Ron Onesti: My Americana guitar

Posted7/6/2018 6:00 AM
  • This six-string, acoustic guitar from the 1970s has sat in Ron Onesti's office for years. recently, he has been asking artists who represent "America" to sign it.

    This six-string, acoustic guitar from the 1970s has sat in Ron Onesti's office for years. recently, he has been asking artists who represent "America" to sign it. Courtesy of Onesti Entertainment Corp.

The "past" has always been the "present" for me. It has always been a part of my day, whether it is listening to old record albums, watching psychedelic television programs from the Seventies on MeTV, or black and white films on TCM.

I have been collecting memorabilia from the Roaring Twenties for years, just because I was always interested in that era. Little did I know years ago I would one day open a 1920s speakeasy that would allow me to share these items of sentimental value with delighted customers.

In my own "Storage Wars" search I would do on occasion, I found a six-string, acoustic guitar from the 1970s that was painted as an American Flag. It was kind of eccentric looking, but it "spoke" to me. I paid the fifty bucks and it sat in the corner of my office for a few years.

One of my all-time favorite bands, America, has probably played The Arcada more than any other act. Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Buckley visit us each year, now selling out two nights. Their familiar voices are part of a song catalog that defines folk rock of the '70s. Gems including "A Horse with No Name," "I Need You," "Ventura Highway," "Tin Man," "Lonely People," "Sister Golden Hair" and "You Can Do Magic." It's a virtual soft rock jukebox!

About four years ago, as I was about to leave my office to greet the guys from America before their show, the red, white and blue guitar caught my eye. I grabbed it and brought it to the dressing rooms.

"That's awesome," Dewey said as I handed it to him. "Thank you so much."

"Actually, would you guys sign this for me?" I asked.

"Ron, long live you and The Arcada. Our best, America -- Dewey and Gerry."

Seeing that inscription on this flag-laden six-string actually brought a tear to my eye. The guitar went from a novelty item to completely representing what I am all about. It took my all-American pride, my love for music, the era that musically defines me and a band that represents the growth of The Arcada and wrapped it all together. Kind of powerful!

So when Kevin Costner, the A-list Hollywood actor, brought his original country band Modern West to The Arcada, I asked him to sign it. For me, Kevin truly represents contemporary American cinema, more than any other actor of today. And being the star of films including "Field of Dreams," "Bull Durham" and "For the Love of the Game," made him a film-hero of mine because I've played baseball my whole life, and even considered pursuing a career in baseball early on.

So now the guitar represents America even more for me because a bona fide American movie star signed it, also bringing my love for baseball into the picture!

Arlo Guthrie, an American folk singer of the Sixties and son of legendary Americana singer Woody Guthrie, came to The Arcada in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of his 1967 debut album, "Alice's Restaurant." His Bob Dylan-like songs about anti-war protests and social injustice represents America at a pivotal time in its history … a perfect reason for him to sign my "Americana" guitar!

Another Hollywood star with whom I can proudly say I have one degree of separation with is Kevin Bacon. He appeared at The Arcada with his brother Michael performing songs from his films, original music and American favorites. A great, humble guy who also represents American contemporary cinema for me. I told him the story of the guitar and asked him to sign it.

"I would be honored," he said.

"Whoa," I thought to myself. HE would be honored?

So now, as much as I have not really been an autograph hound for the countless celebs we deal with on a weekly basis over here, I am on a quest to have specific individuals who represent America in an iconic way sign the "Americana Guitar."

My next ones to sign it will be Buddy Guy, American bluesman; Mark Farner, who sang "We're An American Band" with Grand Funk Railroad; the band Jay & the Americans; and Jim Peterik, singer and songwriter who gave us "Eye of the Tiger."

I am sure there will be many others, but this guitar will one day truly represent all things American for me. Wait a second, I should probably have somebody from the Vienna Beef hot dog company sign it. Now THAT'S American!

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email

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