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Jazz musician Val DeCastris dies

Leader of the Val Eddy band played Sauk Valley hot spots later in career

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

ROCKFORD – Val DeCastris, a jazz musician for more than 70 years known professionally as Val Eddy, has died of cancer and Parkinson’s disease at the age of 88.

DeCastris, who died Aug. 4 in Rockford, was a singer, band leader who played bass, banjo and mandolin. He toured the Midwest and the country for decades, along with the late pianist and vocalist Homer Carlson, as the Val Eddy Duo.

They played major clubs and resorts in Chicago, Rockford and throughout the region, and later in their careers performed at Chicago Cubs third baseman Stan Hack’s Landmark in Grand Detour, Maxson’s Manor in Oregon, and the Brandywine in Dixon, among many others.

In the 1950s, when joined by the late guitarist Dave Pitts, known as Dave LaMond, the duo became the Val Eddy Trio. They had their own live music TV show, “The Song Shop,” that aired 4 nights a week on WTVO in the 1950s.

DeCastris’ bands performed with such music legends 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.

DeCastris, an Army veteran of World War II, played in the Army Marching Band and eventually its Dance Band, performing at USO events.

A visitation with jazz performances by friends will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Fitzgerald Funeral Home, 1860 S. Mulford Road in Rockford. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday at Holy Family Parish, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. and burial at Calvary Cemetery.

Memorials can be made to Val DeCastris, c/o 918 Cunningham St., Rockford, IL 61102, to provide music scholarships for needy youths. Go to www.fitzgeraldfh.com for the complete obituary, and to send condolences.

 

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