer Little Walter on my radar, and introduced me to the work of Jr. Walker and other R&B greats. Through Vince I learned about legendary soul labels Atlantic and Stax. Vince mentored me on the essential American music of the twentieth century.

By the mid-80’s Vince was playing with the Supernaturals, fronted by Liz Manville, with her husband Willie Greeson backing her on guitar. There were out-of-town dates where Vince would disappear for a stretch and come back to Mary and me comfortably nested in the apartment with his amusing kitty, Scat. Vince never complained about it, but it probably irked him. Eventually, Mary and I got our own apartment a few blocks west.

Vince met BB Bugaloo when he was practicing sax under the Columbus Drive bridge. BB, who was working at a nearby parking lot with his band-mate Joe Afriyie, came over and introduced himself after hearing him. BB was a well-known singer in his home country of Ghana, singing American soul and Ghanaian high-life. He’d arrived in the US recently and was putting together an African reggae band in Chicago and was looking for a sax player. Vince began rehearsing with his band Asafo and invited me to tape them. In the summer of ’85, I produced the Asafo EP at Chicago Trax (then located a half block south of us on Wayne) for African businessman Robert Barimah Minta. Later, Vince and I attempted to put together a project featuring BB, but differences in vision shut down the effort and caused a brief rift in our friendship.

Vince and I have maintained our friendship. He has contributed to almost all of my music projects. Of all the musician friends who have influenced me through the years, he is the one who has most directly calibrated my artistic compass. Interestingly, he now lives in Barrington, the place I grew up. I am living in Edison Park, next door to Park Ridge, where he grew up.

These days he performs with Gerald McClendon and has recently produced a project featuring his arrangements of soul, R&B and blues chestnuts performed by Gerald and a crack ensemble of veteran Chicago side-men.

Vince Salerno & Gerald McClendon
Grab the Blues by the Horns

Vince Salerno – Tenor and Baritone Sax, Harmonica
Gerald McClendon – Vocals
Thomas Klein – Guitar

Lou Marini – Bass Guitar
Mark Fornek – Drums
Paul Coscino – Piano and Organ
John Bowes – Tenor and Baritone Sax
Ron Haynes – Trumpet
Jack Cassidy – Trumpet


On my Mom’s Death

Ann Elaine Schuurman
January 2, 1928 – July 26, 2017

The buzzy, arcing live-wire of worry bounced around somewhere in her consciousness since my mid-teens when I began my rebellion. By the time of her death, it didn’t keep her up at night anymore. I think that somewhere deep in her fog of dementia she still recognized me because her expression changed pleasantly when she realized I was present, even though she couldn’t communicate verbally. She didn’t understand forty years ago when I left home, seeking a creative existence, disregarding good advice, stumbling frequently, falling very much short. She didn’t understand two years ago when my darkness ended and I landed on my feet. I have the same intuition now as I did when my dad died: Now she understands why I am this way. My black sheepishness is un-necessary.

My mom, Ann Elaine Schuurman, passed away peacefully in her sleep July 26, 2017. These were the events of her final days:

Sunday 7-23-17

My wife wakes me up saying something is going on with my mom. I call Patty. She says she’d been contacted by the nurse and informed of a change. Mom’s oxygen was low, and she was not responding to a supplemental feed. She had not been eating or drinking for two days. The hospice caregivers were now acting in accordance with my mothers’ living will instructions.  They didn’t expect her to wake up again. It would only be a matter of days. Me and Julia arrived late afternoon. We sat with her for some then left. Her breathing was shallow.

Monday 7-24-17

Patty had spent the night with mom. She told me there were no dramatic changes. She told me mom’s blood pressure was low. They were administering morphine to keep her comfortable, but that was all.

Tuesday 7-25-17

I took over from Patty from 9:30 AM until noon. At 7:30 PM I returned and settled into mom’s room for the night. She continued to sleep comfortably. I fell asleep before 11. I dreamt that my parents were meeting us at a hotel somewhere, but we couldn’t find them. The nurses and attendants came in throughout the night.

Wednesday 7-26-17

At 5 AM the nurse gave my mom a morphine dose. Around 7, a nurse came in to take her vital readings. Her temperature was up to 102.4. There was a purple area on her thigh that she brought to my attention. I asked her if she was able to compare these readings to the last ones taken. She said she would get them into the system, and we would be informed. I updated Patty on the phone, then left for work. I called Patty from work and we discussed this around 8:30. At the hospital, she spoke with the caregivers, but there were no clear medical events yet indicating death was imminent. Around 10 AM Patty called me and told me our mom was gone.

 Saturday 7-29-2017

We met at Patty’s house around 8:30 AM. The families were all present. We drove to the cemetery and parked, lining the narrow lane. The ceremony was brief. We left flowers for her, and she was lowered next to my dad. We drove to the Lutheran church. The service was nice. Family members spoke along with people she had mentored, worked with, and befriended. People spoke of her serving the poor alongside my dad in the 80’s in Washington DC. They mentioned how she was a successful business woman. Vince Salerno, my old friend and collaborator, accompanied Helen, the church music director, in a rendition of ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ as my mom requested. Afterwards there was a dinner at a restaurant where we were able to mingle and share memories.

