Chicago Biography

Formed in 1966 in Chicago, Illinois, USA, Chicago was a consistent hit-making group throughout the 70s and 80s. The band was initially called the Missing Links, next becoming the Big Thing and then, the same year, Chicago Transit Authority, at the suggestion of manager Jim Guercio. The original line-up was Terry Kath (31 January 1946, Chicago, USA, d. 23 January 1978; guitar, vocals), Peter Cetera (b. 13 September 1944, Chicago, Illinois, USA; bass, vocals), Robert Lamm (b. 13 October 1944, Brooklyn, New York, USA; keyboards, vocals), Walter Parazaider (Walt Perry) (b. 14 March 1945, Chicago, USA; saxophone), Danny Seraphine (b. 28 August 1948, Chicago, USA; drums), James Pankow (b. 20 August 1947, Chicago, USA; trombone) and Lee Loughnane (b. 21 October 1941, Chicago, USA; trumpet). The horn section set the group apart from other mid-60s rock bands, although Chicago Transit Authority was preceded on record by similar-sounding groups such as Blood, Sweat And Tears and the Electric Flag.

During 1967 and 1968 Guercio built the band’s reputation, particularly in the Los Angeles area, where they played clubs such as the Whisky A-Go-Go. In January 1969 Guercio landed the group a contract with Columbia Records, largely through his reputation as producer of Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Buckinghams. With jazz influences the group released its self-titled album in 1969. Although it never made the Top 10 the album stayed on the US charts for 171 weeks. The group also enjoyed singles hits with ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’ and ‘Beginnings’. In 1970 the group shortened its name to Chicago. Still working in the jazz rock idiom they released Chicago II. Henceforth each of the group’s albums would receive a number as its title, up to Chicago 21 by 1991, with the sole exceptions of their fourth album, the four-record boxed set Chicago At Carnegie Hall, their twelfth, titled Hot Streets, and their fifteenth and twentieth, greatest hits volumes. Each album cover has featured a different interesting treatment of the group’s logo, and many have won graphic design awards. By the early 70s Chicago began breaking away from its jazz sound toward more mainstream pop, resulting in such light-rock staples as ‘Colour My World’, the 1976 transatlantic number 1 ‘If You Leave Me Now’ and the 1982 number 1 ‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry’. Five consecutive Chicago albums topped the charts between 1972 and 1975; however, the group experienced a sales slump in the late 70s only to rebound in the early 80s.

In 1974 Lamm recorded a poor-selling solo album. That same year the group added Brazilian percussionist Laudir de Oliveira to the line-up. The following year the group toured with the Guercio-managed Beach Boys. In 1977, after Chicago X was awarded a Best Album Grammy, Guercio and the group parted ways. On 23 January 1978 founding member Kath was killed by a self-inflicted accidental gunshot wound. The group continued, with Donnie Dacus (ex-Stephen Stills sideman) joining on guitar (he left the following year and was replaced by Chris Pinnick; Pinnick left in 1981, when Bill Champlin, ex-Sons Of Champlin, joined on keyboards). In 1981, Chicago were dropped by Columbia Records and signed to Full Moon Records, distributed by Warner Brothers Records. Also that year, Cetera released a solo album, which was a mild success. After leaving the group in 1985 (his replacement was Jason Scheff, son of Elvis Presley bass player Jerry Scheff), he released two further solo albums, the first of which yielded two number 1 singles, ‘Glory Of Love’ and ‘The Next Time I Fall’, the latter a duet with Amy Grant. Switching to Reprise Records in 1988, Chicago was still considered a major commercial force despite having long abandoned their original jazz rock roots. Their popularity tailed off in the 90s and 00s, although they continued to play to appreciative audiences on the live circuit. In 1995 the perplexing Night And Day was released; on this collection the big band era was given the Chicago treatment with mixed results.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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