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Michael ‘Mick Rain’ Ruane, drummer for Chicago power pop group Pezband, dead of COVID-19 at 68

Jeff Murphy of the band Shoes calls him ‘the foundational core of Pezband’s driving rhythm section for almost 50 years and an unrelenting proponent of power pop rock music.’

Mike Ruane (left) was the drummer for the power pop group Pezband. With bandmates (from left) Mimi Betinis, Mike Gorman and Tom Gawenda.
Mike Ruane (left) was the drummer for the power pop group Pezband. With bandmates (from left) Mimi Betinis, Mike Gorman and Tom Gawenda.
Sun-Times file

Mike Ruane was the big man playing the big drum set for Pezband, one of a wave of effervescent power pop groups also including Cheap Trick, Material Issue and Shoes to emerge from the Chicago area in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Ruane, known by the nickname Mick Rain, died Aug. 14 at Tampa General Hospital of complications from COVID-19, according to his daughter Nicoletta Montaner.

His family took out a death notice in the Tampa Bay Times saying his death was “courtesy of the U.S. and Florida state governments’ homicidal pandemic policy.”

He had been vaccinated for the coronavirus while undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. He responded well to his oncology regimen and “his bloodwork was spectacular,” his daughter said.

But then Mr. Ruane — who moved to Tampa after the band broke up in the early 1980s — fell ill.

“If there was proper policy, he would not have gotten sick,” Montaner said. “It’s Florida. Nobody’s masking. The ICUs are full.

“This was not a necessary death,” she said. “There could [have been] another Pezband reunion at FitzGerald’s, just like there was every few years.”

Mike Ruane, amid a cloud of smoke, in the 1970s.
Mike Ruane, amid a cloud of smoke, in the 1970s.
Mimi Betinis

He and the three other original members of Pezband grew up in Oak Park and went to Oak Park-River Forest High School, said his bandmate and former brother-in-law Demetrios “Mimi” Betinis.

Growing up in Oak Park in the 1960s, Mr. Ruane later told his daughter, “There was a whole network, a rabbit warren of basements where kids would go from house to house, and all the kids were borrowing records,” she said.

“We would be in the basement, just playing records, hanging around, maybe playing pool, and there would be a tap on the window, and he’d be looking in with this Cheshire cat grin, and he’d say, ‘Hey, your troubles are over,’ ’’ said his friend Floyd Sullivan. “We would let him in the basement door so he didn’t have to deal with our parents.”

In 2016, Mr. Ruane told the Chicago Reader how he got into music.

“I think it was The Buckinghams’ fault,” he said of the 1960s Chicago rock group. “They played in front of that fountain in Grant Park in 1965, it got in the water, and these kids drank it. It turned every garage in the suburbs into a Fender amp store or a recording studio.”

Mike Ruane in his days with Pezband.
Mike Ruane in his days with Pezband.
Mimi Betinis

When Pezband formed in 1971, it was Mr. Ruane, Betinis, John Pazdan and Mike Gorman.

“We had two Mikes,” Betinis said, “so we said, ‘Let’s just call you Mick Rain.’ It’s a good pop name.

“He played a great big drum set,” Betinis said. “The bass drum was a 28-inch, and he was kind of known for that, and it powered our sound.”

“Mike was the foundational core of Pezband’s driving rhythm section for almost 50 years and a really nice guy,” Jeff Murphy of Shoes said. “Steady, professional and profound, he was a crucial part of the Chicagoland music scene and an unrelenting proponent of power pop rock music.”

Pezband headlined at clubs including Tuts, Huey’s, Haymaker’s in Palatine, the Big Kumquat in Prospect Heights and B’Ginnings in Schaumburg.

“We played all over Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Southern Illinois,” Betinis said.

In New York, the band played the Bottom Line, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB; in Los Angeles, the Whiskey a Go Go.

The Los Angeles Times’ Richard Cromelin wrote that the group combined “melodic pop, reflecting the McCartney side of the Beatles, with a hard, controlled attack powered by solid chording and squealing Who-like overtones.”

Pezband released three LPs and two EPs. Mr. Ruane often co-wrote its songs. One, “Stella Blue,” was influenced by his reading Baudelaire.

The band opened for Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Kiss, Blondie and Rush.

After signing with Passport Records in New Jersey, the band members moved to that state and played East Coast clubs, where audiences “were, like, ‘This is great — it’s like the Beatles through a Marshall amp,’ ” Betinis said.

But an obstacle loomed, he said: “We were up against the disco monster.”

After the band’s early 1980s breakup, Mr. Ruane moved to Florida, where his daughter said he worked in sales for what’s now Shaker Recruitment Marketing.

Over the years, Pezband reunited for shows including, most recently, one in 2017 with Shoes and Dwight Twilley.

Mr. Ruane got sober 32 years ago and became a sponsor for many others in Alcoholics Anonymous, according to his family and friends.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his sons Markos and Erik Ruane and Michael Evrard, his sister Peggy Ward Ruane and one grandchild.

A celebration of life is being planned for later this year.

Mike Ruane loved being outdoors and visiting national parks. Here, he uses ice cleats to traverse a glacier in Alaska’s Denali National Park.
Mike Ruane loved being outdoors and visiting national parks. Here, he uses ice cleats to traverse a glacier in Alaska’s Denali National Park.
Nicolletta Montaner