I’ve played guitar and written and sung songs since the 1960s.  In 1966 I joined Roger Holmes’ band, the WHATZIT IT FORE with Mike Sims and Wayne Paney.    After we added keyboardist, Greg DeBruyne, we became, what else, WHATZIT FORE + ONE.    At some point we changed our name to the much cooler, JUNIOR JONES REINCARNATION.    We were one of about 100,000 garage bands in the Chicago area spawned by the Beatles and the British invasion.

Whatzit Fore + One
L to R Mike Sims, Casey, Roger Holmes, Greg DeBruyne and Wayne Paney

We had several gigs at Lake Park High School and other shows and parties in the area.   I guess we can call ourselves professionals, because we got paid for many dates at other high schools and universities in northern Illinois.  We didn’t get paid much, but it was enough to pay for gas and music equipment.  We covered the hits of the times; Beatles, Stones, Chuck Berry, Jefferson Airplane, Birds, Yardbirds, Hollies. We had a blast.

Over the years I’ve remained a fan and creator of music and delved into some piano and keyboards.  I’ve written several songs along the way and enjoy playing them for family and friends.  I converted our attic into a music room and primitive recording studio where I stole away for countless hours.  It was kind of sound-proofed, but apparently not enough to prevent the thump of the bass from penetrating the floor into our bedroom below, drawing the ire of my wife on too many occasions.


In the mid-1980s, I wrote a song ITASCA-ON MY WAY HOME which I recorded up in our attic using the primitive equipment of the day.  Here’s a link to the song.



Backstory of the song

For those of you who have read our book Suffering Is the Only Honest Work, watched the short film The Letter, or just remember, a few days before Christmas in 1970—I was a junior in college home for the holidays—my father killed himself with a handgun.   Within two weeks, I returned to USC, my brother Grover to Wharton Business School, and my mother and 13 year old sister Laura packed up the house and moved to California to live with her folks, Vern and Henrietta Case.   We literally and figuratively ran out of Itasca desperately trying to put as much distance as we could from the impossible, unthinkable nightmare.

I too did everything I could over the years to forget my father and anything tied with or to him.  I cut off all ties to the friends I grew up with in Itasca and made at Lake Park.   My mother stayed in touch with some of her close friends—Jeanne West, Pat Nottke and a few others.   Not me.

When I wrote Itasca it had been about 16 years since my father’s death.  Of course, the song is all about my dad and my struggle to cope with him being gone.    I write that I’m Coming Back, I’m on my way home, and I’m all the way home.    That wasn’t true.   I had only been back to Itasca one time and that was for Kim West Eck’s wedding.  I didn’t look up any of the old gang.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Finally stopped regretting what he took from me,
I thank the man,
It’s because of he I’m alive

More bullshit.   As of 1987, I had not yet forgiven my father nor had there been any sort of reconciliation with him.   I had somehow survived his suicide, married the love of my life, had a solid career as an attorney and we had two beautiful children.   In my mind I achieved all of that in spite of him, not because of him.   I certainly didn’t thank the man.

But you know the thing with lyrics and poems.   Sometimes you write about how it is—other times, how you wish it could be.  I suppose deep down I wanted it to be OK with my dad, but that seemed so far out of reach.  To do so, I would have to think about him and try and find him—who he really was and what actually happened.  Why?   I just didn’t have the stomach to go back into that rabbit hole.  It would have to take something really big for me to ever have the guts to do that.

As it turned out, the ‘something really big’  was the death of our 24 year old son, Jimmy, in 2008; struck and killed by an automobile walking home from a party.  As I explored in Suffering and the story The Letter, Jimmy’s death, somehow, someway, miraculously reconnected me and my dad.   I never thought there could ever be anything as painful as my father’s death.   So wrong.  Three months after Jimmy died, my father came through and got me as I was going down at the absolute lowest point in my life.  Maybe he heard my song of how I wanted things to be.

Today those words are absolutely true, and then some.  I love my dad, he loves me and we both know it.

I will always consider Itasca my home.  I spent 15 wonderful years at 902 Greenview and made some of the closest and best friends of my life, many of whom I am so glad I’ve reconnected with over the past few years. I am very proud to be an Itasca boy.   Itasca is a special place and

Nothing’s ever going to take her place in my heart

ITASCA © 1987
Been a way so long
I hardly knew the place
But it came right back
When I saw her face
Nothing’s ever going to take her place in my heart

Left her years ago
I had a heavy heart
Clouds of fear
Shades of doubt
Quite a few things I had to figure out on my own

I’m on my way home….Itasca
Nothing ever changed the way I feel
I’m on my way home Itasca
Nothing ever changed the way I feel

Tried to run and found
I could not get away
So I just had to stop and
Fight this day to day
Told myself there just has got to be a way to survive.

Finally stopped regretting
What he took from me
Remembered all I’d done
All that I could be
Now I thank the man for
It’s because of he I’m alive

I’m all the way home…Itasca
Nothing’s ever changed the way I feel

[Run out]
Been away so long I hardly knew the place
It came right back when I saw her face
Nothing’s ever going to take her place
In my heart…In my heart

Dad, Casey and Jimmy



2 responses to “THERE’S A SONG ABOUT ITASCA?”

  1. AvatarGary krebs says:

    Casey.. this is very heartfelt and gut wrenching at the same time. Losing your dad is one thing.. losing a child is unthinkable. I’m sure having the courage and suffering the pain was the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your Life… Thank You for the share in this story. FYI..Mike Sims and I played together in the late 70’s and early 80’s.. in a band called Used.. get it.. used music. Mike Came up with the name and a lot of the promo material. We played at many of the Chicago area clubs. We played a lot of cover stuff for the time.. but Mike and I wrote some pretty nifty and catchy pop songs. Mike was a very talented guy. God rest his soul and peace to Jan and the rest of his family. Again thank you for telling your story. I miss Itasca as well.. but living in Schaumburg.. I get an occasional bug to drive down Irving park road through town, just for old time sake. Peace to You and your Family! Gary

    • Casey GaunttCasey Gauntt says:

      Gary- thank you for reaching out with your kind words and your connection and memories with Mike. Mike Lueth let me know Mike continued with his music and I’m glad he pursued his passion and talent. Do you have a photo of you guys/Used–great name–almost as good as Whatzit 4. Can you believe a high school band had “zit” in its name? Are you Kathy Krebs brother? Best regards

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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