The Legend of Johnny Reno (1941-2012)

Ok, I realize I haven’t said anything on here in a long time but I assure you the onslaught is a comin’.  For now though, it can wait, as I really just need to pay a proper and well deserved tribute to my biggest influence and mentor, my father Jack, (aka Uncle Jack, Sensei Jack, John, Johnny Reno, Jack Norris, the Summer Jesus, and of course, the Hamilton Hamaconda).

This week marks the passing of my dad after a crazy and mostly insane 5 year battle with prostate and bone cancer and I think writing about it to all of you today is A) incredibly therapeutic for me and B) a shitload better than some crappy ol’ facebook “R.I.P. dude, hevn jus gotza nutha angel yo!”.  Actually, I really don’t mind those but let’s keep it for the people we love as opposed to some whack job celebrity that people decide to suddenly care about.

So, as for this being some serious and somber O-bit… sorry, not gonna happen.  Dad would have hated that as it definitely isn’t the tone he wanted set with regards to his sickness or eventual passing.  He always enjoyed reading my blogs, cussin’ aside of course, and especially loved reading the comments from all of you!  What better way to pay tribute than to well, talk with you!  He really would have loved this!  I won’t go into too many deeply personal thoughts here as i’m still sorting through these particular feelings myself at the moment as you can imagine, so I’ll keep it based on what you guys are more in tune with and give a little insight into what makes us brothers tick. He was the mellow king of no-drama so a light hearted look it will be…

When I look back at my own history, there is no greater influence on my professional career than Dad.  While I always feel that I am in tune with the whole “where I come from” concept, a lot was learned or rather remembered this past week in the hospital.  It’s common for musicians to always site their influences and all that jazz in interviews, or to whoever will listen, and I am no exception (I wear them proudly on my sleeve at all times!!).  Going back a little further you have to ask yourself, “Why the hell am I even playing guitar? How did I get here?”  Was it as simple as hearing Hemispheres or Van Halen 1?  For me, no.  That particular bit of awesomeness happened a little bit later.  The gateway had to be pried open by somebody!  For me, it was Dad.

One of the biggest things that defined Dad for a lot of people was that he was a musician.  It’s one of those things that defines an entire household actually as it adds this really fun and crazy element to a home that a lot of people just can’t understand.  Very early in his life, his path was basically laid out for him, work in the factory by day, play music at night, and hope you make some money at one of them.  Growing up in Hamilton in the ’50s, and as the eldest of 7 kids, this was nothing new, just his everyday reality and some good ol’ fashioned survival, which never seemed to end!  I still remember him loading up the car after supper to get set up for a gig or rehearsal that night, not knowing then that he was, in his words, “busting his hump” just to support his three growing boys and stay at home wife.  Shit, I didn’t know we were expensive! Sometimes you would hear him returning home, dragging his gear back into the house after a gig, and with the smell of Moo-Goo-Gai-Pan wafting up the stairs, listen to him and Mom talk into the night, with a little bit of Van Morrison thrown in for good measure. The odd time we would sneak down to say hi, especially if he dragged one of his band mates along for some grub. (usually just some Italian guy wanting to add his homemade sopressat’ to the night’s haul!)   Biggest thing learned looking back: he was never late for work the next morning.

Outside of using music to support us financially, Dad was also the kind of guy never to shy away from playing, whether at parties or even a Saturday night barn dance with my banjo playin’ Grandpa.  These memories stick with me the most as it was the only way we got to experience Dad in his natural habitat, we were too small for the real gigs and these moments were like magic to us!  He somehow seemed taller, and well, more important. The memories of just how happy everybody was once the guitars came out really stuck with all of us through the years, and I would kill to witness just one more.  Now, for a time this was one of the traits that I could never get my head around, and as musicians we were at exact opposite ends of the spectrum in one respect: he always enjoyed making people happy with music at any moment and I selfishly believe I can’t make anybody happy with music but will begrudgingly try… when I feel like it.  I’ve since learned that music doesn’t work this way.  This bugged him I think although he would never tell me, but inside I think he was always thinking “Why are you being such a little asshole? Do you play? Or do you not play?”  No worries, he called everybody an asshole, even if he loved you!

