The band originally played across the USA as Chicago Transit Authority, until legal action from the city’s transport company resulted in the shortened name.
With a core rock quartet of Terry Kath (guitar and vocals), Robert Lamm (keyboards and vocals), Peter Cetera (bass and vocals) and Danny Seraphine on drums, along with the trio of Lee Loughnane (trumpet), James Pankow (trombone) and Walter Parazaider (woodwind), the group were able to craft both energised pop and leftfield jazz-rock concurrently.
Moving to Los Angeles and developing a strong local following in California, the band released their debut album (a double), following it with Chicago II in 1970.
Similar to Blood, Sweat & Tears in construction and style, Chicago became a multi-million dollar industry with five consecutive #1 albums, although their hit single If You Leave Me Now (1976) remains their most memorable moment, reaching #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
On 23 January 1978, after an afternoon of drinking, Terry Kath (pictured) was playing with an automatic pistol at the Woodland Hills home of Chicago road crew member, Don Johnson.
When Johnson asked him to stop playing with the gun, Kath replied, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded, see?” He then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Kath died instantly.
Kath was replaced in the group by Donnie Dacus and the band began touring again, still attracting full houses around the world, finally coming home to Chicago in 1980 and pulling a crowd of no less than 150,000.
The 1980 tour also saw the release of Chicago’s fourteenth album, XIV, followed in 1982 by three compilation sets, including the second volume of Greatest Hits.
Signing with the Full Moon label in the same year, they made their debut with an album of new material while the American Accord label revived memories of Chicago at their best with a recording taken from the Toronto ‘Rock & Roll Revival’ of 1969.
A first single hit for three years came in 1982 with Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry, reaching #1 in the US and, surprisingly perhaps, #4 in the UK. It was their first British hit for six years and continued a staggering sequence of worldwide success – selling over twenty million copies of their first fourteen albums.
Lauder de Oliveira