Frank Gutch Jr: The Chicago I Never Knew (and the Chicago I did)

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I have to come to the conclusion that if there weren’t major sports in the US of A, the youth of America would not know where they were.  Sure, they would know they were in Dallas or Little Rock or Minneapolis if they happened to live there, but knowing where you are does not equate to knowing where you are.  You have to be somewhere in relation to somewhere else to really know where you are, don’t you?  Well, maybe not.

Chicago

Case in point.  I know where Chicago is on a map.  It’s right there at the bottom left hand side of one of them big lakes separating the United States and Canada.  I won’t name the lake purely because you should know these things and if you don’t, you should.  It’s made up mostly of Irish people, I think.  I know this because of O’Leary’s cow and O’Hare’s airport and a strong of O’Restaurants and taverns dotting the O’Way.  But I know more than that and I learned it through music.

Chicago Loop

For one thing, Chicago has a Loop.  I didn’t know it until The Chicago Loop (named after the Chicago Loop according to every DJ on radio in Portland) assaulted the ears of every manjack and Lucy listening to Oregon radio back in ’66 with a cacophonic attempt at a party song titled (When She Wants Good Lovin’) She Comes to Me which, coincidentally, made it as high as #37 on the Billboard Hit Charts (which I attribute to that large Irish population thereabouts).

Now, I’m, not saying I didn’t like the song.  I’m just saying that if I was Chicago (The Loop part, anyway) I would have sued.

It wasn’t all that long thereafter that Chicago (the band) came along and reinforced the existence of said city, starting life as Chicago Transit Authority before becoming the city mascot by dropping the last two words of their name and the last of their credibility, music-wise.  I mean, can you imagine a band that could do this…

wanting to do this?

I mean, when they became horn-heavy, they lost me.  Completely.  Poor Chicago (the city).  Then again, they probably gave Chicago (the band) the keys to the city (Chicago).  Oh, before I forget, Chicago was not a fifty-man band as they appear in the video.  Evidently Chicago (the band) felt the need to bolster their sound by merging (for at least one song) with REO Speedwagon, whose cars were probably at one time made in Chicago (the city).

Seriously?  I have to explain that?  Don’t they teach you kids anything anymore?

Funny thing.  Another area band went through a similar transformation.  The Ides of March totally had me with a great sixties song titled You Wouldn’t Listen

I loved that song.  KASH Radio in Eugene played the hell out of it and I thought it was a stone hit—until I tried to order it and had to wait three months to get it.  Of course, this was 1966.  By the time these guys broke through again in 1970, this is what it sounded like…

Now, I have nothing against horns when they’re soul-infused, but damn!  Like I said.  Must have been the lake water.

That water has been drunk (drank? drunken?) by some mighty fine bands and artists over the years.  I thought I knew something about the music scene there.  bompcurrieIn my case, as in most of my cases, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  I stumbled upon two things this past week which mad me think at first how much I knew and then how much I didn’t.  The first was an old issue of BOMP magazine, Spring ’76.  The Gala Girls Issue.  Those who know BOMP probably remember it from the cover photo of The Runaways’ Cherie Currie.  While the issue was themed on the whole around the ladies, it also included a fairly comprehensive section on Chicago rock of the sixties put together very well by Cary Baker and Jeff Lind.  Lind started it off with a capsulized history of sixties Chicago rock, Mike Thom continued with an excellent although too sort piece by Mike Thom of The Ides of March and The Cryan Shames, which gave way to “The Dunwich Story,” a rundown of one of Chicago’s acclaimed rock labels of the time (pieced together by Baker and Lind).  In the piece, they included basic discographies of the artists of the era and I ran across some favorites and thought I might share a little.

I don’t think I liked any Chicago band as much as I liked Shadows of Knight back then.  I can’t remember exactly how I found them but I guarantee it wasn’t from airplay.  As much as I loved Oregon AM radio, no station, to my knowledge, ever played SoK’s version of Gloria.  It was all Them.

Still, when I found them later, all I could think was that I might have easily shoved Them aside (thugh I truly doubt it).  I mean, the arrangements are virtually identical and all.  Take a listen.

SoK kept on, even after the two albums sold little outside of the Chicago area, but what I found was pretty much after the fact.  Like this beauty I found for a quarter during one of my vinyl mining expeditions…

With me, it was guitar, the more the better.  Cowbell, too, if it fit the song.  So you can see why the brass was a bit off-putting for me.