I watched my mother fade over the last decade. When her passing finally occurred, there was sadness, but there was more a sense of relief. Years ago, when she was fully present, dementia to her was the worst imaginable exit. Nonetheless, she endured it with dignity and grace. All her children carried her in their hearts as she receded into her twilight. She was tended to most heroically by her faithful and devoted daughter Patricia. My mom is once again with her beloved husband Richard. When I was little, I remember wondering how I’d react when both my parents were gone. They are both gone now. I’m missing them very much.


Bill Dahl

Bill Dahl

Bill Dahl is a writer, musicologist, and a blues expert. Before I met him, and we became friends, I was reading his articles about the Chicago blues scene.

John Halka and I were in Barrington with our band St. Vitus Dance, trying to educate ourselves about the blues. His column was a favorite of ours. When I moved into Lincoln Park in late ’84, my room-mate Vince Salerno introduced me to Bill, who he was friends with. Vince, Bill and I assembled on our perches overlooking the Chicago blues scene, and marveled at the egos, the musicianship, the debauchery and the soap opera of the Kingston Mines, Blues on Halstead, Blues Etc., Rosas, and Buddy Guy’s Legends.

It was a very interesting perspective, at a very interesting time with Chicago blues peaking in prominence, arguably. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd had just finished the ‘Blues Brothers’ movie, and their album was top 10. Celebrities were a nightly occurrence at the Mines, and other clubs. Blues had become established in pop culture. And I had the nightly good fortune of receiving the wit and wisdom of respected blues authority, friend and drinking buddy, Bill Dahl.



Eric, 16
December 2, 1959

I was born in Oak Park, IL to Richard and Ann Schuurman and siblings David, Richard, Jan and Patty.


We had an elderly woman watching us while our parents were on vacation. She was uncomfortable with me stitching patterns into a swatch of fabric, and shut me down from doing it 3 times with increasing harshness. Boys don’t sew, apparently. I mentioned it to my mom when she returned, and we both had a laugh.

August, 1969

When my dad got home from work in the evening, we would watch the news together. One night, I remember seeing a report about the Woodstock Festival. It was a peaceful, creative, youthful celebration.  We both found it interesting.

December 1, 1969

My Brother Dave was number 93 in the Vietnam War draft lottery. It was a low number. Bad news for the family, and a lot of stress. Fortunately, by the time he completed college, the draft was no longer a looming threat.


My parents left the Dutch Christian Reformed church and became Presbyterians after black worshippers were discouraged from attending there. My sisters and I left the private Dutch Christian Reformed schools for public schools.

Sometime around 1970 or 1971

My Dad’s company was acquired in a hostile takeover, and he was out. It began his personal, professional, and spiritual exile which transformed him, and the family, in a beautiful way.

September 26, 1972

We moved to Barrington, IL. It was a chance for my parents to re-group and make a fresh start. My Mom started her career and would go on to to establish her own company, an employment agency with a half dozen or so offices. My Dad contemplated his future.

Autumn 1973

I met John Halka at the school bus stop we shared. We lived across the street from each other. We picked up musical instruments at the same time, became band brothers, road-mates, and best friends until his death in 2012.

Autumn 1978

After graduating high school, John and I rented a house for our band St. Vitus Dance to rehearse in on the Fox River in McHenry, IL. Later, we re-located further south down the Fox River Valley to a pallet factory in West Dundee. Then to office space in Barrington near the train station. We worked crappy manufacturing jobs for minimum wage during the day, and played raw, loud, rock ‘n roll/blues/R&B at night.

Around 1979 or 1980

My Dad re-emerged from his private exile. He began his journey of service traveling between Washington, D.C. and Chicago, eventually creating the non-profit ‘Free the Children’ foundation which mentored disadvantaged inner city kids, and provided funds for their college educations. Soon, my Mom joined him, forming her own non-profit, an employment agency serving the poor in D.C. called ‘Jubilee Jobs’.

Summer 1980 through Winter 1983

Our band played mostly around Chicago, with trips to Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis. Twice we headed north to Canada, across the north shore of Lake Superior, winding our way south through Michigan, and back to Chicago. We traveled to the southwest with stops in Albuquerque, Tucson, and Phoenix. The Econoline took us east to New York City, Boston and New England. We crossed the Rockies and continued to California and back. On a writing trip, we hitch-hiked out to Mt. St. Helens, stopping along the way in Boulder, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland.

We had begun multi-track recording. I’d picked up a TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel tape deck to record St. Vitus Dance. We were finally able to experiment with layering sound, exploring new ideas and possibilities. We brought in players from Chicago and began a level of production that was beyond our prior reach. I also began engineering sessions for other bands.

Spring 1984

With the intensity of our friendship and collaborative effort came an increasingly toxic rivalry. I decided to take a break from the band and go off on my own to knock around Europe with my Martin. I recorded a batch of original songs playing guitar and harmonica, and duplicated cassettes to sell while busking.

