By John A. Ballentine
The Paramount Theater, in Wyoming, Illinois is the setting for a benefit musical concert this June 9. The musical group “Electric Tomato” will perform at the site to benefit the Stark County Educational Foundation.
Proceeds from the 165 tickets, priced at $12 each, will be donated to the Foundation. The Stark County Educational Foundation benefits all Stark County high school students with available scholarships.
Tickets are available at local area businesses and possibly at the door – if any remain unsold. Local businesses participating in ticket sales are: the State Bank of Toulon, Wyoming Better Banks, Super Valu-Toulon, One Eleven Coffee, Lucy Dots Bakery, A Few of My Favorite Things, and Connie’s Country Kitchen.
The 1960s-70s music concert will commence at 7 p.m. that Saturday and end approximately two and one-half hours later – unless the musicians play longer. During entertainment breaks, water and baked goods will be available for purchase at the Paramount.
In the Beginning
Electric Tomato was founded in the summer of 1969 according to guitarist Eldon Ham. “We knew 10 songs back then and at Lake Calhoun, in rural LaFayette, Illinois we played all 10 songs three times,” Eldon recalled. “We were paid $30, or $6 apiece, when we played at Lake Calhoun. It seemed like a lot back then. We also played after the games, in Toulon, at the gymnasium.
Near the end of the first time we were together, Marvin used his salesmanship to book us a week after the Cryin’ Shames played at the Filmore Middle, in Kewanee, Illinois. We were paid $125!”
The group has advanced beyond the original 10 songs and now there are 45 songs the group draws from to comprise their performance. Songs such as “Gloria, White Rabbit, I Think We’re Alone Now, and Please Please Me” are among “Electric Tomato’s” repertoire.
“Electric Tomato” members of the original group are Eldon, lead vocalist Marvin Cinnamon, drums and musical director Chris Cinnamon, bass guitarist Mark Addis and keyboardist Ken Dutton. Ann Addis-Pantoga is now the keyboardist and Doug Miller has joined the group as another guitarist. Other members of the past were David Newman, who filled in on bass guitar while Mark Addis was attending college. Kent Stafford, of Wyoming, was originally going to be the drummer, but circumstances proved otherwise.
Eldon is an attorney-at-law, as well as Ann. Chris is a retired music educator and Marvin was director of auto sales and sales education. Mark was in the insurance business field and Doug is retired from Caterpillar. Ken is a retired high school educator.
It’s all in the Name
“Electric Tomato” owes its name to happenstance. “Originally, we thought about’ Signs of Summer’, as the band’s name. That changed during one summer practice when Ken was playing keyboards. His mother served us sliced tomatoes during that practice and the juice from those were on Ken’s fingers. He received an electrical shock off of the keyboards and we said, ‘How about Electric Tomato as the group’s name?’” Eldon explained.
The band originally played from 1969 through 1970, but college and jobs made it more difficult to get together for practices and musical engagements. The group was restarted in 2013 when they played again, after 40-plus years, at the R-Bar, in Toulon, during Old Settlers’.
“Electric Tomato” is as popular as ever because today the demand for great music that people want to hear remains strong. As Eldon has coined it, “The Golden Age of Rock-n-Roll” is considered by some people as the best music created. Packed venues seem to suggest that this is true whenever and wherever “Electric Tomato” plays.
“Electric Tomato” is popular because, as Eldon says, “There is the nostalgia with the songs we play, plus we don’t play that often. At least we are popular – for now. We don’t have an end date when we will quit playing as a band.”
Besides the benefit performance this June, “Electric Tomato” will again be at the R-Bar, in Toulon, and again at Catalpa Grove this summer during Old Settlers’ weekend.
If you enjoy listening to good music, especially from the 1960s and 1970s, be in attendance on Saturday, June 9, to hear “Electric Tomato’s” benefit performance.
Eldon concluded, “It’s a remarkable thing we got back together. We all still play something. We decided to give it a try and it worked out. I’m glad it did! It’ll be fun playing at the Paramount.”