The original band membership consisted of saxophonist Walter Parazaider, guitarist Terry Kath, drummer Danny Seraphine, trombonist James Pankow, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, and keyboardist/singer Robert Lamm. Parazaider, Kath, Seraphine, Pankow and Loughnane met in 1967 while students at DePaul University. Lamm was recruited from Roosevelt University. The group of six called themselves “The Big Thing”, and continued playing top 40 hits. Realizing the need for both a tenor to complement baritones Lamm and Kath, and a bass player because Lamm’s use of organ bass pedals did not provide “adequate bass sound,” they added local tenor and bassist Peter Cetera.
While gaining some success as a cover band, the group began working on original songs. In June 1968, at manager James William Guercio‘s request, The Big Thing moved to Los Angeles, California, and signed with Columbia Records. The band changed its name to “Chicago Transit Authority”. It was while performing on a regular basis at the Whisky a Go Go nightclub in West Hollywood that the band got exposure to more famous musical artists of the time. Subsequently, they were the opening act for Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. As related to William James Ruhlmann by Walt Parazaider, Jimi Hendrix once told Parazaider, ” ‘ “Jeez, your horn players are like one set of lungs and your guitar player is better than me.”
Their first record (April 1969), the eponymous Chicago Transit Authority, is a double album, which is rare for a band’s first release. It sold over one million copies by 1970, and was awarded a platinum disc. The album included a number of pop-rock songs – “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?“, “Beginnings“, “Questions 67 and 68“, and “I’m a Man” – which were later released as singles.
The members of Chicago made and appearance in the 1973 TV movie Electra Glide in Blue, starring Robert Blake.
The band Chicago were sued by The Chicago Transit Authority because that is exactly what the group originally called themselves prior to shortening their name to Chicago.
Chicago is the only band to make their record debut with a double album. Titled Chicago Transit Authority, it was released in 1969.
In April 1971 Chicago became the first rock group ever to play at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Chicago saw their first four record albums on the record charts at the same time in 1971. Unbelievable!
On a sad note, on January 23 of 1978, guitarist Terry Kath (known for his phenomenal solo on 25 or six to four) died of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound from a gun he thought was unloaded.
He actually put the gun to his head and said, “It’s not loaded.” and pulled the trigger.
Sounds like suicide to me. Why did he have a gun on him anyway?
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