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Music marketer Mike Egan, dead at 64, ‘guy who would turn you on to early Cure’

Mike Egan, left, with Elvis Costello.

Mike Egan, left, with Elvis Costello. | Provided photo

Mike Egan could build a deck or fix a leaky faucet, and he was equally adept at figuring out where to get haircuts for members of a then-unknown band called U2.

He escorted many bands to music-store appearances. He also escorted their likenesses, carting posters and life-sized cutouts of musicians for display at Rose Records, the Flip Side, Wax Trax, Rolling Stone and other Chicago music stores during the decades he worked in merchandising and promotion for record companies.

“He was the guy who would turn you on to the early Cure records,” said Bob Callahan, a Midwest representative for WEA, which grew from Warner Elektra Atlantic. “He’d say, ‘Here, listen to this — it’ll scare you to death.’ ”

“He had good ears,” said Joe Shanahan, founder of the Wrigleyville clubs Metro and smartbar. “He knew the music, and he promoted it with a real conviction.”

Mr. Egan, 64, of Edison Park, died Tuesday of a heart attack, according to Irene, his wife of 34 years.

Mike Egan (right) with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Mike Egan (right) with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. | Facebook

When Mr. Egan worked for Smash — “an important house label” — he’d deliver records to Shanahan.

“Every so often when I deejay, I still play those older house records, and they were very high quality,” Shanahan said.

Mr. Egan also helped introduce Japanese anime — including “Ghost in the Shell,” “Astro Boy” and “Street Fighter” — to American audiences through his work for Manga Entertainment.

Also, Shanahan said, “He was an incredible guitar player” and owned nine guitars.

Mike Egan owned nine guitars and was "an incredible guitar player," said Joe Shanahan, founder of the Wrigleyville clubs Metro and smartbar.

Mike Egan was “an incredible guitar player,” said Joe Shanahan, founder of Metro and smartbar. | Facebook

In recent years, as promotional jobs in the recording industry dwindled, Mr. Egan began working with contractors at Home Depot.

But he still recorded original instrumental tracks. He sold them to customers including National Geographic, which used snippets for films, said his friend Ric Addy, a music merchandiser and former owner of Shake, Rattle & Read bookstore.

Young Mike grew up on the Northwest Side, where he learned to be a strong swimmer at the Shabonna Park pool. He went to Our Lady Help of Christians grade school and Prosser High School.

Mike Egan and his wife Irene.

Mike Egan and his wife Irene. | Facebook

His love of music “all started with the Beatles,” his wife said.

His first band was Bezoomny Loodeaz — the name a play on slang in the 1971 movie “A Clockwork Orange,” which roughly translates as “crazy people.” The group performed at the Aragon, opening for former ELO member Roy Wood’s band Wizzard.

Mike Egan (resting his head on his hand) and a promotional poster for his first band.

Mike Egan (resting his head on his hand) and a promotional poster for his first band. | Provided photo

Addy played with Mr. Egan in the group Six-String Massacre at clubs like Artful Dodger and 950. They leaned toward performance art, like the time they did a “Twin Peaks’’ night, playing the show’s Angelo Badalamenti music in a room filled with TVs playing “Twin Peaks” and lots of doughnuts and coffee — a tribute to the show’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper.

In his 20s, Mr. Egan landed a job at WEA in distribution and marketing. He later worked for Elektra and from 1990 to 1993 at Smash, a division of Island Records, according to the label’s former president, Marvin Gleicher.

He then was a manager at a business Gleicher co-founded with Island’s Chris Blackwell — Manga Entertainment.

Beginning in 2006, he helped produce the PBS series “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis.”

“He was a hard worker, a committed worker,” Lewis said Friday. “A wonderful human being with a great sense of humor and a wonderful guy to be around. Anybody who was in his life at all was touched, and that touch will go with me for a long time.”

“He was really good at executing the production details, supervising artwork for covers, ads for various magazines,” Gleicher said.

“He was always willing to let others be in the spotlight while quietly working hard in the background,” said composer Dean Anderson.

Mr. Egan rarely was starstruck. With U2, for instance, “When they were unknown, Mike took them to a hairdresser he knew” for trims, his wife said.

Mike Egan with Pat Metheny, a guitarist he idolized.

Mike Egan with Pat Metheny, a guitarist he idolized. | Provided photo

There was one exception, she said: “He was in awe of [guitarist] Pat Metheny.”

In addition to jazz, blues, rock, punk, house and rap, Mr. Egan enjoyed lush orchestral arrangements. His favorite was “Deborah’s Theme” from the 1984 film “Once Upon a Time in America.” He also liked scores from “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey” and those by Alfred Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann.

Once, he recorded an acoustic guitar version of Herrmann’s “Psycho” theme.  “WXRT played it on Halloween,” Addy said.

Mr. Egan liked Pepe’s Tacos and Dairy Queen, boating and fishing and Florida trips to Sanibel Island, where, his wife said, “he was like a little kid” when he found pretty wentletrap shells. She said he loved their two rescued French bulldogs, Lily and Laura, and performed countless little kindnesses, like blowing away leaves and doing snow removal for elderly neighbors.

He is also survived by his mother Stella, sisters Carole and Barbara, brother Raymond and many nieces and nephews. Visitation is from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Malec & Sons Funeral Home, 6000 N. Milwaukee.