Growing older it was pretty much the same week in, week out at our house until one fateful morning …

I remember the day I got my first instrument that WASN’T a cheap ass flute/recorder thingy like it was yesterday … it was a shiny silver set of Stewart Drums!  Yes, I was a drummer and yes, I kicked ass (feet o’ Ginger Baker, hands o’ Gene Krupa, attitude and hair… pure LARS).  Back at that time, this was a huge deal to a kid of 12 as you can imagine, even with the scientifically proven potential to shoot your eye out.  We had that thing set up in my bedroom and ready for punishment within 10 minutes flat.  Dad couldn’t afford the entire kit, mind you, so we used an old cardboard drum with a tin lid/tea towel combo for a floor tom.  Good to go.  A handful of lessons and one Carmine Appice instruction booklet later, (with included floppy 45 record) I was pretty much on top of Rock Mountain.  Dad kept the encouragement going even though I’m sure listening to me was akin to a baby giraffe falling down the stairs…  albeit with AWESOME hair!!!  “Wipeout” was my bitch, and will never be the same…for anybody.

And then on yet another fateful morning 2 years later…

“Son, have you ever tried this here guitar?”  I was conflicted but I guess the writing was on the wall.  Apparently, while I was out frosting my tips, Chris was practicing drums too, and he made it all the way to the SECOND chapter of Carmine’s book!!  WTF???  Dad had noticed of course and saw an opening: “You see son, with THIS thing you get to stand out front where the lights can shine down upon that silky mane and bring further notice to that formidable cod piece… Chris has red hair and freckles, he’ll be fine back there….”  SOLD!!  I was 14 I think, and still had lots of clay yet to be moulded, and I had Dad to get me started in the right direction, so why not?  From that day on, there were countless times Mom or Dad would come downstairs and tell me to stop playing and go to bed, “It’s a school night for christ sake!!”  I think Dad knew what he was doing, and with his simple promise of one day being able to melt faces, my future was pretty much set.

Dad then went on to build us a bonafide rehearsal space in the basement which we then proceeded to abuse every…. single…. day.  We called it ‘the Cooler’ because he made it out of white styrofoam panels and it was either -20 or +100 degrees in there.  Maybe ‘the Thermos’ was more fitting.  It kind of smelled like glue but overall a pretty damn-cool-super-wicked-awesome place for us to hang with friends and play music.  Almost every single day after school, it was rehearsal. Rehearsal for what? Nothing, only to be better than we were the day before.  Dad would come home from work everyday and sit in the kitchen directly above us and read the paper, waiting for us to finish to give us either props or silence.  Props good… silence bad.  We always got good kitchen reviews for our Maiden covers, but I think it was just because he really liked Maiden.  (our first experience with a biased reviewer!)  He never really gave a negative criticism, except telling me that I sing like a cat with his tail caught in the screen door.  I was like Peter Brady for crying out loud at that time and I was changing… my cod piece barely fit anymore, my voice was warbly, and I was getting these crazy velvetine little ‘staches under my arms!!  Tough times indeed.  For this, I thank you dear Father, I have thought of you every single time I’ve stepped up to the mic for the past 30 years.  You and well…. chicks.

Work ethic was king to Dad.  This is exactly why Chris and myself work the way we do and the way we have always approached IME.  We rehearsed every day no matter what, and always got the work done before fun.  This applied to my Dad’s days in a shitty factory, my own days in a shitty factory, and most of all, as musicians (in a shitty business!).  Basically, you make your deal, and approach it the same way every day regardless of personal benefit.  Rule #1: If you accept the work, don’t let anybody down.  There are no sick days.

Funny story: one day later in high school or just after, I started seeing this ‘chick’ who kept hanging around rehearsals at the house, kind of getting in the way of what Dad considered to be our ‘work’.  She was a little older than me and smelled like Pina Coladas, a deadly combo.  He must have had a really bad day at the shop because when he heard us horsing around and playing just awful day after day in the basement, accomplishing nothing, he busted into the room pointed at her and basically said “YOU… get the fuck out, don’t come back, and YOU guys, get back to work and stop sucking!!”.  Man, he was really angry!  We had a Yoko before we even had a real band, or even understood what a Yoko was!  Dad did though, and thankfully handed down his Yokometer (pat. pending) to us as we moved along.  More bands should have this. Outside forces fucking everything up… sound familiar?  All things in life must be approached the same way, you are either in or out, including life itself.  Approach life as a ‘no dabble’ zone and things will always work out.  Outside of personal hygiene, we have approached EVERYTHING the exact same way and I’m reminded of this every time I smell coconuts.