Just prior to leaving, after reading an article in the Chicago Reader, entirely on impulse, I called, introduced myself, and wound up meeting with Polish rock legend Stan Borys at a restaurant on the Fox River in Lake in the Hills, IL. He gave me the names and numbers of his former manager in Warsaw, and his ex-wife and daughter in suburban Warsaw, whom I would meet with. Stan’s poetic song ‘Jaskółka uwięziona’ resonated as an anthem for the last generation to live under communism. Martial law had just been lifted in Poland and Americans were beginning to hear about Solidarity. Getting to Poland and meeting with his people became the mission of my time in Europe. I met with them, and it changed my trajectory. That impulse acted on was the pivotal event of my life.

November 1984

After returning from Europe, I moved to Lincoln Park. I shared a basement apartment with Vince Salerno, a saxophonist and harmonica player John and I worked with. We inhabited the Chicago blues scene. Our girlfriends were bartenders in blues clubs. Vince introduced me to writer/musicologist Bill Dahl, who I’d been a reader of since prior to my move to the city. Through Vince I also met ‘Lil Ed guitarist Michael Garrett Wolancevich. My close circle of friends was Vince, Bill, Mike, and my girlfriend Mary Beutjer. It also included Stan Borys, who I’d begun writing songs for, and helping with his promotional effort.

Around this time MIDI, samplers, and sequencers were emerging, allowing high quality, multi-track recordings to be done by kids in basements and bedrooms. We managed to invest in gear; me by scrounging up some money from my parents, Vince by tapping into student loans. We took our rock ‘n roll/blues/R&B influences, and filtered them through the new technology to form something textured, electronic and post-roots. It gave me new palettes and layers I never had access to before. It allowed me to create a sound.

Summer 1985

Vince introduced me to BB Bugaloo, a singer from Africa he met while practicing sax under the Columbus St. bridge while BB was parking cars in a nearby commercial lot. BB introduced himself, and joined in with Vince. Vince liked the soul influence that was evident in BB’s singing, and took up BB’s offer to join his African reggae band Asafo for some appearances at a south-side African expat bar. Before coming to Chicago, BB had made a name for himself in his country, Ghana, where he performed a blend of American soul and Ghanaian high-life. Vince invited me to record his rehearsals with Asafo, where he introduced me to BB. African businessman Robert Barimah Mintah brought me in to produce Asafo’s EP ‘African Rap’. My collaboration with BB later would slingshot me back to Poland and change the trajectory of my life.

Autumn 1985

Released ‘Autumn ’85’ with Vince under the band name Strange Romance. It was my first project without my brother and band-mate John, and it would be way too long before we would collaborate again. ‘Autumn ’85’ got some attention when Illinois Entertainer local release reviewer Mick Hans put it at the top of his list for the year’s best releases. We debuted it with a series of performances at the Get Me High lounge in Wicker Park. It received airplay on college radio stations in Chicago.

Valentine’s Day 1987

Mary and I got married. We’d met at a little neighborhood pub Vince and I frequented where she tended bar. She took a bartender job at the blues club Kingston Mines, which quickly became the defacto headquarters for our circle of musician, artist and writer friends. Employees and spouses drank free there, as well as at the other blues clubs in Chicago, through an agreement by the club owners, so long as people kept it together reasonably well, and tipped the other servers generously. It was a bohemian carnival of the night. The scene was inspired, colorful, loud and charged. It was all about a creative, nocturnal existence that pushed the edge.

Spring 1987

After reading about ‘Autumn ’85’ in the Illinois Entertainer, Jeff Svoboda, executive producer of Risque Records, contacted me and offered to put up $10 grand for ‘Charms’, my next project. I had been laid off from my manufacturing job, so I was able to put my full effort into it. It was another Strange Romance release, but its sound was more synthetic, less roots.  On it was my first collaboration with Polish artist Stan Borys, a song called ‘Waiting in the Rain’. The album was in rotation at WXRT, as well as a hundred-plus other college and commercial stations nationally. Using CMJ, sort of the college radio version of Billboard, we tracked the debut, rise, peak and drop-off of ‘Charms’ on the college/alternative charts.

And when it was done, we still were at pretty much the same place: a dank basement apartment in Lincoln Park. The creative fire that ignited when John and I first picked up our instruments more than a decade earlier went dormant as the reality of marriage, responsibility, and paying bills caught up with me.

Early 1991

Throughout the production and promotion of ‘Charms’, Mary had been the main breadwinner working at the Mines. I had a part-time job as a telephone fundraiser for CISPES, and I was doing medical and corporate animations on an Amiga computer from Risque Records. As my album was charting, her father was dying. Her mother had already been gone several years. She had battles with depression and direction. I had battles with self-absorption and marital neglect.

Ultimately, the situation required change, and in the spring of 1991, we separated. In March, Stan Borys and I ferried my stuff to my new place, a loft studio in Old Town, by North and Wells. During the day I worked an office job at my brother Dave’s company in the suburbs. At night, the smell of the freshly painted walls and the coffee, the clanging, steam and hiss of the radiator, and the serenity of running in Lincoln Park -from North, past the zoo, up to Irving Park and back- was balm for my soul.

