Chicago Celebrates 45 Years with New Music and a Documentary
When a summertime trek with the Doobie Brothers kicks off later this year, Chicago will bring an extra milestone to the stage in addition to their legendary catalog of horn-driven classics: the versatile band is celebrating their 45th anniversary. And founding member and trumpet player Lee Loughnane tells Ultimate Classic Rock that the time has gone by in a “flash.”
He’s grateful not only for what they’ve been able to accomplish, but also for the fact that they retain their love and passion for performing and making music.
“We love playing music and that’s the basic thing that got us started in the first place. And to have not lost that love, I’m digging that, to be able to do the same thing that I was doing when I was 20 years old,” he said. “In fact, I started playing the horn at 11. I’ve done nothing else for a living in my entire life, so I feel like I’ve never actually really had to get a job.”
Forty-five years ago, the group didn’t put too much thought into how they’d capture their sound in the studio — they just focused on the basics.
“We just played,” Loughnane said. “Especially initially, we were just learning how to record. Because we knew how to play, but we didn’t know how to make everything sound as good as possible on the microphone. We were initially nervous that ‘oh my God, these things pick up every little noise!’ When you take a breath, the microphone hears the breath.”
“So it was intimidating initially, but once you start getting more comfortable with it and learning how to use the microphone, it opens up a whole new world,” he continued. “How to create new things, blend things in, move it around and use it for your benefit.”
Chicago captured their music in a number of unique locations including the legendary Caribou Ranch in Colorado, where they worked with their manager and producer James William Guercio. Over the years, the studio has played host to a diverse list of artists including Joe Walsh, Earth, Wind & Fire and Elton John.
Chicago themselves recorded five albums there and Loughnane says that the remote location surrounding the studio kept them focused on the job at hand.
“[At] Caribou Ranch there was nothing else to do but play music, because we were 25 miles from Boulder,” he explained. “You couldn’t just get up and walk somewhere — you were out in the Rocky Mountains.”
The location might have been a tactical move to keep Guercio’s clients on task, Loughnane remembers with a hearty laugh. Still, while it worked at the time, Chicago eventually broke ties with Guercio and stopped recording at Caribou Ranch.
In their 45th year, the group remains creative with new music on the horizon — Loughnane shares that “the whole band is writing again,” something that hasn’t happened in a long while.
There will be at least one song (and potentially several more) that Chicago will release directly to fans via their website. As he shared with us last year, they’re quite happy that “we have become our own record company.”
In addition, a forthcoming documentary will be available from the band’s website within the next couple of months that chronicles their touring activity in Europe and America during 2011, offering a behind-the-scenes backstage look at the inner workings of the group.
Loughnane looks forward to this summer’s tour with the Doobie Brothers and says that he has fond memories of Chicago’s early encounters with the group, remembering the time when Chicago’s members were still so unknown that he could go out in the audience and enjoy the Doobies’ set as just another member of the audience.
While that has changed with success, they’ll channel their combined victories into a power-packed encore at the summer concerts that will see both bands sharing the stage for what Loughnane says will be almost 30 minutes of jamming on each other’s hits.