October 2, 2017 – Skip Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger in Franklin Park Illinois in 1946. He graduated East Leyden High School in 1963. When it comes to rock music being the sound track to our boomer generation, there are certain songs that stand out and stay a perennial anthem such as Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Wear some flowers in your hair), Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans and the song Skip Haynes wrote and performed about Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.
Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger, but a club manager told him early in his career there wasn’t enough room on the marquee for that. Since his grandfather called him Skippy, he decided to take the name Skip Haynes.
The musical inspiration for the song came from a Jerry Jeff Walker song called Mr. Bojangles and a song by America called This Is For All The Lonely People, while the lyrical inspiration came as the result of a snowy after midnight drive, bar hopping with the band’s manager.
Apparently there had never been the intention to record the song, until manager Arthur Belkind insisted they take the $1,700 he had saved to go and record the song. A record label in New York called Bang Records released it as a single, and it went nowhere.” A second version was recorded, this time backed with some members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and it became popular on local radio. Even after the recording, the band didn’t really like the song and the result was that when Lake Shore Drive began to get constant radio airplay, they already had forgotten how to play the song live. They actually had to buy the album at the $6.95 price tag and learn the chords and structure again.
The original band Aliotta Haynes Music consisted of the Aliotta brothers Ted and Mitch on drums and bass and Haynes on lead guitar and vocals. After a while Ted left and was replaced by keyboardist John Jeremiah, who’d performed with legendary soul singer Minnie Riperton. They met at the old Saddle Club in Old Town.
“We just ended up going back to my place, and we would sing till, like, 8 in the morning,” Haynes told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2015. “The first time we sang together, it sounded really cool.”
Their big break came in 1970. Haynes was living at the time above the Earl of Old Town, the legendary folk club at North and Wells. “John Jeremiah came over to rehearse, and club owner Earl Pionke came upstairs and said, ‘My act just quit — can you come down and do something?’ ” Mr. Haynes said. “So we went down and started singing. And we didn’t stop for 12 years.”
Then Haynes composed what became their signature tune, “I only intended that song to be played once for our manager — he was the only one that liked the song. We didn’t like it. Two weeks later, we’re in the studio recording it.”
Their liking of the tune became better when Jeremiah disappeared for two days and worked out “this incredible piano part,” according to Haynes. “We liked the part so much that we started performing the song just to listen to John play the piano.”
“Right at the very end, Mitch and I were going to do the vocals, ‘Slippin’ on by on L.S.D., Friday night trouble-bound,’ ” he said in the 2015 Sun-Times interview. “Mitch said, ‘Definitely, put the ‘L.S.D.’ in.’ Mitch was a funny guy.”
The band lasted until the early 80s without setting the world on fire, but they kept gigging until Haynes moved to California and became involved in Animal Rescue and Wildlife Protection. Haynes kept on writing and performing but now only to benefit animals in his rescue place in Laurel Canyon.
LSD got two major revivals, first in 1993 when the song became an intricate part of the indie movie and in 2017 when the song got full exposure in the Marvel movie: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.
He worked to preserve wildlife habitat and fought the use of a rodenticide that works up the food chain from rats to birds and coyotes, according to his partner Nikki Poulos, who said he once spent three and a half months trying to find a sick coyote so it could be treated for mange.
Though an animal activist, Mr. Haynes never gave up meat. When he’d get a craving for an Italian beef sandwich, Poulos said he’d drive to Taste Chicago, a Burbank restaurant run by actor Joe Mantegna’s wife Arlene that specializes in Chicago foods.
Haynes longtime partner Nikki Poulos said he was a well-known wildlife activist and operated Laurel Canyon Animal Company, which created recordings she said some veterinarians use to soothe animals.
Skip Haynes died from cancer on October 2, 2017. He was 71.
Aliotta died in 2015. Jeremiah died in 2011.
The song Lake Shore Drive lived on — on radio, Spotify and iTunes and in commercials, including one in Switzerland.