Reporting Mike Krauser
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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Smithe brothers – known for their Walter E. Smithe custom furniture and funny TV commercials – have a new one that starts airing Thursday featuring the 1970s Chicago band Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, the commercial shows the Smithe brothers – Walter, Tim and Mark – cruising down Lake Shore Drive while singing the 1971 Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah hit, “Lake Shore Drive.” Two of the brothers are in the Batmobile, one in the Speed Racer car.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Veteran oldies and classic rock radio host Bob Stroud, of 97.1 FM-The Drive, provides the voiceover for the commercial.
“The fact that they got Speed Racer and the Batmobile, that just blew me away,” said Skip Haynes, who wrote the song 40 years ago and offers personalized versions at LakeShoreDriveMusic.com. “It’s like, where’d they get those in Chicago? That’s great!”
At a friend’s suggestion, Haynes made some personalized version for the Smithe Brothers.
“And they wrote back and said, ‘We’re big fans of the song,’” Haynes said.
At one point in the commercial, what else but a Smithe furniture truck pulls up, in one of those rare occasions when a truck is allowed on Lake Shore Drive.
Guitarist Haynes, a Chicago native, got together with bassist Mitch Aliotta, of Berwyn, and his brother, drummer Ted Aliotta, at the Earl of Old Town folk club on Wells Street in 1970. Ted Aliotta was later replaced by pianist John Jeremiah, of Chester, Ill., who had gained a following with the Carbondale garage band the Nite Owls, and with Mitch Aliotta in the Chicago psychedelic soul band the Rotary Connection.
Contrary to a claim on Wikipedia, the group was not from West Allis, Wis.
In an interview on the WTTW-Channel 11 program “Wild Chicago” in the 1990s, Haynes explained that he wrote “Lake Shore Drive” after cruising down the lakeside highway around 4 a.m. in January 1970 in an Opel GT, on a night fueled by tequila and cocaine.
He wrote out the conversation in song form, and played it to his bandmates at the Gate of Horn nightclub at Broadway and Briar Place in the East Lakeview neighborhood.
Haynes told “Wild Chicago” host Will Clinger that at the time, he had “never intended for the song to be played again, ever.” But the band’s recording of the song began getting radio airplay about a year later, and suddenly, the song was a hit and Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah became household names.
Haynes composed a new version of “Lake Shore Drive” last year, after the infamous Blizzard of 2011 left motorists snowed in and stranded on the Outer Drive.
“I should have filled the tank before I left. I would have if I knew,” a refrain in the 2011 song goes.