Family, friends, neighbors applaud Tom Salzburg
By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
Tom Salzburg’s 40-year career as an acclaimed rock musician came to an end earlier this month, as the Clearing man battling a formidable disease put down the drumsticks for the last time.
At an emotional farewell concert at a nightspot in Lemont, Salzburg—assisted by his son, Tommy Jr. (also a rock drummer)—played with Bad Medicine, a nationally famous Bon Jovi tribute band.
“It was a bittersweet moment for me,” said Sue Schulz, whose sister, Kelly, is Tom Salzburg’s wife. “Sad and happy tears all mixed together. I couldn't be any prouder of Tom. He is a true inspiration.”
But just as Salzburg was putting down his sticks, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even complete strangers are picking up the pace to pull together a “Salzburg Strong” benefit set for 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, April 19 at Bourbon Street, the popular entertainment venue at 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park.
The benefit—designed to raise funds to pay down some of Salzburg’s mounting medical bills—will feature live entertainment all day, food and drinks, raffle baskets, split the pot and other raffles, and more.
Tickets are $35 at the door for adults (age 21 and up), $30 in advance. Tickets are $15 for those ages 5-20. Admission is free for children under age 5.
For details on the April event, as well as other Salzburg Strong fundraisers coming up in March, visit SalzburgStrong.com. Individuals, families, organizations and businesses are welcome to pitch in and donate to make the event a success.
“The event planning is taking shape,” added Schulz, a co-chair of the fundraiser. “We have seen so many people come forward to offer help. It's amazing to see how people come together for one family. My co-chair, Jessica, and I appreciate all the help we can get.”
People who want to donate in a more immediate sense are encouraged to visit the Salzburg Strong GoFundMe page online. Since it was started on Nov. 13, the GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $22,000 from 208 donors. The goal is $50,000.
“I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for your generous donations,” Sue added in a post online. “To say that Tom and Kelly are overwhelmed with the love and support shown is an understatement.”
For those who don’t want to make a donation online, checks made payable to Salzburg Strong may be set to BMO Harris Bank, 101 Burr Ridge Parkway, Burr Ridge, IL 60527, attention: Jason K. Refer to the account number ending in 5432.
On his 54th birthday last August, Tom Salzburg received confirmation that he is battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig Disease).
The confirmation came about six months after Tom noticed his jaw felt tight, his speech was occasionally slurred and he was coughing while eating or drinking. At first, he brushed off the symptoms as perhaps a winter cold or simply sore muscles.
But after several months of medical tests, the diagnosis came.
Tom has Bulbar Onset ALS. Relatively uncommon, Bulbar Onset ALS affects the speech, swallowing and breathing functions first before spreading to the limbs. It is a progressive disease that causes the death of neurons that control voluntary muscles leading to paralysis of the entire body. There is currently no cure; and since his diagnosis, Tom has declined at a rapid pace, according to a profile posted online.
The diagnosis would be tough enough for the average person—but more so for Tom, a machinist and welder by day and a rock drummer and singer by night.
In the 1980s, Tom earned his stripes with No Mercy and Tattoo. In recent years, he has been a key member of Bad Medicine and Motley II. He founded and fronted Cooper’s Dead Things, an Alice Cooper tribute band. Tom’s son, Tommy Jr., is the drummer in that band.
Tom no longer has the strength to wear his welder’s helmet, and he can no longer play in the band he created. Things most folks take for granted are a chore for Tom. It can take him an hour just to eat a small meal, if only because chewing and swallowing are becoming impossible.
“I’ve learned a lot [from the ongoing ordeal],” said Kelly Salzburg, Tom’s high school sweetheart and wife of 25 years. “I’ve learned that insurance companies suck. They are a nightmare.
“But I’ve also learned some very good things,” she adds. “I’ve learned that there are many people out there willing to help—and they’re not just family and friends.”
“People have asked me, ‘What can I do?’ and sometimes I struggle to answer because I don’t always know what we need,” Kelly continued. “But as time goes on, I’m learning what that is.”
A number of those helping continue to make home-cooked meals for the Salzburgs. To help guide the actions of others who have asked to assist in other ways, the Salzburgs have put together a wish list on Amazon. To find the link to the list, visit and join the Salzburg Strong group on Facebook.
The Southwest Chicago Post is proud to be a friend of Salzburg Strong, as well as an in-kind donor to the Salzburg Strong fundraisers. Community support for Tom Salzburg and his family is a just one of many examples of what makes this corner of Chicago such a great place. Please click on the links embedded in the story above and join in, won't you?
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