Musician Bryan Bowers told the Chicago Tribune Pionke suffered from pancreatic cancer and would be remembered at a memorial concert June 23.
The Earl of Old Town on Chicago's North Side was a frequent venue for singer-songwriters such as John Prine and Steve Goodman.
"The 'bigger than life' term doesn't do him justice," said Bowers. "He was the epicenter of the whole musical scene here."
The Earl of Old Town closed more than 30 years ago, but Pionke was well remembered by Chicago-area musicians. A recent show marking his last birthday drew about two dozen musicians and went on for 6 hours, the newspaper said.