In 1974, back when Rick Nielsen’s guitar collection still numbered in the single digits, Vincent Chiarelli of Vincent Records—Rockford’s lone independent label—finally closed his books, further dimming prospects for local music talent who already considered Vincent more of a stodgy jazz concern. By that same year, Fuse had burned out its one-album tenure with Epic; Cheap Trick’s earliest incarnations were gigging small-time and demoing, in preparation for showing Rockford’s louder citizens a golden path out of workaday monotony at, say, Nylint’s scale model toy manufacturing plant.
Credit Rick Pemberton, of Fuse offshoot Silverfox, with founding the Nicknames. Dave Galluzzo and Rick Szeluga came over from China (the band, not the nation Nixon opened) to join Pemberton, though they dropped the “Nick” and emerged as The Names after adding keyboardist Steve Hauser. Early Names gigs—among them opening slots for The Ramones, The Specials, and The Scorpions—happened at such venues as Chicago’s Park West, The Agora in Cleveland, and at Schaumburg’s B’Ginnings, the nightclub co-owned by drummer Danny Seraphine of Chicago (the band and the city). In short order, the Names had a death grip on the reins of Rockford’s rock future, those left dangling by the Robin Zander-ized Cheap Trick’s deal with Epic. “We were Avis to Cheap Trick’s Hertz,” joked Galluzzo, “but for a minute everyone said we were the next big thing to break from Rockford.”