One last funny thing about Dad.  He was a black belt in Judo and ran his own Dojo at one point in our basement (until the great flood of ’73) and right up until the end, he always insisted on wearing pants with a 29.5″ inseam.  He was about 68-69 years old when this topic came up again as we all never really understood why he was so uptight about his goddamn inseam.  His dead serious answer, “What if I was walking down the street and had to defend your mother’s honor?  I wouldn’t be able to roundhouse kick anybody if my foot’s caught in my pants!”  Lesson learned: no matter how old and seemingly crazy your folks get, there is always some nugget of wisdom on offer.  “With ears open, mouth closed, you will then be able to feast upon the knowledge buffet.”

So there you go, just a little bit of info on my Pops.  Just thought I would share some simple anecdotes about our sometimes crazy family and tell you that he was a good man.  A damn good man.  I kind of feel good sharing this with you all as he wasn’t really concerned with very many things outside of his family and friends, the band, and our fans.  He was always really happy when you guys seemed excited, and pissed when something was even remotely negative. (yeah i’m looking at you edLov3R1996!)  Believe it or not, through all of the years of us playing, all of the conversation online (all the way back to the Palace Chat!) and the countless shows he went to, he still recognized and remembered a lot of the names and faces he has met along the way.  He says continue to be nice to his boys and he’ll always back you up with all 29.5″.  Don’t be afraid, just breathe and be very still.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is that a lot of you guys have actually grown up alongside us as well.  We all have parents or other family members advancing on in years and it kind of puts us all in this same crazy boat… this really weird zone of inevitable heartbreak.  My family isn’t any more special than yours, and we have and will continue to face the same types of crises as all of you… this is just our moment.  It seems that every day/week one of you guys loses somebody as well, and I just wanted to let you know we’re thinking about you.

If you feel so inclined, send a little shout out this way to my Mom, who’s been with Dad since they were kids, and has taken care of him for years and years dealing with this complete douche of an illness.  She’s got your back now, but she’s keeping her inseam a mystery.

Thanks gang… I feel really good writing this, and you are much appreciated as always.  Today is a new beginning for many things, and I am now more energized and ready for the new concepts coming for IME and myself.  We’ll talk soon but for now, it’s all about Mom and Dad.

So, while I admit that Johnny Reno wasn’t a household name or a true legend, he sure as hell was to us.

Be good to each other and love your mothers… for realz yo.

P.S. Dear Dad, I don’t know where you ended up, but if it’s any shade of white with lots of comfortable seating, don’t roundhouse kick anybody in the face who has a beard, just to be safe.  (pretty sure Jesus is a ninja or somethin’)  And if you smell coconuts… uh, yeah, good luck with that.

Love you always,

jT

 

 

50 comments

  1. Greg Caskie

    When I was 14 I was waiting for the elevator in my apartment building wearing my Scenery and Fish t-shirt, when a friendly woman approached me and said “So you like I Mother Earth, they’re my sons.” and she invited me down to your parents apartment to meet you guys on the weekend. It was a hell of a thrill to meet your favourite band in such a relaxed and personal setting. I remember your dad pulling out some Dig posters and you saying “Dad’s always god for a stash of this stuff.” I’ve told that story to many friends and IME fans over the years, because it was just such a damn cool experience.

    What I want to say though is how quickly my perception of your dad went from “the father of this band I love” to “the nicest guy in the building”. He was always smiling and happy to see you, and as welcoming as anyone I’ve ever met.

    The Caskie family from Apt #312 send our belated sympathies.

