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May 19, 2013
Starting in 1967, well before all the hits started flowing, Chicago established a reputation for its powerful live show. Fueled by a passion for music, Chicago's members exploded the conventions of what rock music could or should be. The result was a groundbreaking new form, played by extraordinarily talented musicians. Early fans like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were sufficiently impressed – they took the group out on their respective tours. Once the group began making records, fans rewarded the group with record sales of 100,000,000, 21 Top 10 singles, 5 consecutive Number One albums, 11 Number One Singles and 5 Gold singles. An incredible 25 of their 33 albums have been certified platinum. To date, Chicago is the first American band to chart Top 40 albums in five decades – a landmark accomplishment. Of course, in 1967, success was measured in more modest terms. Each member had learned a variety of styles while playing for the many different racial and ethnic groups that populate Chicago. This musical fusion struck the lovely chord that became Chicago. Paramount for this nascent group was creating a rock 'n roll band with horns. At the time, R&B artists like James Brown were upping the ante for horn sections, but it had not been attempted within the context of a rock band. One of the band’s founding members, Walt Parazaider, held the first band meetings in his apartment. A De Paul University graduate, he was offered a job with the Chicago Symphony, but opted to stay with the band.
Initially called The Big Thing, they hit the Midwest club circuit in 1967. In 1968, they took the name Chicago Transit Authority, moved to Los Angeles and signed to Columbia Records. "Chicago Transit Authority," their double-LP debut (April, 1969), was an underground hit whose sales were fueled by their incessant touring. They simplified their name on the liner notes of the CTA album, and from that point on, the band was called Chicago. "Chicago II" (January, 1970), another two-record set, contained their first two Top Ten hits, "Make Me Smile," and "25 or 6 to 4." Their debut album held two more belated hits and also two of the band's most requested songs, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" and "Beginnings." A third double album, "Chicago III" (January, 1971) consolidated their success. Chicago’s historic, four-disc boxed set live album, Chicago at Carnegie Hall (October, 1971), marked the first time a rock and roll band played at Carnegie Hall.
"Chicago V" (July, 1972) topped the charts for nine weeks and spawned the gold single, "Saturday In The Park." "Chicago VI" (June, 1973) was Number One for five weeks and contained the hits "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" and “Just You 'N Me,” the latter a Number One in Cash Box and another gold single. "Chicago VII" (March, 1974) was yet another Number One LP whose hits included "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long," "Call On Me," and "Wishing You Were Here." "Chicago VIII" (March, 1975) had the group's fourth straight chart topper, the nostalgic hit, "Old Days." It's no small wonder that "Chicago IX" - Chicago's Greatest Hits (November, 1975) eventually sold five million copies.