Two for Tuesday: Chicago

In the late 1960’s, guitarist Terry Kath, bassist Peter Cetera, keyboard player Robert Lamm, drummer Dan Seraphine, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, trombonist James Pankow, and saxophone and flute player Walter Parazaider formed a band that they called the Chicago Transit Authority. People who heard them thought they were great, one of the first bands to incorporate jazz elements into rock music. The real CTA, operator of the buses and trains in town, took exception to their name being used and hit them with a cease and desist order. Their producer, James William Guercio, shortened the name to Chicago, and so far the city hasn’t hit them with any lawsuits.

There were two elements to Chicago’s music in the early years: the horn section and Terry Kath. The only self-taught musician in the group, he kept the band rooted in rock, and his rough singing and guitar playing were a favorite of no less a guitar player than Jimi Hendrix. As a young guitar player myself at the time, he was a big influence on me, although I could hardly hold a candle to him. Most of the time, I just sat and listened, wondering how he managed to get that many sounds out of a guitar.

Sadly, Terry’s life ended abruptly at a party on January 23, 1978, when, after a few drinks, he held a gun that he thought was unloaded to his head and pulled the trigger, and died of the self-inflicted wound. There are those who suggest that maybe he knew just what he was doing. In an odd way, it marked a change in my life; he was buried on January 28, the day that Mary and I were married.

Chicago went through a number of changes after that. When music videos became popular, they anointed Peter Cetera as the frontman and “face” of Chicago. He went solo in 1985. Dan Seraphine was fired in 1990. Robert Lamm and the horn section are still with the band, which continues to tour and release albums.

The two songs I’ve chosen are live performances from the early days of the band. The first, a cover of Steve Winwood’s “I’m a Man,” was done in 1968, when the band was still the Chicago Transit Authority. The second, “Questions 67 and 68,” was their first single that didn’t do so well. Both tracks are from their first album and feature Terry Kath prominently.

So, there’s you Two for Tuesday. See you next week.

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