Spring 1991 through Summer of 1993

I had been writing again since finally, innately, accepting the end of my marriage months prior to actually leaving. By the time I had re-configured my studio in Old Town in spring of 1991, I was wide awake, and ready to work again. Songs started flowing. I felt creatively re-charged. ‘Old Town’ took form. The sound was rawer and more blues than ‘Charms’. I worked fast, and had a million ideas.

In June of 1991, Stan Borys was returning to Poland for his first major appearance since he’d left in the seventies, at the Opole Festival. It was being heavily promoted. On another impulse, I decided to go with him to experience the event. In late June, Stan and I flew out to Warsaw where we were greeted by Arthur Winiarski, Stan’s manager for the festival. Arthur and I hit it off immediately. The appearance was a big success. It was a 10 day party doing interviews and mingling with Polish celebrities. Our rock star friend Stan Borys was the center of attention. Arthur and I agreed to keep in touch after the festival.

I returned to Chicago, and after completing ‘Old Town’, I began recording demos for BB Bugaloo in spring of 1992. One song, ‘Love Dangerously’ stood out. We recorded it in a series of sessions that produced songs for ‘Soul Roots’. Midway through development of ‘Soul Roots’, I had a conflict of vision with Vince Salerno, who was my partner in the project, and it was shelved. But before it ended, promotional material had been distributed, with one package sent to Arthur Winiarski back in Poland. BB, Vince and I headed off in different directions.

By 1993 my brother Dave had sold his share of the company to his partner. Soon after, I was laid off from my job there. I relocated to a cheaper loft in Pilsen at Cermak  and the Chicago river, in a building called the Spice Factory. Some rentals were built out and comfortable, but there was still a lot of rough space for artists, musicians and raves on the roof. I occupied a corner on the 3rd floor, sandblasting the timber beams and brick walls.

Tom Waicunas was a songwriter and musician in a space on the 5th floor overlooking the Chicago river traffic. In the summer of 1993 we recorded 20 ‘Spice Factory Demos’ with the idea in mind to produce an album of his music. Shortly after completing the first bed of tracks, Tom shut down the project. He was not satisfied with his performances. I was bewildered by his decision, and disappointed that the project with him at the Spice Factory had stalled.

After 2 stranded projects, I was spent. I decided to go back to school to enhance my employability. Taking out student loans, and with help from my family, I left the funk of the Spice Factory, moved to Wicker Park and enrolled at Columbia College.

Summer 1994

I had been taking multimedia and computer courses for almost a year, when I received a call from Arthur Winiarski in May of 1994. Arthur had entered BB’s version of ‘Love Dangerously’ into a competition to determine participants in the 1994 Sopot Music Festival. He told me that it had won us a spot in the lineup. I told Arthur the project was off, I’d moved on and wasn’t interested. Arthur explained to me the significance of the opportunity. The Sopot Music Festival was a major cultural event in Poland held towards the end of summer. It was the second biggest song competition, after Eurovision, in Europe. The idea of it fired, I woke up and changed my mind.

I hired a music student from Northwestern to chart the instrument parts for the orchestra that would be provided at the festival. I drove down Lake Shore Drive to BB’s house on the south side to rehearse him and coach his vocals 3 or 4 times weekly, until leaving for Poland the 3rd week of August.

We joined Arthur in Sopot and immediately began the series of performances, interviews and appearances he had scheduled in co-ordination with the festival organizers. Then, after a week of red carpet treatment in the spotlight, partying, and sleep deprivation, BB woke up late Friday morning, the morning of the Grand Prix event, sick with a sore throat. That night, it was BB’s conscious decision to compensate for his damaged vocals with a buzz-worthy, jaw-dropping performance.

From my vantage point on the stage, I watched as he climbed down and disappeared into the startled, receptive audience with a hand-help mic, yelping and moaning as the orchestra wailed behind him, oblivious to my charts by this point, all ecstatically improvising. BB accomplished his goal of delivering a huge performance, winning the Grand Prix event’s audience award. Invited to return the next evening, with a big Saturday night audience for the nationally televised broadcast of the Sopot Festival’s concluding Gala event, we encored ‘Love Dangerously’, received our award, gave acceptance speeches, and encored the song again.

The trip was a mind-bending adventure. For me it illustrated the possibilities of being open to the spontaneity of the moment. It was another act of impulse, the slingshot in a new direction.


After the success of the Sopot Festival, before returning to Chicago, Arthur asked me if I wanted to collaborate on music projects in Poland. He offered to relocate my studio there. I returned to Chicago and thought about how I could make this a reality. In the spring of 1995, I was accepted into an independent study program, ‘University Without Walls’ offered by Northeastern Illinois University. The program I’d proposed was ‘Technology and the Arts in Poland.’ It had some academic requirements, but was broadly open to interpretation. It gave me access to student grants and loans, and opened the door for me to relocate to Poland. In August, I loaded my studio into a 20 foot shipping container, and boarded a flight to Warsaw, where I met Arthur and his family, and drove north to Sopot where they had a large, comfortable 2 level apartment.

