Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



PASSAGES Music producer, vocalist, business owner Ralph Lampkin Jr.
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 3992 times since Fri Jun 30, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Music producer, vocalist and business owner Ralph Lampkin, Jr. died June 24 of a heart attack. He was 66.

Lampkin was born April 29, 1957, in New York City, where he lived with his parents Ralph Lampkin, Sr. and Betty Jane Lampkin and younger siblings Lisa, Mark and Craig. During Lampkin's childhood, his parents made sure he and his siblings were exposed to the culture in New York City at the time, including going to the ballet, movies, musical performances and the theater.

Lampkin took violin lessons as a child and also taught himself to play the piano. Additionally, he started singing as a soloist in the Bronx borough-wide chorus after the family moved there from Manhattan. The chorus performed in many venues, including Carnegie Hall.

In a 2002 Chicago Reader profile of Lampkin, he spoke about wanting "to attend the School of Performing Arts [for high school]. 'My father said, 'No, you're going to a school where you can study a trade. I've been doing this for a long time and it's not a business for you. You're too soft-hearted. You're a sissy.' I decided to go to the [what was then called the] NY School of Printing and Journalism, because I could at least learn how to write about music, and it was in Manhattan, so I would be closer to the theater district.'"

Lampkin was determined to sing so he moved back to Manhattan to live with his grandfather (while still attending the NY School of Printing and Journalism) so he could go to open-mic nights. After Lampkin graduated from high school, he pursued his dream of being a performer in New York City for a number of years at various venues.

Chicago pianist Rocky Rockhold saw one of Lampkin's shows while on vacation in New York City in 1979, and urged Lampkin to do a gig in Chicago. It took until 1981 for Rockhold to get Lampkin to move to Chicago. Lampkin performed at many Chicago venues over the years.

After a number of years onstage, Lampkin decided to direct his focus toward consulting, management and producing for other performers with, among other endeavors, his Lampkin Music Group, which he founded in 1988; he continued as its president for the rest of his life. He also founded Lampkin Magic Productions and the LMG Music label. Lampkin also co-founded Orman Lampkin Music Group with Lynn Orman in 2018.

Lampkin's many producing credits included Alexandra Billings' tour-de-force autobiography, Before I Disappear, in Off-Broadway, Los Angeles, Michigan and Chicago venues. He also worked with Tony winners Donna McKechnie, Alice Ripley and Hinton Battle; Grammy winning singer-songwriter Marsha Malamet; Golden Globe and Emmy nominated singer-songwriter Amanda McBroom; Jeff Award winner Hollis Resnik; award winner Michele Brourman; Broadway and cabaret stars Karen Mason, Charles Busch and Michael McAssey; disco dance divas Linda Clifford and Suzanne Palmer; cabaret artists Spider Saloff, Tom Michael and Beckie Menzie; jazz icons Bob Dorough and Sheila Jordan; saxophonist-singer Danny Lerman; singers Joanie Pallatto, Josie Falbo, Martha Lorin, Kirsten Gustafson, Devin Richards, Martha Lorin, Carlo Chapelle, Susan May, Patty Morabito, Robin Kay, Tyler Stephenson, David Gurland and Tom Michael and singer-songwriter Richard Knight, Jr.

Lampkin met his future romantic and business partner, artist and hairdresser Lawrence "Beau" Bilenki, in July 1985 at a South Bend bar called the Sea Horse. For four years, Lampkin commuted back and forth to South Bend to be with Bilenki. In 1989, Lampkin moved into Bilenki's Victorian house and soon after they opened a combination art gallery, Beaux-Arts, and hair salon, Serendipity, in South Bend. Lampkin ran the salon, including working as the receptionist/storyteller, while Bilenki cut and styled people's hair. He also did benefits in South Bend for the Fire House Theater, Morris Civic Auditorium and the South Bend Public Library.

Bilenki told Windy City Times that the clients would spend many hours talking to Lampkin to get his advice on what to see when they traveled to New York City. He added that Lampkin had an ability to build relationships with people, which was a big asset to both his personal and professional endeavors. Bilenki also said "Ralph was a love magnet filled with genuine passion for storytelling, helping people and creative problem solving. A conversation with Ralph could last three hours at a minimum."

Additionally, Lampkin took on the un-paid role of Fire Arts Board President in 2010, and held that position until his death. The Fire Arts is, according to its website, "a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the creation and appreciation of the three dimensional arts of sculpture, pottery and jewelry."

