[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two articles about successful pop music bands originating from the Chicago area. This column focuses on well-known groups that had significant chart success on the Billboard Magazine pop music charts, and the follow-up article will target some of the lesser-known Chicago bands.]
Without question, musicians from the Chicago area have provided much historical significance in many musical genres, including but not limited to blues, jazz, R&B, folk and country.
Recording artists from Chicagoland have also greatly impacted popular music, and that includes numerous solo artists and duets. But this article takes a look at some of the most-famous among groups from northeastern Illinois.
Following are selections from 10 of those bands — all of which had become well-known by the early 1970s — and to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title.
- “QUESTIONS 67 & 68” (Chicago, 1969). Formed in 1967 as The Big Thing, they later became Chicago Transit Authority and then Chicago. Peter Cetera was lead singer and bass guitarist, and this was the group’s first charter and only one in the ’60s,. The well-known band went on to record 35 Billboard Top 40s between 1970 and 1991. BILLBOARD: No. 71 in 1969, No. 24 as a re-release in 1971.
- “FOR YOUR PRECIOUS LOVE” (The Impressions, 1958). This group formed in 1957 as The Roosters, and original members included Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler (who sang lead on this single but left to go solo soon afterward). The group charted 17 Billboard Top 40s, and this song was released on the Falcon, Abner and Vee-Jay labels. BILLBOARD: No. 11.
- “STAY IN MY CORNER” (The Dells, 1968): Johnny Funches fronted this group, formed at a Harvey, Ill., high school. The song was produced by Bobby Miller, and it was co-written by Miller, Wade Flemons and Barrett Strong. The group charted eight Billboard Top 40s, and their other Top 10 hit was “Oh, What A Night” in 1970. BILLBOARD: No. 10 pop, No. 1 R&B (and previously No. 23 R&B with an initial 1965 release on Vee-Jay).
- “KIND OF A DRAG” (The Buckinghams, 1967). This is the first of seven Hot 100s for the quintet, and they had five singles that made it to No. 12 or higher on the Billboard Hot 100, all of them in 1967. Dennis Tufano was lead singer, and the song was penned by Jim Holvay, who wrote most of the group’s hits. BILLBOARD: No. 1.
- “OH GIRL” (The Chi-Lites, 1972): Eugene Record headed this group, which first recorded as The Hi-Lites in 1963. All five of their Billboard Top 40 hits came in the early ’70s, including this chart-topper. This recording was produced by Record and Carl Davis, and instrumental backing was provided by Willie Henderson’s orchestra. It also reached No. 14 in Great Britain. BILLBOARD: No. 1 pop, No. 1 R&B, No. 34 adult contemporary.
- “O-O-H CHILD” (The Five Stairsteps, 1970). This family soul group consisted of brothers Clarence Jr., James, Kenneth and Dennis Burks and sister Alohe, and little brother Cubie later joined the group. which was managed by their father and produced by Curtis Mayfield. This song, written by producer-songwriter Stan Vincent, was the group’s only Billboard Top 10 pop hit. BILLBOARD: No. 8 pop, No. 14 R&B.
- “BEND ME, SHAPE ME” (American Breed, 1967): This single is performed by a group from Cicero, Ill., headed by Gary Loizzo, and this was their top-selling single. Drummer Andre Fischer and keyboardist Kevin Murphy were later with another Chicago group, Rufus. This single also charted at No. 24 in the UK. BILLBOARD: No. 5.
- “THINGS I’D LIKE TO SAY” (New Colony Six, 1969): This soft-rock group, fronted by Ray Graffia, always charted well in the Windy City, and this song went to No. 3 on hometown radio stations WLS and WCFL. It was the fifth of 10 Billboard Hot 100 items from 1966 to 1971. BILLBOARD: No. 16 pop, No. 17 adult contemporary.
- “VEHICLE” (Ides Of March, 1970). This seven-man band formed among high-school classmates in 1964, and this song was co-written by lead singer Jim Peterik, who later formed the group Survivor, famous for “Eye Of The Tiger” (No. 1, 1982). In addition to U.S. success, this song made it to No. 31 on the UK charts. BILLBOARD: No. 2).
- “GLORIA” (Shadows Of Knight, 1966): Jim Sohns was lead singer of this garage quintet, and this was the first — and highest charter — among their five Billboard Hot 100 items. The song was written by Van Morrison, lead singer of the group Them, which also charted twice with the song, in both 1965 and 1968. BILLBOARD: No. 10
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