An aside:  I should have known that Ken Nordine was from Chicago.  I’ve been a fan since the sixties when That Dorm Guy pulled out one of Nordine’s Word Jazz albums, most probably to clear the room so he could study.  I fell in love at first hint of voice.  To talk was to dream.  I see in the BOMP piece that Nordine actually released a single on the Dunwich label.  Rather than use that one this time, though, here is one in which the Wordmaster waxes poetic on a topic we all know well— coffee…

I dated a girl in San Diego who was from Chicago.  When I asked her about music, she talked about a handful of bands.  One of the real favorites at the dances was The Mauds, who had an R&B slant.  While this didn’t chart outside of Chicago, to my knowledge, it did well in (dare I say it?) the windy city.  Jeez, just typing it gave me the creeps, that phrase is so overdone.

I always had an ear for the odd stuff and when The Flock flew out of Chicago, I was ready.  This past week has been largely spent listening to a new downright outrageous album by Seattle The OF and they remind me a lot of The Flock.  Very dramatic and cool stuff.  Be aware— The OF track is the tamest and most coherent song on their new album.  The rest?  I will be writing about it, guaranteed.

It would probably take me ten columns to even begin to fill you in on what I know about Chicago music of the sixties.  I think it would take me another ten to fill you in on what I don’t (didn’t) know.  Like the fact that Chicago has a Record Row not unlike Nashville’s Music Row.  It’s somewhere in the Loop (the Chicago Loop, not the band?) and a number of the businesses somehow ended up there.

Chicago had a soul  and R&B scene which was quite impressive, too.  Labels like Vee-Jay, Chess and many others were onto the scene early and had national hits, but there did not seem to be a cohesiveness to the market, unlike Motown and Detroit.  As I dig through Chicago Soul, a book by Robert Pruter (University of Illinois Press, 1991), I am shocked at how much music there was which did not break out of the immediate area.  We got the big hits, of course, and there were many.  See if you think Chicago when you hear these…

Chances are you have never heard of The Dukays.  Here is one of their regional hits.

Here’s the guy who was singing lead.  In fact, this was recorded by The Dukays but released under Gene Chandler’s name.

Can you hear the Curtis Mayfield influence on this?  Mayfield and Lance were good friends and he backed Lance to the max in the early days.

No one doing soul impressed me more as a teenager than Curtis Mayfield.  He was a writing monster and had a very unique voice which he used very well no matter what the song.

Anybody who lived in  the early seventies could not miss Mayfield.  He practically built a music scene all his own with one album— Superfly…

See?  Chicago was loaded!  Now here are a few you more than likely have not heard.

Gerald Sims had a decent run, especially in the early days with a vocal group calling themselves The Daylighters.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Jimmy Dobbins.

Ray and Dave.

Jeez, I’ve completely lost track.  What did I start out doing?  No matter.  I am now ensconced in Chicago and its soul past.  I shall leave you with this little tune that you might have heard as it was a national hit.  The Esquires…

Chicago.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  And should have.  Cool thing about this is that I have a whole new adventure ahead of me.  Time for some research.  Right after…

NotesNotes…..  I hate covers (well, cover songs, anyway).  I really do.  But lately, I have been hearing people cover songs so well (meaning not an attempt at an exact cover or maybe even cover songs which barely resemble the original, if at all) that I am changing my tune.  A bit. I hate that so many people are concentrating on covers.  I hate that the “listening public,” whoever they are these days, are kicking original artists to the curb while paying major league prices to see cover bands and “tribute” shows.  I even hate the names of these bands, usually twists upon the band name or something having to do with a song or the like.  But the occasional cover?  I grew up with them.  Fifties and sixties music survived off of them.  The reason I bring this up is that I picked up on one I knew nothing about yesterday, thanks to an odd posting on Facebook.  One of my favorite ladies of rock, Maxi Dunn, posted a video of her (and band) doing Japan‘s Alien.  I was never a huge fan of Japan but am having second thoughts after hearing this.  BTW, Ms. Dunn is presently working on songs for an album to follow up her excellent 2013 release, Edmund & Leo.  Which makes me pretty damn happy.

My buddy Ed Hurdle uncovered this gem of a performance by one of my favorite bands of the seventies, Wishbone Ash.  When most of you were mere twinkles in your father’s eyes, I was digging this:

Like my friends and I used to dream— More guitar!!!!

A number of years ago, I traveled a few hundred miles to see and hear Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun perform in a small, rustic church in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Oregon.  It was a 24-hour excursion I will never forget— the music, the setting, the people…  So I thought I would share this— Lasko & Pun covering John Martyn— because it fits that they, of all musicians I am familiar with, should interpret such a song.  I admit to not remembering posting this, but I do so many things on the fly these days.  There is not enough time, it seems.  But in hearing it again, I am taken by the juxtaposition of styles (Lasko & Pun’s and Martyn’s) and that all too short visit to Richmond, Oregon and the unique talents of all three.  I only wish that Lasko would sing a bit more’

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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