  2. Billy Warr

    My sincere condolences on the passing of your Dad… as the “asshole” on many occasions at your house, and in “the cooler”, I loved your family like my own, and will till the day I die… Jack was a huge part of my becoming a bass player…well him and the fact that at the time we met you were two guitars and a drummer, and becoming a bassist was my sure ticket into the band…!!! Too many great memories to mention, from hanging out around the pool on Redwood to sitting around the stereo listening to the new Dio album I got for Christmas, to Jack telling me to just walk in to the house, and that the only time I needed to knock was if I had a case of beer over my shoulder…which I finally got to do one day after i turned 19….. so many good memories, guys…. please keep the music coming…..!!!! …and ‘see you again someday, Jack…

  3. blake

    A great read. I’m actually writing something to say at my mothers memorial. As her battle with lung cancer is winding down. I have to say reading this reminded me about all the memories I had stored away. So thank you!

    • Pat V

      It’s nice to see you remember the good . So many people get down on themselves and feel some form of guilt , but its great to think “they wouldn’t want that” and smile for them . Merry Christmas to all you guys Jag,Chris,Bruce and Brian. Come back to Ottawa real soon with that new album !

  4. Kawartha Girl

    So sorry to hear about the passing of your Father, condolences to you, your Mom, Chris, Tony and families. You have great memories to cherish of times with your father and stories to pass on to your children. Look for him, feel him, he is all around you. (and if you smell coconut he’s playing with you:)

  5. Harol G

    What an amazing tribute to an awesome Dad! My sincere condolences to you and your Mom, and a million thanks to your Mom and postumously to your Dad for raising such brilliant musicians and songwriters and such amazing people! Their legacy is alive and well in those of us that get to listen to and love the product of their labour!

  6. Daniel

    Very nicely written Jag. I’m sorry for your family’s loss. Our love goes to all of you, and particularly to your mom.

    Daniel V

  7. IMEgurl01 (Melanie Iles)

    My deepest and most heartfelt sympathies go out to you and yours. Hang in there and keep thinking of the good times and all of the lessons learned. What a wonderful tribute!

  8. Steve

    A lot of folks are lost to this type of cancer. Hope your finding ways to use the emotions and hope you guys are resting well.

  9. Valerie Velasquez

    A VERY touching reflection. Memories like those are priceless, and its good to know that YOU will always have them. Sending light & love to your family–especially your mom; a wonderful example of unconditional love, indeed. Stay strong…

  10. Matt

    Jag, sorry for your family’s loss-I haven’t had to deal with that situation yet so I can only imagine how difficult it must be. My thoughts are with you and your family…I’m grateful to know a little about the man that helped set you and your brother on the path that lead to IME.

    Matt

  11. nads

    beautifully written jag.
    anytime i saw your dad he would immediately make me feel so welcome – whether he was enveloping me in one of his awesome bear hugs hello or sneakily making me the butt of one of his jokes. he always had a smile on his face & when your house would fill with laughter, his laugh was always the loudest. he was so lovely, warm & genuine & his laughter will definitely be missed.
    big bone crushing hug to you, the fam & especially your mom. hope that warm & happy memories offer you comfort. xo nads & the DC boys

  12. Stephen Helleiner

    Jag:

    A wonderful tribute and one perfectly in tune with the way I remember your dad. My sincere sympathy to you and Chris and your families.

  13. Doreen

    Thank you for sharing your memories and heartfelt thoughts with us Jag. Wishing you and your family peaceful moments through this shitty time. All the strength in the universe goes out to your mom. Please let her know that we are all thinking of her and her family.
    Its crazy when we lose someone special, but our memories get us by and spark that love for life that we think has been lost. Thank you also for understanding the Nation’s losses…very awesome of you!
    There is no doubt that your Dad was your biggest fan ! :)
    ~Peace~

  14. Novella

    Hey Jag and Chris,
    Just wanted to say sorry about your father. Cancer Really sucks-My mom has battling lung cancer for 4 years and we are very lucky she is still with us. Your words about your father and family are beautiful-says alot about the man who raised you when you read these beautiful things you wrote…. All the best and thinking of you during this difficult time. Thanks for sharing him with us :)

  15. Trellawny

    This is your moment, yes. I’m sending extra thoughtful vibes to you and yours in this moment. What a lovely recount of your history and how your Dad was so awesome. I may well think of you when I smell coconuts in future :)

  16. Steve Caldwell

    My heart felt condolences to you, your mother, and your family. What an incredible tribute to your father, It’s so great to read or hear about the history of a family, everyone has their story. We have had very similar up bringings, my dad also was a guitarist, I also started on (terrible, beat up, right down to using towels to ‘help the tone or replace a head’ but man I wish I still had them) gretch drums! And then as you did switched to guitar after hearing Rush for the first time. Its like I was reading my own childhood, there were so many ‘sames’… and it definitely explains why I have always connected to your music, your playing and IME! So thank you for that!!
    For me it was my Father and my Uncle who played bass, those guys were my guitar heros. My uncle is now battling cancer, and its hard to see him go through that, when in your mind, that person was always so invincible. My cousin recently called me and said she found a box of old 1/4″ reels. He and my dad recorded often back then, and I really got an early education on recording to tape. My father was going to pitch his old Sony reel to reel deck years back. I took it instead and have kept it maticulously maintained. So immediately, I had to have these reels to digitally preserve them. After processing the best i could, I took a proper pair of head phones, and my laptop to my uncle, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy… He couldn’t believe it! He has been listening to those recordings non stop. So, I have been having a blast going back in time threw audio, the conversations in between songs, the mistakes being worked out among the players, the instrument tones of that era, and yea me playing (kind of) those beat drums at 9 years old, trying to hold it together for my idols!!
    Wishing you guys all the best, hug your mother!! Hope to see you guys in Detroit sometime down the road!!
    Take care, Steve

  17. Will

    Very thoughtful and touching. Thoughts are with you guys. Keep up the good, positive outlook and dont forget … keep on rockin!!

  18. Kiel

    Jag,

    I wish you and your family all the best at this time. It’s never easy losing someone, no matter what the circumstances.
    Your blogs (along with your music and greatness over the years) are so well written and inspiring. To know that the guy I’ve been idolizing since I was 7 years old is (and admits to being…) a regular guy, in a regular family, with regular problems makes me so happy!
    I’m so sick of people thinking because of WHO you are, you’re above the rest. That you don’t live life like the rest, you don’t face obstacles like the rest and that you’re basically not even human. Your realism is so appreciated and makes me love everything you do (and are going to do) that much more. I cannot tell you how much inspiration I have got out of you and IME since the day I first heard DIG in my cousins car in 1993 while he was babysitting me at the age of 7. Something in me changed, and though I didn’t have a family that’s as musically inclined as your sounds, I wanted a guitar. My parents got me said guitar thinking I’d give up on it like I did hockey, soccer, baseball, but nope! Here I am: 26 years old and living the band life. Sure, we’re not huge or even really successful, but we “work the factory” by day and by night we rehearse, demo, studio work and gig it up! And though you’re not the only man who inspired me to want this in life you’re certainly in my top 5!
    Love you (BRO love) and can’t wait for the future. It seems your fires are burning at 110% now so I’m excited to see what all of this brings out of you musically and artistically.

    -Kiel

  19. Dru V

    My deepest condolences, Jag.
    I have brief but fond memories of us with our Dads at that football game a few years back.
    I’ll embrace & appreciate my time with my family all the more, thanks to your words.
    Very inspiring, as always.
    Love to you & your family during this difficult time.

  20. Rocknrobertson

    There really are no words that can express my sincere condolences to you and the entire Tanna family. The feeling of losing someone so near and dear is unimaginable…I am glad to see that you have taken all the fantastic memories you have of your Father and highlighted those. Like you said it’s what he would have wanted. I am sure your Dad was ecstatic to see you guys pick up the instruments and hit the road again to the complete delight of your many minions. My thoughts are with you and the family, continue to cherish all those memories…they help to put a smile on your face when the grief is overwhelming. ~Nicky~

    Life Unbroken

    Death is nothing at all
    I have only slipped into the next room.
    I am I, and you are you:
    Whatever we were to each other, we are still.
    Call me by my old familiar name;
    Speak to me in the easy way you always used
    Put no difference into your tone;
    Wear no air of solemnity or sorrow;
    Laugh as we always laughed
    At the little jokes we enjoyed together;
    Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
    Let my name be ever
    The household word that it always was.
    Let it be spoken without effect;
    Without the ghost of a shadow on it.
    Life means all that it ever meant.
    It is the same as it ever was.
    There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
    What is this death but negligible accident?
    Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
    I am but waiting for you,
    For an interval, somewhere, very near
    Just around the corner.
    All is well.

