Earl ‘The Earl of Old Town’ Pionke…Club Owner and a True Legend of the Chicago Music Scene Has Died

Posted 26 Apr 2013 in Music + TV News


Earl Pionke, known even more around the Chicago music scene as “The Earl of Old Town” has died. He passed away this afternoon April 26th at 2:30 PM.

For years Mr. Pionke owned the popular “Earl of Old Town” pub in Chicago that spawned the careers of many future household names such as John Prine, Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc and many many more.

The news of Mr. Pionke’s passing was announced by his close friend Marina Jason:

“It is with deep sadness that I must report that Earl J.J. Pionke died this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. There will be no funeral services as Earl requested that his body be donated to the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. The family has asked me to plan a memorial tribute for sometime in June ~ details to follow.

I knew Earl for just under forty years. I represented the “Earl of Old Town” and “Somebody Else’s Troubles,” doing the p.r. for both clubs. It was through this association that I got to know Earl and was fortunate enough to call him friend. 

Thanks to everyone who sent cards, letters, photos, etc. and to those who said prayers and sent good thoughts in Earl’s direction. A Chicago legend has passed. He will be sorely missed by many. ♥”

Last June there was a wonderful 80thearlanded  birthday party held in his honor at FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn, a near west suburb of Chicago. John Prine made a surprise appearance after flying in after a show in Colorado. Others there that evening included Eddie Holstein (picture at right with Earl), Johnny Burns, Bonnie Koloc, Jim Post, Billy Prine and even Minnitte Goodman, Steve’s Mother.

He will indeed be missed by many…..

Earl Reunion .2



Saul Broudy, Jim Post, Brian Bowers, John Prine, Dean Milano, Bonnie Kolack and Johnny Burns joined all of he musicians at the Earl of Old Town tribute to join Fred Holdstein’s recorded voice on All the Good People.  Photo by Jim Polaski.


 See Eddie Holstein below at Earl’s 80th birthday party.

Posted by Larry Carta


  1. YomingJack (27 Apr 2013, 23:11)

    Legend indeed. Earl helped open my young ears. A moment of silence may be inappropriate. The choir of angels will shortly have a new venue. R.I.P brother.

  2. Bonnie (30 Apr 2013, 22:25)

    I knew Earl way back when I got my first job (to pay for college) as a waitress on Lincoln Avenue, and he used to come into the small restaurant where I worked to shoot the breeze with the owner. I have many a fond memory of these guys just sitting around on slow days talking about business and some of the gossip on the street, and how things used to be. What a likeable big hearted guy he was. Rest in peace, Earl of Old Town, rest in peace.

  3. Bruce Swanwick (16 May 2013, 16:20)

    Loved Earl’s place from the first time I stepped in my b-day in 1969 turned 21 ! Wow the best acts ever , Steve , Bonnie , John , Jim and all the others even Ed Holstein. Those nights when the folks from Second City would come over . New Years Eve was the best , and 4 am having breakfest after they locked the door .

    Thank you Earl , I will see you some day and it will be like yesterdaty .

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