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to shift how they worked since in-person communication was restricted, Lampkin turned to his social media accounts to promote his clients and other artists he was passionate about. He posted events and record release information on his Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, among others.

Most recently, Lampkin was doing promotions for Falbo's record release You Must Believe in Spring, and a concert at Winter's Jazz Club. At the time of Lampkin's death, he was also working with Pallatto to promote her new release, Accidental Melody; he was also working on promoting Sasha Daltonn's new project, The Empress, The Lady and The Queen as well as having Malamet's body of work be transferred to his possession.

Lampkin's other, more recent professional endeavors included his roles as the South Bend Jazz Festival promotions manager (since 2011), Southport Records promotions manager (since 2011), Blujazz Management and Booking Company marketing director (since 2017) and The Jim Masters Show booker (since 2020).

After 9/11, Lampkin wanted to do something to help the community, so he produced the A Time for Love benefit for the Red Cross. He was also a presenter and producer on behalf of AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Actors Equity, Bailiwick Repertory Theater, Carnegie Hall, City Winery and Chicago House, as well as events for former Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Tom Chiola, former Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney and former South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke.

Lampkin is also featured in the Who's Who In Entertainment and the British Who's Who lists, and was a member of ASCAP, NARAS and the Jazz Journalist Association until his death.

In a Facebook post on Lampkin's page last year he wrote, "In Chicago, I discovered many differences that affected my heart, my brain, my eyes and my head….ah, the beauty. La Cage was a wonderful experience which lasted months into 1982. I got this gig because of my friend, the fantastic person named Chili Pepper. She introduced me to the managers that ran the restaurant, and after hearing me sing, I was hired.

"It was on the first floor of the building that housed La Cage Aux Folles. It's where Alexandra Billings, Bobbi May (who sang live) and other excellent female illusionist worked in the early 80's. I had various jobs at some of the premier gay clubs, including being the entertainment for the Mans Country 10th Anniversary. I learned so much from performing in front of audiences who felt like I did at that moment, at the time of my awakening."

Lampkin is survived by Belenki, his siblings and countless chosen family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents.

"As most of us that knew Ralph, I am torn between heartbreak and garnering the strength to exalt the beauty of this man," said longtime friend Sarai (Padilla) Faulkner. "Our meeting could have easily not happened. Just 18 and 19, on my last day working at a Burger King in New York City, he filled my customer's drink order. My daughter, Kassandra, had just been born the previous month. I loved the role of godparents. And though he was Jewish, and I was not Catholic, I asked him. He was thrilled and fulfilled that role with profound love and dedication, for the past 47 years. That is who Ralph was in all areas of his life.

"So, who is Ralph to me and what have I lost? I lost the friend who walked with me in our hometown. I lost the friend who would tell me about new projects, artists, and ideas. I lost the friend I would tell about my travels. I lost the friend that saw my family grow. I lost the friend who I told when I dyed my hair for the very first time. I lost the friend who cared for me when I divorced and was there when I remarried including being part of our family photograph. I lost a friend who met my mother and I met his parents. I lost a friend who worried about me as I lived in New York City on 9/11 and when I traveled to the Middle East to work with orphans. I lost the friend who was always my friend when neither of us lived in New York City anymore. I lost the friend who flew me to South Bend to talk about AIDS. I lost the only friend who'd asked me if I was watching an award show. I lost the man who'd ask me why bad things were happening in our world. I lost my daughter's godfather. I lost a lifelong best friend. Frankly, I lost a part of my life. I love you Ralph and I always will."

Longtime friend and entertainment industry associate Knight, Jr. said, "Ralph was one of those larger than life characters that every performer dreams about having in their corner. His passion for talent was as legendary as his boisterous laugh. His devotion, enthusiasm, and generosity was legendary. He was a genuine character—and I use that word with the deepest affection and admiration."

Longtime friend and producing partner Orman said, "For Ralphie words and melodies meant everything to him. But it was the breath between the notes, his calls, his brilliant creative thoughts, ideas and his booming laughter, his immeasurable love for Beau and his friends that took my breath away over 40 years ago. We were young and eager to make stars out of a very popular band in Chicago named Panama led by Israel Torres. The women vocalists of Panama continued to be our good friends to this day. I was filming Mae Koen's performance for Ralph at the Bronzeville Music Festival when the news came in of his passing that day. It's an immeasurable loss to me, my best friend and producing partner for over 40 years.