    by Harry Scott-Holland

  21. Megan

    What a wonderful tribute to a man that laid the foundation for a truely remarkable band. Your fans realize the dedication IME has always had to rise to the next level. As your Dad was proud we are too. Sending my prayers to you and Chris and your families. May Johnny Reno rest in peace.

  22. Christopher Redmond

    Great post Jag! Very inspirational to hear your stories of growing up, and it feels like a fitting tribute to the importance of your father (especially as it relates back to us, the fans).

    Please pass along our love to you Mother!

  23. Riley K

    Wonderful post, Jag. It made me smile on multiple occasions. Your dad was a fantastic person who will continue to live on through you and your family.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. It was quite touching without being a sobfest.

    Thought are with you, Chris and everyone else :)

  24. Loren

    Aw Jag, I was very excited to see a new blog, and almost even said “Yeah, about time!” but then realized that not all blogs necessarily mean good news. I’m sorry to hear about your dad, but thanks for sharing some stories. We’re battling cancer in my family as well, and it’s just awful. Best wishes to your mom and to you and your brothers as well. I’m sure he was proud to see you and Chris get back on the horse with IME… it sounds like that’s the best gift you could have given him.

  25. Micheal Parkinson

    ive been a fan of yours for years, and today i found out my mother and i share a musical bond aswell… she was a fan of your dads! i’m a fan of his sons. how awesome is that?!?! two generations, enjoying the musical prowess of two generations…. it’s funny how the world works. my sincerest condolences go to your mother, from the bottom of my heart to the edge of my soul. just remember, losing is always balanced out by gaining….

    Mike Parkinson.

  26. Hilary Kelly

    Absolutely beautiful tribute, so sorry to hear about your Dad’s passing, you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers….

  27. Wendy

    This is a beautiful tribute to your Dad, he sounded like an amazing, and wise man. Thank you for sharing some of your families memories, hopefully you can find some comfort in those .

    Sending your mom and your whole family healing thoughts and prayers. <>

  28. Lori Andrews

    Wonderful tribute. I will think of him next time (and from now on) I see you step up to the mic. Salutes to Johnny for instilling a work ethic in the brothers, and in turn IME. He was no doubt a proud papa. Let his legacy flow. Big hearts to you & your family. XO

  29. Dennis

    Jag. Great Homage to your dad. My dad left this earth just over a year ago (The equally evil Alzheimer’s). He was a hard working man as well (Navy) and was a Barbershop singer for approx. 35 of his 80 years. He used to sit in the kitchen, have a drink and chuckle to himself as I cursed and swore at my inability to get a Steve Harris bass line right. He knew all about practice and hated the word ‘Jam’ over ‘rehearsal’. I miss him. He had a great sense of humor.

  30. Nancy

    What a great tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing this with us, Jag, and thanks to your folks for the role they played in supporting you and Christian and the band over the years. All the best to you, your mom and your family.

  31. Janice Huizinga

    Hey guys, so sorry to hear about your dad, Linda and dad sent an email to let us know. He was an incredible person and a lot of fun to be around. I remember meeting him and your mom about 17 years ago out at dad’s. Its been awesome everytime we’ve come home to Peterborough we were able to see visit and enjoy a drink and some laughs. He will be missed and our thoughts are with you and your family.

  32. Peter mancuso

    Much like IME’s music, you are able to touch up so many feelings in a wholehearted way. I immensley enjoyed reading this and I appreciate you letting us in to some very personal memories. Its always cool to hear about how your favourite musicians started out. Your dad sounds like he was an awesome man who, with the help of momma Tanna, raised some super talented and hard working men. Try and tap yourself on the back every now and then and realise that you make a hell of allot of people happy with your face shredding licks and song writing prowess. Thanks again for this and I hope it was as cathartic an experience as you mention.
    PeterM

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