I spent my first month in Poland waiting for my gear to arrive, with Arthur introducing me to musicians and music industry people in the Gdańsk area. The artist club Spatif in Sopot was my haunt, where I fell in with Polish and expat musicians. One night after a long session in Gdańsk, on my way back to Arthur’s where I was staying, on an impulse, I got off the bus and made a detour, walking down cobblestone Monte Cassino towards the sea for a couple of beers at Spatif. Standing at the bar by myself, a beautiful, young blond Polish woman caught my eye. She was sitting with her friends, chatting and sipping drinks. I found a way to cross paths with her and engage her in conversation. She invited me to join her group. We spent the night talking, and when the bar closed around dawn, we left and walked on the beach together, talking as the sun rose and the gulls skimmed the water. This was our beginning.

My equipment finally arrived. One of my new expat musician friends, a German sax player, Roland, was also looking for a place to stay where he could rehearse and record, and unfold with his Polish girlfriend. We located a villa rental on the outskirts of Sopot, in a little village called Chwaszczyno. I set up my studio, settled in, then began looking for ways to supplement my rapidly depleting funds.

Early 1996

I became aware of an opening at a video facility for an editor. I was hired to edit a nationally syndicated, weekly film review program called ‘Bliżej Filmu’, working on an Avid video system at Grafbis, a boutique digital studio in Sopot. By early 1996, my daily routine consisted of taking the bus into Sopot, editing the program all day, then joining my girlfriend from Spatif for dinner and drinks before returning to the villa on the late bus out of Sopot. When Roland’s girlfriend returned to her boyfriend, Roland returned to Germany, and I had to abandon the villa for an apartment overlooking the Sopot tennis courts near the Grand Hotel that I shared with the son of my employer.

The prior summer, during the 1994 Sopot festival, in the ever-present music that surrounded us, the standout that was in heavy rotation was a song called ‘Nie pytaj mnie’. When I got to Arthur’s apartment in August after relocating from Chicago, I discovered the song was from the album soundtrack of a hit Polish film, ‘Psy 2: Ostatnia krew’, and learned the artist was Tomek Lipiński. Arthur told me that Tomek Lipiński was Polish punk royalty, with his influential punk/new wave bands Tilt and Brygada Kryzys being among the first in Poland.

I had been introduced to the outrageous bandleader/VJ/radio personality/concert emcee Jarek Janiszewski by Arthur. He was supposed to make an introduction to Tomek Lipiński for me after his performance at the Student club near Gdańsk University. Not being able to wait for a formal introduction, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Tomek as he left the performance area, heading towards the dinner in his honor. He asked me to join him at his table. We chatted in a huddle for about 40 minutes as people attempted access to him. At the end of our meeting, I gave Tomek the number where I was at, and he gave me the number to his apartment in Sopot.

Tomek Lipiński stopped by Grafbis where I was editing video one morning in February. He gave me a cassette with songs he was completing for another major film release. I put it in my player and listened to his music and was blown away again. A month later, my girlfriend and I attended the film’s premier in Gdańsk where Tomek performed acoustic versions of the songs, and the stars of the film and the director spoke about the production before introducing it. The film, ‘Słodko gorzki’, was a big hit, as was Tomek’s song ‘Jakby nie stało się nic’ in the film. The music that I first heard on the cassette that Tomek gave me at Grafbis, rose to the top 10, and again his music was everywhere.

March, 1996

In March, my girlfriend gave me the news that would reshape me and the way I saw myself in this world: she was pregnant. The two of us had been together since September. We moved into a small apartment on a hill overlooking the Baltic. From our balcony we watched ships sailing between Gdańsk and Gdynia and discussed the implications of starting a family together, deciding to get married in July. Returning to Chicago, where I could make a better living, remained a practical option.

Grafbis lost production rights to ‘Bliżej Filmu’ and had been unable to pay me for several weeks.  I’d heard that a Polish friend from Chicago had been hired as the chief of a music television station in Warsaw called Atomic TV. I took a job there in late May, traveling by train from Sopot Monday mornings, renting a room on the 3rd floor of the Madame Skłodowska-Curie museum building where the Atomic TV editing suite was located, returning to Sopot at the end of the week. The museum was located in Starówka, the old city district of Warsaw. The Atomic TV business offices were in a building that used to be the nuclear bunker for the Polish heads of state. It had been purchased by two real estate developers from Chicago. Also located in the building was a nightclub named Ground Zero, which was a popular setting for video shoots by big name Polish bands. During the day I edited rock videos. At night I drifted through the narrow cobblestone streets of Starówka, soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the ancient city.

We got married on July 27, 1996. I worked at Atomic TV until the end of summer when new people were brought in by MTV, who had purchased them. In September, my wife found me work creating websites for a businessman in Gdynia who had begun one of Poland’s first ISP’s. The work was sporadic though, and she would have to stop working soon with the arrival of the baby in November. We decided to leave for Chicago the next summer.

Thanksgiving 1996

It was real now, and as part of me retreated into slumber, another part of me mobilized. At a maternity clinic in the shadows of the cranes of the Gdańsk shipyards where Lech Wałęsa rallied Solidarity, our beautiful Natalia was born on November 25, 1996. She came home on Thanksgiving Day. My existence now mattered.

 Summer 1997 through Summer of 1999

The ‘University Without Walls’ program was incomplete, but it had served its purpose. We boarded a flight to Chicago with seven-month-old Natalia in late July, 1997. We moved to an apartment in Jefferson Park, on the northwest side where my wife felt comfortable among her fellow Polish expats. I found work with an instructor friend from Columbia College, programming educational software for journalist Bill Kurtis. I worked project-by-project for agencies as a freelancer, eventually forming my own company. We bought a home at the edge of the city in Edison Park, bordering Park Ridge and Niles. Our family grew roots and blossomed.

Fall 2001

Beautiful Julia cried for the first 45 minutes of her life after being born at 9:50, the Night Before. The next morning, I was getting ready to take my in-laws, who were in from Poland, to meet their new grandchild. My father-in-law came in from my Polish next door neighbor’s house, and told me to turn on the television, where I saw replays of a jet crashing into the World Trade Tower. I wasn’t going to turn on the tv in the hospital room, but it was already on when we got there. Julia had snuck into this world before it was forever changed. I completed my Chicago evacuation instruction list shortly before driving Julia and my wife home from the hospital in Skokie, later in the week.

February 5, 2003

After living to know his youngest two granddaughters, my father died of cancer. He was an inspiration to our family, and far beyond. His character, and the example of his life, had the effect of inspiring optimism, benevolence and generosity in others. As the last of 5 kids, and being a late-in-life father, I feel grateful for the time we had as 3 generations together, brief as it was. I benefited profoundly from my father’s enlightenment and love.

Late 2004

With the establishment of my family came a creative re-awakening, a blessing and a curse. I’d loaded my Mac with two audio production tools: Logic and Reason. I had an isolated recording booth installed in the corner of my basement. My notebook was filling steadily. The songs were coming again. One more time…

Spring 2005

So, the phone rings. I pick it up, and it’s brother John Halka, whom I’d pretty much lost contact with. I tell him that it’s a wonderful mind-fuck, and talk with him. We discuss getting together, and I tell him I’d call him after returning from a family trip to Florida. When we return I call him, but his number is disconnected.

Spring 2006

I got a call from John’s brother and found out that John was locked up. I was able to get his address at a county jail in southern Wisconsin, and I wrote to him. We met, speaking on a phone with a glass plate between us. John had forged a prescription for Vicodin, and got busted. Fined and paroled, John lost his job after his PO let his employer know about the felony. Un-employed, and therefore in violation of his parole terms, he took off. He stole a gun to kill himself, and was caught near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We discussed collaborating on a project where he would provide poetry from his incarceration. I secured a transponder to my landline phone, called him, and pressed record. John’s poem is excerpted in ‘Johnny Thirteen’.

Spring 2007

After a two-and-a-half year production cycle, my eponymous album is completed. It is the first batch of my own songs released since ‘Old Town’ in 1991. Daughters Natalia and Julia both had fun indulging dad with their contributions to ‘Monkey and the Button’. Stan Borys and I release ‘For Nothing More’, our first collaboration since 1987. Tomek Lipiński contributes his processed voice on ‘Far Enough Away’. Vince Salerno is back with his horn and harp throughout. It represents for me the right balance of synthetic and organic. It is the project I have been waiting to release. Nothing happens. Album fails.

Spring 2008

John is released. I pick him up from Oshkosh and help him settle into a halfway house in Milwaukee. Shortly after that, he’s able to relocate to space in a business in Bedford Park where I had helped BB Bugaloo set up a studio. When I can, I hire him as a photographer on interactive projects. After all the time that has passed, we pick up on our friendship as if the time in between never existed.

Late 2008

Great recession begins. My business production budgets dry up. Technology leaves me behind with obsolete job skills. Schuurman Communications ceases to be. With neglect, my marriage struggles. This is the beginning of my loss of identity. I enter an extended period of darkness.

August 2012

John’s girlfriend Laura calls to tell me John’s died. He had a heart attack. She tried to do CPR, but it was too late. She’d just signed the death certificate. He was gone. Deep exile.

Autumn 2013 – Spring 2015

5 years into a debilitating depression, a job counselor at the state of IL unemployment office suggests that with my background using computers, I may want to consider computerized manufacturing where jobs were plentiful. I sign up for CNC training, and sail through the courses. At the training facility, I discover the 3D engineering software Solidworks. After teaching myself the software, I get my Solidworks certification.

Summer 2015

Things finally stabilize when I begin working at my mechanical drafting position in an engineering office. The family remains together. My wife has a good job at a bank. The kids excel in school. I have emerged from a very dark place, and I am sleeping soundly again at night.

November 9, 2016

Retreating from the world, I summon ‘Music From Another Life’. Submersion into my past, a barrier from national events, redirects me back to earlier efforts.  This document takes form.

July 26, 2017

After a decade-long descent into her twilight, my mother passed peacefully in her sleep.  My siblings and I were the recipients of an unconditional love that accepted us as we were, and celebrated us as individuals. Ann Elaine Schuurman was elegant, generous, positive, tolerant and up-lifting. My mom was a successful business woman with employment offices in northwest suburban Chicago. She served the poor in Washington DC, inspired by my father’s example, creating a program model to help inner city, crime-challenged residents who struggled to find work. My mom and dad provided us with an example where parents protect and nurture their own family, and serve the world beyond the safe fortress of home. My parents were enlightened, loving and accepting of us. Not sure how we drew this straw.

December, 2018

My brother Richard set me up with two guitars and encouraged me to be musically creative again. I hadn’t played or recorded in over a decade.  I realized I’d been on solid ground for some time, and decided I felt safe enough to indulge creatively again.  I bought some music software and an interface for my Mac, and went to work grinding on the ancient guitar and keyboard scales, patterns and exercises hardwired into my memory. I watched software tutorials on Youtube. After several months, I began writing and recording and experimenting with the new technology I was learning. I went into a cycle of song creation again.

July, 2021

We endured the pandemic better than many, gratefully. For me, it was the backdrop to a prolonged stretch of creativity, writing and recording much of A Prodigal Son. With this project, I close a cycle and begin a new one, transformed, creative musically again.

August, 2022

Natalia, Julia and I met with Tomek Lipiński at his studio in Warsaw. We discussed possible collaborations. Tomek invited me to join his production team with him and his engineer. He also asked me to co-produce his English language project for an international audience. Life suddenly veered off into an unexpected, surreal, dreamlike direction. Once again I’de extracted my future from a visit to Poland.



John Halka and St. Vitus Dance

St. Vitus Dance
St. Vitus Dance

When I first met John, we were both 13, living in north Barrington. We shared the same school bus stop in our wooded neighborhood, Timberlake. Our birthdays were a month apart, but he was a grade higher than me.

He had a Pioneer stereo, blacklight posters, and Pong on his basement tv. There was also a decorative mandolin hung by his parents on the hallway wall by his bedroom. We took it down, started experimenting, and the music began.

Early in high school, both of us picked up guitars and started lessons. We shared chords, compared finger exercises, bounced ideas off each other and jammed. We listened to Dylan for the poetry, blues and early rock and roll for the chops we wanted to lift, and punk for inspiration and a guiding ethos. We couldn’t wait to get out of high school, rent a space, and start rehearsing our band.

In the fall of 1978, we rented a house in McHenry, IL near the Fox River. We built a little studio in the basement with sound insulation, placed ads in the Illinois Entertainer for side players, and started bangin’ away, me playing guitar and keyboards, John playing bass. I worked in a shop in Wauconda welding pipe heaters and snow melters. John worked in a cement factory in Crystal Lake. Nights were loud, loose and raucous doing auditions, rehearsing new songs, and jamming. We called our band St. Vitus Dance.

In the summer of 1980, we moved our rehearsal space to a palette factory south down the Fox River to West Dundee.  We were kicked out and re-located to a basement floor space in a small office building in Barrington, near the train station.

We continued with auditions and rehearsals, and soon started playing parties and dives. We did a mix of covers and originals in a raw, loud, rock and roll, blues style. Our technique continued to tighten, and we were bringing in better side players. We also were playing in larger, better known bars.

By the summer of 1983, we were developing musically. We performed acoustically in Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis. We had purchased a multi-track tape deck, and begun experimenting with over-dubbing. John’s bass playing was rock-solid and unadorned. He had a baritone voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison. He looked great with his brown P-bass, dark beard and olive green ’60s Mustang.

The lifestyle was developing as well. We were constantly around alcohol and drugs in a time when they were tolerated, if not celebrated. We indulged to the point where it became clear to me that a recalibration of attitude towards them was necessary. It took John much longer to reach that conclusion. In part, they contributed to the deterioration of our friendship and the end of our collaboration.

By early 1984, a toxic competitiveness had crept into our musical efforts. Feeling the need for self-reinvention, I decided to take a break from our band. The idea was that I would go off and knock around Europe a bit with my acoustic, come back and we’d resume. Then we’d find a way to re-locate the band into The City, Chicago.

That summer, before I left, I’d met Stan Borys. When I returned, I focused on working with him. I found an apartment in Chicago with Vince Salerno, a sax player John and I worked with. I set up my tape deck and added a sequencer, synthesizers and drum boxes. I enjoyed not having to share the musical helm. I did not bring John and the band into The City with me. We would never count off a song again in the same band.


In the spring of 2005, I got a call out of the blue from John. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d spoke. We discussed getting together for a beer after I returned from a family trip. When I called him, his phone was disconnected. The next winter, I heard from his brother Doug that John was locked up. By spring of 2006, a year after he reached out to me, I was able to make contact with John, writing, then visiting him at Walworth County jail in Wisconsin.

