In Memoriam: Homer Carlson

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-lyihtliRI6.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of Valeri DeCastris’, ‘On the left, Val Eddy with Homer Carlson, right.’);

Rockford has lost a native son of great talent and character, Homer Carlson, 82 years old. He leaves behind scores of friends and fans who have followed his music since the 1940s.

Self-taught in his home on the grounds of the Spafford Estate at Rural Oaks, Homer was a versatile artist of long renown in the Midwest. He was a life-long professional musician, virtuoso jazz pianist, composer, multilingual vocalist, and sketch artist. He played piano in many different styles, including stride piano. A veteran of World War II, he played in the U.S. Army Band.

Homer performed nightly throughout the Midwest since 1940. He was best known for his 40-plus year collaboration with professional jazz bassist Val Eddy (DeCastris). Together, as the Val Eddy Duo, they began their career in their hometown of Rockford at the Times Lounge in the bustling downtown music scene of the 1940s. They toured the Midwest and played in the finest hotels, nightclubs and supper clubs for 45 years, five to seven nights a week, sometimes until 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. Homer’s only avocation was music and he was one of the rare and fortunate ones to make his living from his craft. He was often called “the musician’s musician” and music, art and people were his whole life.

The Val Eddy Duo had extended gigs at Rockford’s Times Lounge, Town Lounge, Red Garter, Playroom, Carriage House and The Cart. Summers were spent at the Riviera on Lake Geneva, Wis., the Hotel Pere Marquette in Peoria, the Cairo Supper Club in Chicago, the Edgewater Hotel in Chicago, the Colonial Hotel on Lake Manitou and other popular Midwestern resorts.

In the 1950s, Dave LaMond of Chicago joined them for six years as the Val Eddy Trio. They landed a popular live music television show, The Song Shop, four nights a week on WTVO in the 1950s. Gene Holmberg, husband of former Senator Joyce Holmberg, was the artist for the placards that announced the live songs to the television audience.

The Trio performed alongside such notables as Danny Thomas, Louie Armstrong, Les Brown, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Jack Benny and Martha Raye. They recorded on the MCA record label.

The Val Eddy Duo’s later years were spent at Chicago Cubs third baseman Stan Hack’s Landmark, Dixon’s Brandywine, Dundee’s Sylvia’s Evergreens, and the Manor in Beloit, Wis. In 2002, in recognition of their artistic contributions, Homer and Val were awarded a Sesquicentennial Medal from Mayor Doug Scott of Rockford for their outstanding artistic contributions to the city.

A jazz funeral celebration of Homer Carlson’s life was held Friday May 14 in Rockford and a memorial scholarship is being established in his honor. Those wishing to contribute to the scholarship fund may send contributions to Val Eddy’s daughter, Valeri DeCastris, at 918 Cunningham St., Rockford, IL 61102, or contact her for more information by e-mail at:

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