Thursday, 31 July 2008


Perhaps more than any other city in the United States, Chicago, located at the center of the nation, has reflected the cultural diversity that has served as both a nurturer of significant musical talent and a magnet that drew the best from other areas. Jazzman Lionel Hampton arrived in Chicago when he was 11 years old in 1919? bluesman Muddy Waters got there in 1943, when be was 28. But Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, didn't have to travel; he was born in Chicago in 1909.

In 1967, Chicago musicians Robert Lamm, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane, Terry Kath, Peter Cetera, and Danny Seraphine formed a group with one dream, to integrate all the musical diversity from their beloved city and weave a new sound, rock 'n' roll band with horns. Their dream turned into 20 Top Ten singles, 12 Top Ten albums (five of which were #1), and sales of more than 120 million records.

Most pop stars who emerged in the 1960s will tell you that they got their inspiration by seeing Elvis Presley perform on TV in the '50's. But Walter Parazaider born in Chicago on March 14, 1945, had a slightly different experience. I started playing when I was nine years old because I saw Benny Goodman on The Ed Sullivan Show, "he says. I was a clarinetist to start with. Parazaider came by his interest in music naturally. His father was a musician who had turned from full-time to part-time work when he started a family. "I can't think of a time growing up when there wasn't music in the house, " Parazaider says, "whether it was my dad practicing by himself or playing in a band that was rehearsing at the house, or my mother listening to records, and that's from my earliest recollection." As a result, when he began to take an interest in playing music himself, "the support that I had from my mother and father over the years was phenomenal."

Parazaider studied and practiced the clarinet for the next several years, and by his teens had displayed so much proficiency that he became the protege' of the E-flat clarinetist in the Chicago symphony.

But even for a classical music prodigy, the late '50's were a time when other forms of music exerted an influence. "I picked up the saxophone along the way," Parazaider recalls, "and discovered that you could make a buck and get some girls playing a saxophone in a rock 'n roll band. So, I enjoyed a schizoid musical existence, so to speak, from about the age of 13 on, playing in anything from an octet playing all the standard big band tunes, any rock 'n roll from Tequila to any of the Ventures stuff that they'd use a saxophone on, and did that along with pursuing the classical career, because my idea at that time was to take my teachers place in the Chicago symphony."

Pursuant to that goal, Parazaider enrolled at Chicago's DePaul University, where his teacher taught, all the while still playing "Many gigs and smoke-filled rooms and dance halls, and also some orchestra balls." It was at DePaul that he met another young Chicago musician, Jimmy Guercio, who years later would become Chicago's producer. "We started playing in different rock 'n roll bands in the area,"

Parazaider recalls, "played a lot of the beer bashes at Northwestern University and the surrounding colleges in the area, and we became quite friendly." Meanwhile, Parazaider was maintaining his "schizoid musical existence at DePaul, though with increasing difficulty. He recalls, "After about a year and a half of realizing I didn't want to study trigonometry and how to teach health class in school, and also realizing with the help of some of my professors that, because I wasn't a patient person, I wasn't cut out to be a teacher. I changed my major. I prepared for about a year and a half and played a degree recital for the principal members of the Chicago symphony and an audience. I passed with flying colors and received a playing degree in orchestral clarinet. In the meantime, I had taken all my masters credits in English Lit."

But while doing all that academia work, Parazaider had also gotten a non-classical musical idea he thought had promise: a rock 'n roll band with horns. In the trendy world of pop music, horns took a back seat in the mid-'6O's, when bands, imitating the four-piece rhythm section of the Beatles, stayed with the limits of guitars-bass-drums. Even the Saxophone, so much a part of '50's rock 'n roll, was heard less often. Only in R&B, which maintained something of the big band tradition, did people such as James Brown and others continue to use horn sections regularly.

In the summer of l966, the Beatles turned around and brought horns back. Their Revolver album featured songs such as "Got To Get You Into My Life," which included two trumpets and two tenor saxophones.

Parazaider's current band at the time was the Missing Links, which featured a very talented guy named Terry Kath on bass. Kath, born in Chicago on January 31, 1946, had been a friend of Parazaider's and Guercio's since they were teenagers. On drums was Danny Seraphine, born in Chicago on August 28, l948 , who had been raised in Chicago's Little Italy section. Trumpet player Lee Loughnane, another DePaul student, sometimes sat in with the band.

Loughnane, born in Chicago on October 21, 1946, was the son of a former trumpet player. "My dad was a product of the Swing Era," he recalls. "He was a bandleader in the Army Air Force in World War I." In that capacity, Chief Warrant Officer Loughnane worked with some of the top players from the big bands of the era, who had been drafted. But he also came in contact with their lifestyles. "My dad knew that they were only going to be with him for a certain amount of time, and then they were going to get shipped out to the front lines," says Loughnane. "So, he was a little more lax in his discipline than he might have been under other circumstances. Some of the guys would go AWOL on weekends to play gigs in town and then come back drunk or high on something, and my dad would cover for them. As a result, he gained a dislike for drugs and alcohol, and when he left the army, he left the music behind. The only thing he brought home was his trumpet, which was the first one that I used. I had never heard him play."

Loughnane began trying to play that trumpet at the age of 11. When he was 11, in the summer of 1959, between seventh and eighth grades, he met with the band director, Ralph Meltzer. "He wanted me to show him my teeth," Loughnane recalls. "If you have any crooked teeth, you start messing up your lip because of the pressure. My teeth were okay. He gave me some "Mary Had A Little Lamb" books, and I couldn't wait to go home and play the songs. My dad then found me a private teacher by the name of John Nuzzo. He started giving me some lessons, and my playing improved immensely." .......etc.


No comments: