Kath was born in Chicago, IL, on January 31, 1946, and passed away in Woodland Hills, CA, January 23, 1978, after a senseless accident with a firearm that he presumed to not be loaded. Many rock fans of the 1960s and 1970s considered Terry Kath to be the driving force of the group Chicago, as his lead guitar solos earned him accolades from peers as significant as Jimi Hendrix and Joe Walsh. Kath’s compositions such as “Introduction”, “In The Country”, “Oh, Thank You Great Spirit”, “Once Or Twice”, and “Takin’ It On Uptown” kept Chicago grounded in a more hard rock and blues sound while the group found sudden success and eventually became a pop AM-radio staple. Kath’s lead vocal is featured on the Chicago smash hit singles “Make Me Smile”, “Colour My World”, “Wishing You Were Here”, and “Dialogue (Parts 1 & 2)”.
Kath’s daughter Michelle Sinclair, just two years old when he passed, produced and directed a film about her quest to learn more about the father she never knew. “The Terry Kath Experience” (working title “Searching For Terry, Discovering A Guitar Legend”) made it’s world premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, and was released worldwide in late 2017 via the DVD format and several showings on AXS TV.
Below is a brief timeline of significant events in the life of Terry Kath:
Jan. 31, 1946 – born in Chicago, IL
1958 thru 1964 – performs with first semi-professional band The Vandals with Nick Morrone, also worked with The Mystics in 1963-’64
1965 – joined Jimmy Rice & The Gentlemen, then joined Jimmy Ford & The Executives along with future Chicago co-founders Walt Parazaider & Danny Seraphine. Jimmy Ford & The Executives toured as a part of Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars, from the Summer of 1965 through the Winter of 1966.
1966 – joined The Missing Links (also with Walt Parazaider & Danny Seraphine)
Feb. 1967 – Terry, Walt, & Danny leave The Missing Links to form The Music Foundation with future Chicago co-founders James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, & Robert Lamm. The Music Foundation soon changes their name to The Big Thing.
1967 – The Big Thing changes their name to Chicago Transit Authority
Dec. 10, 1967 – Chicago Transit Authority performs at Madison, WI, far-eastside nightclub DJ’s Lounge. The club fills up part way in to the evening with ticket holders for Otis Redding’s downtown concert, which was canceled after Redding’s plane crash death earlier that day in Lake Monona.
1968 – Chicago Transit Authority moves to Los Angeles under the guidance and direction of manager James Guercio.
April 28, 1969 – The debut album “Chicago Transit Authority” is released on Columbia Records
1969 (summer) – Chicago Transit Authority shortens their name to Chicago
Sept. 13, 1969 – Chicago performs at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival, headlined by John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
Jan. 26, 1970 – The 2nd album, “Chicago”, is released
March 1970 – the Top-10 singles “Make Me Smile” & “Colour My World” (feat. Kath on vocals) are released
July 19, 1970 – Chicago headlines Milwaukee Summerfest for the first time, on the Harbor Lakefront Stage
Aug. 28, 1970 – Chicago performs at the massive Isle Of Wight Festival in the UK
Oct. 25, 1971 – Chicago releases the 4-LP, multiple poster/booklet box set “Chicago At Carnegie Hall”, an unprecedented move for any band of this era
1971 thru 1977 – multiple Chicago gold album releases & sold out tours
1973 – Kath invested and served on management team for Pignose Amplifiers
May 19, 1976 – birth of Michelle Ortiz Kath
Dec. 1, 1977 – Terry Kath’s final concert appearance, with Chicago at Oakland (CA) Coliseum
Jan. 23, 1978 – Terry Kath’s death by self-inflicted accidental gunshot
1996 – CD release of “The Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath”
2012 – announcement by Michelle Kath Sinclair to begin work on Terry Kath documentary film
2014 – “Chicago Transit Authority” album inducted in to Grammy Hall Of Fame
April 6, 2016 – Chicago inducted in to Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (Kath’s award accepted by daughter Michelle)
Sept. 2016 – “The Terry Kath Experience” film premiere at Toronto International Film Festival
Nov. 2017 – “The Terry Kath Experience” worldwide showing on AXS TV (DVD release in Dec.)
2017 – vinyl reissue of “The Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath” album (2-LP, 180 gram vinyl)
2018 – “Chicago VI Decades Live (This Is What We Do)” 4-CD/1-DVD box set released by Rhino Records, featuring several previously unavailable live performances of Kath with Chicago.
Jan. 26, 2020 – Chicago receives Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys (Kath’s award accepted by daughter Michelle)
Newly unearthed photo of Terry Kath presented here thanks to Kathy Owen. Taken by photographer Fred Lombardi, this shows Terry Kath live in concert with Chicago at the Forest Hills Stadium, Forest Hills (Queens), NY, Aug. 7, 1971. Additional thanks to Nanette Haynes.
To learn more about Terry Kath:
D.J. el Serpentine and his program “The Rattlesnake Shake” has been on WORT since 2010 and is a widely varied rock show, featuring every form of rock ‘n roll music from every decade and genre of rock. “The Rattlesnake Shake” often features artist interviews and live local band performances.