Frank Marocco: 1931-2012
- His 60-year career in music sprang out of Waukegan Township High School, where he studied under the direction of Otto Graham Sr., father of the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback.
He would go on to form his own trio at age 18, eventually playing with Liberace at Lake Tahoe and entertaining the troops with Bob Hope.
And if you young people go on YouTube right now and search for "Charlie's Angels Yodel," you will see a 39-second clip from the 2000 action movie that features Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray performing an oom-pah tune written by Waukegan's own Frank Marocco.
In fact, Marocco has more than two dozen film credits to his name at the Internet Movie Database, playing his accordion on the soundtracks of "Ratatouille" (2007), "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007), "Something's Gotta Give" (2003) and "Midnight Run" (1988).
Marocco passed away on March 3rd, 2012, closing a quiet but impressive success story that ranks him among the more notable entertainers to hail from Waukegan.
"Frank Marocco left us (Saturday evening) in Los Angeles at the age of 81," read a statement posted by his manager, Elke Ahrenholz, at frankmarocco.com. "His music will always be with us, and it was a great privilege to know this incredible musician and work with him. He was my best friend, my inspiration, my mentor, and I will always honor him."
Faded yellow clips from The News-Sun archives record that the year before Marocco graduated from high school in 1949, he won first place among accordion players at Soldier Field's Chicago Music Festival. He qualified for that competition at no less than the 1948 Waukegan News-Sun Music Festival.
By 1955, the "boy prodigy on the accordion" had formed the Frank Marocco Trio with fellow Waukegan native Gordon Lofgren on bass and Jerry Holton of Kenosha on guitar. By the early 1970s, he was a featured performer with Les Brown and His Band of Reknown.
Other musical giants Marocco worked with over the years include Burt Bacharach, Elmer Bernstein, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini and John Williams. But his working-class roots never left him, as indicated by his response when asked for a musical philosophy:
"Although I've made a comfortable living, my primary goal has never been to make a lot of money. It has been to be the best I could possibly be. This takes integrity, hard work and dedication. You must have respect for what you do."