"We shared so many pivotal moments together, like sitting with Julie Gold who wrote From A Distance when she won a Grammy and getting stuck in a small elevator with Sting and Trudie when I was seven months pregnant with my son, Jordan. Sting told Ralph (thinking he was the father), don't worry I can deliver the baby. Nobody can fill his shoes."

Longtime friend McAssey said, "I called him my 'Uncle' Ralph. It fit. He loved singers and took joy in helping us survive this business. No one was a better champion. Famous and unknowns alike, he took pride in promoting us all. There was no one like Uncle Ralph, and he will be sorely missed."

"Ralph was selfless," said longtime friend and producing partner Lerman. "He gave his most precious resource, his time, to help so many people, not even thinking of himself. Ralph lived in all the artistic worlds, with musicians from Jazz, R&B, Latin and Cabaret, sculptors, painters, ceramic artists, actors and actresses. There was a Venezuelan artist in South Bend that Ralph helped get a sponsor and his residency papers. In the music world, Ralph produced shows around the country, as well as where he lived for over 30 years in South Bend. He co-produced the South Bend Jazz Festival and South Bend Music Festival and presented in venues such as Century Center, The Morris Center and concert clubs Trio's, Vegetable Buddies and the Acorn Theatre. He produced shows in New York City at Carnegie Hall and the Iridium among other places. He worked with the South Bend Civic Theater for years, producing shows, and doing set design and lighting.

"Ralph also managed his partner Beau Belinki, a talented artist, painter, sculptor, ceramic artist and hair stylist. Ralph's creativity and guidance were always given joyously and unselfishly, being happy to remain in the background and let his artists and friends shine. He gave his help selflessly for the love of art and people. He didn't ask for much money and many times didn't ask for any money, he just wanted to help. He managed and worked with me for 30 years and did publicity with Greg Pasenko's Chicago record label Blujazz. Ralph put on songwriting workshops in South Bend and brought together artists for collaborations."

Longtime friend and Southport Records co-owner Pallatto said, "Ralph was always in your corner. We coproduced many live events together, between his company, Lampkin Music Group, and our Southport Records. Some highlights include The After Party for Von Freeman at the Iridium in New York City in 2012, A Toast to George Freeman at City Winery in Chicago in 2018 and Joanie Pallatto-My Original Plan CD Release Party at Pangea in New York City in 2021. He sailed past 60 minutes like it was yesterday and will be greatly missed by me and many others."

Longtime friend and Southport Records co-owner Bradley Parker-Sparrow said, "Ralph was one of the only people who knew that jazz and cabaret were the same thing. As a Chicago piano player, I figured I'd never play any gig in New York City. New York cats are scared of Chicago cats. Ralph always got the gigs."

Longtime friend Daltonn added, "I don't know where to begin. I have known Ralph for over 45 years, He defined the word friend. We were young and excited. We were the future stars but Ralph was special. He talents had no boundaries. Whether he was working as a performing artist, producer or consultant, I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't consult with Ralph before making a decision regarding a project and that included CD's, theatrical productions and media relations. His advice was always correct. In fact, Ralph and I were working on my new project, The Empress, The Lady and The Queen. I cherish the precious memories of our friendship until we meet again."

"Ralph was amazing," added longtime friend Jennifer Girard. "He was filled with charisma and kindness. I never spent a dull moment when I was with him. His network of friends and clients was easily passed along to others. He will be missed."

Longtime friend and work colleague Abbé Sparks said, "Ralph Lampkin, 'Ralphie' to me and to those that knew him well, was a gentle giant in every sense of the word. My relationship with Ralph goes back almost two decades now as a friend, colleague, publicist, collaborator, cheerleader, co-conspirator and, possible distant relative. (But that story is for another time.) To me, Ralph is what I call an old school press agent with social media knowledge. His extraordinary talents were acknowledged by the rolodex of clients in the cabaret and theater worlds who held him in high regard. I ended up being one of those as well when I hired him to help publicize for the New York City premiere of my show Christmas Aint A Drag.

"Ralphies tentacles of love and networking were far reaching and wide. One of the true gentle giants. As colleagues, our business projects cross-pollinated most often. My company's motto is 'Do it with passion or not at all' and if there was ever anyone who fits that description besides me it was Ralph. My brand is all about igniting the sparks and I am confident that Ralph is still doing just that in that big show in the sky. Forever in my heart, Ralph will always ignite my sparks."

