CHICAGO: Rock Group Celebrates 30 Years

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The group Chicago, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on Feb. 15, was formed in the city for which it was named.  Originally, names for the group were the Missing Links and The Big Thing.

Original members were Walt Parazaider, Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane and Danny Seraphine.  Robert Lamm and James Pankow were soon recruited.  Peter Cetera joined them a little later, and after James William Guerico took over working with the group, he convinced them to change their name to then Chicago Transit Authority.  That lasted just long enough for the city of Chicago to threaten a lawsuit, so the name was shortened to Chicago.  Interestingly enough, Chicago (the group) later threatened a countersuit when the Chicago Transit Authority used “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” to promote their transit system.The group Chicago, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on Feb. 15, was formed in the city for which it was named.  Originally, names for the group were the Missing Links and The Big Thing.

Original members were Walt Parazaider, Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane and Danny Seraphine.  Robert Lamm and James Pankow were soon recruited.  Peter Cetera joined them a little later, and after James William Guerico took over working with the group, he convinced them to change their name to then Chicago Transit Authority.  That lasted just long enough for the city of Chicago to threaten a lawsuit, so the name was shortened to Chicago.  Interestingly enough, Chicago (the group) later threatened a countersuit when the Chicago Transit Authority used “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” to promote their transit system.

Chicago was one of the first rock bands to have a horn section.  Plus, they used a variety of influences in their music, including jazz, blues, swing, and classical, along with rock to create that musical sound that would become legend.

After Kath died in an accidental shooting, band members believed he would want them to carry on.  They regrouped, and over the next few years went through a number of different musicians, dictated by people leaving the band and by its changing musical styles.  The current lineup of members is Robert Lamm, keyboards, vocals; Lee Loughnane, trumpet; James Pankow, trombone; Walt Parazaider, woodwinds; Bill Champlin, keyboards, guitar, vocals; Jason Scheff, bass, vocals; Tris Imboden, drums; Keith Howland, guitar.

It was Guerico, producer of the first 11 Chicago albums, who titled their albums numerically.  It’s been suggested that he did this because of the classical influences and training of group members, and thought it would be interesting to number the albums instead of naming them.  It worked, right up to the recent Stone of Sisyphus project.

Among their early hits, self-penned within the group, were “25 or 6 to 4,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Colour My World,” “Saturday In The Park,” “Wishing You Were Here,” and “I’ve been Searching So Long.”  The band has had 50 pop chart songs, five gold singles, five number one hits, and 20 top 10 hits.

Their album catalog features five number one albums and 12 top tens, including 13 platinum albums and 18 gold ones.  The band is one of the best selling American rock bands of all time, having sold 120 million records worldwide, and is continuing to move a half million units a year.  Chicago 17 was the biggest album of the band’s career, selling over seven million copies and including the hits “Hard Habit To Break,” and “You’re The Inspiration.”

The band’s most recent album, Night & Day (Big Band) featured swing standards.  Recorded in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, it was produced by Bruce Fairbarn (Van Halen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi).  Group members researched extensively to find the songs they included on this project.

Videos are also part of the group’s repertoire, including “If You Leave Me Now” “Alive Again,” “Love Me Tomorrow,” “Stay The Night,” “Hard Habit To Break,” “You’re The Inspiration,” “Along Comes A Woman,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Will You Still Love Me?” “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love,” “Look Away,” “You’re Not Alone,” “Hearts In Trouble,” and “Explain It To My Heart.”

Chicago rose to popularity so quickly that they were not booked long as an opening act, though they did manage to play a few gigs in front of a couple of popular bands of the time.  The list of new acts opening for Chicago is a wide-ranging one, spanning its 30 year history and includes, Bruce Springsteen, The Pointer Sisters, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, The Ozark Mountain Devils and the Doobie Brothers.  They’ve also co-headlined with the Beach Boys, the Moody Blues and Crosby, Stills, & Nash.

Chicago Records (which now owns the rights to all of the Chicago albums and has re-released them on CD) in a joint venture with Warner Bros. Records, will release an album by early April that is being called the most comprehensive album of Chicago music ever.  According to band member Robert Lamm, Ultimate Greatest Hits will encompass earlier and later recordings from both the Columbia and Warner Bros. years.  Plus Chicago has cut two new songs for the album, one written and produced by James Newton Howard and Glen Ballard, the other written by Jimmy Panco and produced by Lenny Kravitz.

Lamm also indicated that the group would have a 30th anniversary tour, something that was in the planning stage at the time he spoke with American Songwriter.


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  1. so let me understand? Was Peter Cetera not original and was he only withj Chicago for a short time? I always thought he was the main voice of Chicago

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