You probably have figured out by now that I was born and raised in Chicago and lived there the first 31 years of my life, and it should be pretty obvious by now that music is a big part of my life. So, today, I want to share a few songs from bands that came from Chicago. Who knows? It might even grow into a series on Two for Tuesday. Keep in mind, when I say “Chicago,” I’m probably talking about the Chicagoland area, encompassing both the city and the suburbs. People from the suburbs like to say they’re from Chicago, and it drives people who actually live in Chicago crazy.
- Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” With a name like Chicago, it’s pretty obvious that there was a pretty strong connection to the Windy City. Six of the seven original members were from Chicago (keyboardist Robert Lamm was from New York, but we won’t hold that against him). They started out calling themselves The Big Thing, then renamed themselves The Chicago Transit Authority, which lasted until the real CTA (the organization that runs the trains and buses) threatened to sue them. They cut the name down to Chicago, because they figured the city wouldn’t sue them over the name.
- The Ides Of March, “LA Goodbye” The Ides are from Berwyn, Illinois, just outside Chicago. They had a huge hit in 1969, “Vehicle,” which qualifies them as a one-hit wonder, although this song was a hit on WLS and WCFL, the two big rock stations in town. Guitarist Jim Peterik was also a founding member of Survivor and wrote the song “Eye of the Tiger,” that band’s biggest hit.
- New Colony Six, “I Will Always Think About You” The NC6 had their biggest hits between 1966 and 1971. They actually wore Colonial outfits on stage, not unlike Paul Revere & The Raiders, but unlike that band, they dealt mostly in soft rock. They weren’t well-known outside the Chicago area, but this song rose to #22 nationally. There is a rather funny video that shows them making an appearance on Mulqueens’ Kiddie A-Go-Go, a local kids’ show.
- The Buckinghams, “Kind Of A Drag” Originally known as The Pulsations, they were the house band on WGN-TV’s All-Time Hits in the mid-60’s. The producers wanted them to adopt a more British-sounding name to take advantage of the ongoing British Invasion, and a security guard at the station suggested The Buckinghams. They liked the name because they associated it with Buckingham Fountain, a popular Chicago landmark (until the damn Bean came along). They became one of the most popular acts in the nation in 1967, charting five Top 20 hits that year. They split up in 1970 but reformed in the mid-80’s and are now still touring. They were Al Kooper’s inspiration for forming Blood Sweat & Tears.
- The Cryan Shames, “Sugar and Spice” From suburban Hinsdale, the band’s name derives from the fact that Tommy Krein (pronounced “cryin'”) was asked to join the band but politely declined, leading on member to say it was a “cryin’ shame” he turned them down. Always popular in Chicago but not especially in the rest of the country, this was their one song that cracked the Top 50 (#49) on the Hot 100.
- Spanky & Our Gang, “Like To Get To Know You” From Bloomington, Illinois, a bit further south than the Chicago metro area (but close enough for me), their name was inspired by the “Our Gang” shorts, because Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane’s name was close to that of Spanky on those reels. They first came to national attention with “Sunday Will Never Be The Same,” which reached #9 nationally. This was the title track from their second album and reached #18.
- Curtis Mayfield, “Freddie’s Dead” While Chicago was no Detroit, Philadelphia, or Memphis, it was the source of some great Soul and R&B music. Curtis Mayfield got his start with Jerry Butler and The Impressions in the late 1950’s, and left that group in 1970 in pursuit of a solo career. He hit it big in 1972 when he composed and performed the music for the blaxploitation movie Super Fly, from which this song and the title track were issued as singles, both earning gold records. He’s generally credited with infusing soul music with social consciousness.
- Jerry Butler, “For Your Precious Love” Born in Sunflower, Mississippi, he lived most of his early years in the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project on the Near North Side of Chicago. He started out singing in church, where he met Curtis Mayfield. He’s written a number of songs, including “He Will Break Your Heart,” later covered by Tony Orlando & Dawn as “He Won’t Love You (Like I Love You),” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” with Otis Redding. “The Iceman” (a name given him by Philadelphia DJ Georgie Woods) continues to perform in addition to his duties as a Cook County Commissioner.
- The Chi-Lites, “Stoned Out Of My Mind” They got their start at Hyde Park High School and enjoyed their greatest success during the early Seventies, scoring eleven Top 10 hits on the R&B chart between 1969 and 1974, including “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh, Girl.” This is a personal favorite.
- Lou Rawls, “Lady Love” Frank Sinatra once said that Lou had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.” Lou recorded sixty albums (one of those was an album of Frank Sinatra covers) that sold 33 million copies over his career and had a number of hits on the R&B chart, but not much crossover success until 1976, with “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” which reached #2 on the Hot 100 as well as #1 on the R&B chart. “Lady Love” was his followup single. Of all the acts here, Lou identified most with Chicago, recording a jingle for WGN-TV proclaiming the station as “Chicago’s Very Own,” which could just as easily apply to him. For years he worked the telethon for the United Negro College Fund.
- Earth, Wind & Fire, “After The Love Is Gone” EWF was formed by Maurice White, a former session drummer for Chess Records and member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and was the most successful R&B act of the Seventies and early Eighties. They’ve been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and five members (White and his brother Verdine, Phillip Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Al McKay) have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They’ve also been awarded by ASCAP, the NAACP, and BET with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Their Greatest Hits (volume one) album is a must-have; it includes all of their hits from the Seventies and Eighties.
- Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good” The band The American Breed, best known for their hit single “Bend Me, Shape Me,” formed the core of the band Rufus, which launched the career of Chaka Khan (I had a friend who was madly in love with her, probably for good reason). The 1974 album Rags To Rufus had two hits, this song (written by Stevie Wonder) and “You Got The Love,” written by Ray Parker Jr. and Chaka Khan. The album went platinum and won a Grammy Award. Tensions grew among the members and the band split in the early Eighties, by which time Chaka Khan had gone off on her own.
And there, at last, is Monday’s Music Moves Me for February 19, 2018.