John had a serious substance problem. An acquaintance forged a prescription and John got caught trying to get it filled. Only John was fined and paroled. There was no mention of his acquaintance’s involvement by John. Later, his parole officer found out that his employer wasn’t informed about his criminal record. He was let go when his employer was told, and went on the run, having run afoul of his terms for parole. Freaked out about doing time, he lived in a stolen van, sleeping at night in empty parking lots, scrounging food where he could. He broke into a house near Lake Geneva, WI and stole a gun with the intention of killing himself. Fortunately, he was caught and couldn’t do it. Unfortunately, he had time to do.

We re-connected after he got out in May of 2008, and re-established our friendship. He worked for me as a photographer, and helped with sales calls for my business until the Great Recession did in my company. We talked about collaborating again after things settled down with the economy, but it never happened. John died of a heart attack on August 1, 2012.

Our last collaboration was ‘Johnny Thirteen’. When John was in jail, he read a poem to me over the phone, which I recorded. It was excerpted and used in the song.

John’s jail poem:

John Halka was a gifted musician. He struggled with his demons, but he was a good person. We resonated on the same frequency. He was my dearest, best friend, and I miss him very much.

St. Vitus Dance

Rehearsal tapes, performance board mixes, multi-track recordings.
(These 11 songs are not yet available commercially.)

  • On the Road Again
  • What's Buggin' You?
  • Respectable
  • Crawlin' King Snake
  • Lights Out
  • Tiny Montgomery
  • Wild Child
  • Angela
  • Matchbox
  • Recklessly Yours
  • Mother's Kitchen


Tom Waicunas

Tom Waicunas -photo by Inja Lin

UPDATE – September 28, 2019

March 4, 2017
Tom Waicunas is a singer, song-writer, harmonica player and guitarist. He’s from Connecticut, Marthas’ Vineyard, Philadelphia, and Chicago. I met him in 1993 when we both lived in the Spice Factory artist lofts on the south side. We became friends and collaborators up until his disappearance in 2013. Tom has struggled with substance and mental health issues. I last heard from him fall 0f 2016 when he emailed me and asked me to post his music. He is living on the street, drifting between California and Arizona. This site features some of the music we’ve collaborated on. I’m trying to re-establish contact with him to set up a channel to pay him for sales of his music. If you have contact with Tom, please tell him to get in touch with me.

Video: Techno Blues

  • Maybe It's the Way by Tom Waicunas
  • Sense of Humor by Tom Waicunas
  • Midnight Shuffle by Tom Waicunas
  • What You Gonna Do Now? by Tom Waicunas
  • Techno Blues by Tom Waicunas
  • My Phone Got Disconnected by Tom Waicunas


Krzysztof Kieślowski

Kieślowski’s Three Colors

Krzysztof Kieślowski is my film director choice. Roger Ebert has some excellent pieces on his films, which I’m providing links to in this post. You owe it to yourself to see his films.

In the early 90’s when I was living in Old Town, I read about 3 films being released that were referred to as the Three Colors: Blue, White and Red. The director was Krzysztof Kieślowski. He was established in Poland originally as a documentary film-maker, then as an observer of everyday life there at the end of the Cold War, and finally he was regarded as an internationally recognized artist of highest influence and esteem.

I was living in Sopot, Poland in spring of 1996, working as a video editor on a film review program called Bliżej filmu, when I heard that Kieślowski had died. My friend there, knowing about my UWW program, pointed out that this was someone that was relevant to my interests in Poland and should be on my radar. I saw the 3 films and understood that Kieślowski really was brilliant.

Prior to his trilogy, he released The Double Life of Veronique, his first film produced outside of Poland in part. His Dekalog was a series of 10 one hour films, originally for television, set in a block of flats in Warsaw, loosely sprung from the Ten Commandments thematically.

Earlier films include: Blind Chance, No End, Short Working Day, Camera Buff, The Calm, The Scar, Personnel, From a Night Porter’s Point of View, Curriculum Vitae, Concert of Requests, Tramway, and The Office.

If you have a fast food diet of Hollywood films, that’s cool. But you owe yourself some balance with the nutrition and substance of Kieślowski.


Arthur Winiarski

Arthur Winiarski, Opole Festival 1991.

Arthur Winiarski was a Polish-American businessman and impressario that I met when I accompanied Stan Borys to the Opole Festival in June of 1991. He was then Stan’s manager for the festival and related events. He lived in New Jersey and Sopot, Poland. His business, Galaxy Group, introduced parking meters to Poland, and financed his music industry ventures. He was our corporate sponsor for the Sopot Festival in 1994. After our success at the event, Galaxy Group relocated me and my studio from Chicago to Sopot in the summer of 1995 after I was accepted into Northeastern IL University’s independent study program ‘University Without Walls’. Arthur made numerous introductions for me to Polish musicians, producers, radio personalities, and other industry people. He died in 2004.