To contribute to Lampkin's funeral expenses, visit A celebration of life will take place at Fire Arts. Details TBA.

See for more on Lampkin's life.

This article shared 3992 times since Fri Jun 30, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

THEATER Nelson Rodriguez talks boxing, queerness and his very personal play
On Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Chicago Cultural Center, there will be a reading of New Personalidad—a play by actor, playwright and former Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree Nelson Rodriguez. The program, part of ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Bodyshop,' Beyonce, Ani DiFranco, Billie Jean King
The Breaking Glass Pictures film Bodyshop will be out on digital on Dec. 5, per a press release. The plot is described thusly: "The ghost of a young soldier sexually assaulted by his lieutenant says goodbye ...

Gay News

PERFORMANCE Teatro Zinzanni's Carisa Hendrix talks magic, queerness and Canada
One could call Teatro Zinzanni's newest production, "Love, Chaos, and Dinner," a meal and a show—but that would definitely shortchange this ongoing extravaganza. Taking place at the Loop's Cambria Hotel, there is not a bad seat ...

Gay News

'Sleeping with Beauty' serves up naughty holiday laughs
- Seasonal British pantomimes have been securing the talents of such known performers as Henry Winkler, George Takei and Sir Ian McKellen for decades now. This inventive recounting of fairy tales, utilizing popular song, comedy and rowdy ...

Gay News

Jerry Mitchell bops into Boop!
Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell is bringing black-and-white Boop! The Betty Boop Musical into a world of color at the CIBC Theatre this winter. It's a pre-Broadway world premiere for the musical starring Jasmine Amy Rogers ...

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag to present 'Peep Show: The Handbag 2023 Benefit'on Dec. 10
--From a press release - CHICAGO—Hell in a Handbag Productions will present its 2023 benefit: Peep Show—a peep through the curtains at the company's 2024 season—on Sunday, Dec. 10, 11:30 a.m. — 3:30 p.m. at The Center on Halsted's The Hoover-Leppen ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Billy Porter, queer novel, 'Tammy Faye,' queer DJ, Bella Ramsey
Billy Porter released his long-awaited new album, Black Mona Lisa, via Island Records UK/Republic Records, and it's executive-produced by Justin Tranter, a press release noted. Porter said, "So many of the songs on my album have ...

Gay News

Sarah Siddons to produce 'Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy'
In a first for the 71-year-old Sarah Siddons Society, it will produce a one-night performance of Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy—a new one-woman play written and performed by Almanya Narula, a 2016 Siddons Scholarship recipient ...

Gay News

Photographer Irene Young launches book with stellar concerts
"Something About the Women" was appropriately the closing song for two sold-out, stellar concerts at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage November 19, in celebration of the new book of the same name by Irene Young, the legendary ...

Gay News

SAVOR Fairmont Lodge, the MCA's newest sandwich and Krispy Kreme
Owning it: As I have mentioned, The Ramova Theatre will officially reopen this fall in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood, at 3520 S. Halsted St., as a live music venue, craft brewery, beer garden and grill. However, news ...

Gay News

YEPP 'rises' to occasion at fall fundraiser
Members and guests of Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) gathered Nov. 17 at Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont Ave., for the organization's fall fundraiser, Rise Up: Our Celebration of Resistance. The evening marked both the ...

Gay News

WORLD Latvia, nonbinary magistrate, Gay Games end, Israel soldiers
Latvia's parliament voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions, Reuters reported. Said couples now have legal recognition—but fewer rights than married couples. The new legislation, slated to take effect in the middle of next ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Music awards, military film, Tom of Finland, Yo-Yo Ma, 'Harley Quinn'
Video below - Brothers Osborne—a duo that includes gay brother TJ Osborne—won Vocal Duo of the Year for the sixth time at the recent CMA Awards, per a media release. Backstage, TJ told reporters, "I did not expect us ...

Gay News

THEATER Queer actor Chloe Baldwin talks 'POTUS,' identity and Shakespeare
In the Steppenwolf farce POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, queer actor Chloe Baldwin portrays the president's mistress Dusty, acting alongside a formidable group that includes Caroline Neff ...

Gay News

'Jersey Boys' stars reunite as Midtown Men on Dec. 2 in Glen Ellyn
The original stars of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys—Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer—will reunite as Midtown Men on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at McAninch Arts Center's Belushi Performance Hall ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.