The Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) honored nearly 94 years young Vito J. Dangelo April 13 with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 21st RAMI Cocktail Party and Awards Ceremony at Tebala Shrine Temple.
Vito has played alto saxophone in area dance bands for more than 70 years. His tenure included time with Rockford’s Bill Engberg Orchestra, Kay Howard Band, Mark Rose’s Old Towne Band and the East Bank Commanders.
Over the years, Vito’s musical groups have performed at many venues, including Rainbow Gardens in Belvidere, various hotels, and high school dances and reunions. He also played in bands at the old downtown location of the Tebala Temple known then as the Sodatorium, the Rockford Armory and events at the Faust Hotel and Landmark.
By day, Vito worked at Cotta Transmissions for 42 years and played his sax along the “kerosene circuit,” which included many nighttime area dances. He once performed during an NBC nationwide broadcast with the Bill Engberg Orchestra in 1946 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Dangelo even recalls being involved in a car accident on the way to a dance in Beloit, Wis., and playing with a busted lip that evening. He also appeared in a band on his wedding night in 1944, as his very understanding wife looked on.
Vito and his late wife, Gladys, have three children, Carey, Cynthia and Jim. He graduated from Rockford High School in 1936.
Vito was brought to the April 13 RAMI Awards Ceremony from his current residence at Rosewood by his nephew, Gerald and his wife, Bridget. To get through the large crowd and around the tables, Vito lifted his walker over his head to make his way to the podium.
John Russell Ghrist, host of Midwest Ballroom on WTPB LP 99.3 FM, Rockford’s big-band and easy listening community radio station, read a lengthy presentation for Vito at the 21st Annual RAMI event. The crowd rose in appreciation and applauded when Vito’s age and name were announced. The pair worked together last summer at the Engberg band’s “One Last Time” dance at Veterans’ Memorial Hall. The event was attended by 260 people.
“When I heard that many fine long-time area musicians have received one of these prestigious RAMI awards, I knew that Vito deserved one, too, for his 70 years of dedicated musicianship in the Rockford area,” Ghrist told the packed crowd at the Tebala that night. The entire event was filmed for broadcast on Comcast Channel 57 and will be aired at 7 p.m., May 28.
Before the ceremonies were over, Ghrist was also honored with a RAMI Community Service Award for his volunteer work at WTPB LP. The station is operated by Third Presbyterian Church in Rockford, where Dr. Murray Hanson is the pastor. Ghrist was nominated for his award by Rockford resident Helen (H.K.) Johnson and presented by the RAMI’s Valeri DeCastris.
From the April 25-May 1, 2012, issue