On This Day in 1967: The Start of The Big Thing That Turned Into Chicago

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Pop
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On This Day in 1967: The Start of The Big Thing That Turned Into Chicago

50 years ago today, the story of the band Chicago began. Yes, for those of you who might’ve been wondering, that story does begin in Chicago. It does not, however, start with Chicago. It starts with…The Big Thing.

Here’s the way things break down. Walt Parazaider, Terry Kath, and Danny Seraphine were members of The Missing Links, a band which played around Chicago, sometimes featuring guest trumpet from Lee Loughnane, a friend of Kath’s.

“Terry and I became thick as thieves," recalled Loughnane, in an interview on Chicago’s official website. "Walt was the only horn player in that band, and he encouraged me to come by and sit in a lot so there would be two horns and you could get that octave R&B sound. It was sort of the thing at the time, and I really enjoyed playing with the band."

Loughnane’s enjoyment paralleled Parazaider’s desire to put together a rock band with horns, which is what he decided to do, bringing Kath, Seraphine, and Loughnane along for the ride. This new, as-yet-unnamed group still needed at least one more horn, however, so they drafted a kid from Quincy College named James Pankow. From there, they fleshed out the band’s sound by calling up bassist/keyboardist Robert Lamm, then going by the name “Bobby Charles” and fronting a group called Bobby Charles and the Wanderers, and asking him if he’d meet with them.

This motley crew came together at Parazaider’s apartment on the north side of Chicago on February 15, 1967, and as Pankow recalled on the band’s website, “We agreed to devote our lives and our energies to making this project work.”

And how did they end up being called The Big Thing? Long story short, it was because there were so darned many of ‘em…and you have to admit: when you’ve got that many guys in a band, it’s certainly not false advertising!