|Chicago Transit Authority
FORMED: February 15, 1967, Chicago, IL
Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys as the most successful American rock band of all time. The group formed officially on February 15, 1967, in the city from which it eventually would take its name. The band members intended to launch a rock group with a fully integrated horn section (a novel idea at the time), so the original lineup was a sextet consisting of Walter Parazaider (b. Mar. 14, 1945) on saxophone and woodwinds, Lee Loughnane (b. Oct. 21, 1946) on trumpet, Terry Kath (b. Jan. 31, 1946 - d. Jan. 23, 1978) on guitar and vocals, Danny Seraphine (b. Aug. 28, 1948) on drums, James Pankow (b.Aug 20, 1947) on trombone, and Robert Lamm (b. Oct 13, 1944) on organ and vocals. Initially, the group did without a bass player. But in December 1967, bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera (b. Sep. 13, 1944) joined from rival band the Exceptions.
Under the guidance of manager/producer James William Guercio, who initially named them Chicago Transit Authority (the name was shortened after the real C.T.A. objected), the group moved to Los Angeles and signed to Columbia Records, recording its debut album, Chicago Transit Authority, in January 1969. It sold over two million copies and spawned four chart singles, beginning a string of massive hits that lasted to the end of the decade, with each album cover sporting a variation on the Chicago logo and a sequential title with a roman numeral: Chicago II, Chicago III, etc. (Later, ordinary numbers were used.) Chicago's music was a mixture of styles, from hard rock to light pop, incorporating elements of jazz and classical, but after Cetera's "If You Leave Me Now" became a gold-selling #1 hit in 1976, the group became more identified with romantic ballads than anything else. Chicago went into decline after a split with Guercio in 1977 and the accidental death of Kath in 1978.
But it rebounded in 1982 with "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" and the million-selling Chicago 16, and was able to sustain its renewed popularity despite Cetera's departure for a solo career in 1985. After several years of hits, Chicago's popularity began to decline in the early '90s, as the group retired to the oldies circuit. In 2002, Chicago began leasing its early albums to Rhino Records for deluxe repackagings, often with bonus tracks. And the success of The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning demonstrated that their music continued to appeal to fans. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide