Cheap Trick landmark crumbles in devastating fire

Creative space for legendary rock band, Cheap Trick, disintegrates in fire on Saturday.
Creative space for legendary rock band, Cheap Trick, disintegrates in fire on Saturday.(Dillyn Johnson)
Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 6:46 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “It was probably one of the largest fires we’ve had in the last fifteen to twenty years,” said Rockford Fire Chief, Derek Bergsten.

In a matter of hours, a massive fire raged through the building on North Main Street in Rockford early Saturday morning, erasing nearly a century of the city’s manufacturing history. While many people remember it as the Atwood Vacuum Machine Company, others know it as a creative space for the legendary rock band, Cheap Trick.

“I’m an older Rockford kid. We grew up with Cheap Trick. It’s sort of shocking to you. Like, wow. That was a part of our history," said former Cheap Trick roadie, Ron Johnson.

Ron Johnson worked for Cheap Trick in the late eighties, driving the band’s equipment and hauling it on and off trucks. Johnson spent a lot of his time inside the Atwood building.

“My ability to be able to go in and out of there and see the equipment and touch the equipment, try on a five neck guitar, like who gets to do that," said Johnson.

Johnson says that he grieved as he watched the building burn, capping a year of difficulties and losses in the community.

““You’re sad when you have a physical connection with a building and it’s now gone,” said Johnson.

Johnson says he’s grateful for the time he spent there and he will always carry those special memories with him.

“You can’t go to the place where it was anymore, it’s gone. But at least the experiences are still there and that part of Rockford will always be apart of me," said Johnson.

The Rockford Fire Department says the building was already on its demolished list. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

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