Lee Loughnane: Playing horns on Chicago’s hit songs for more than 50 years (“1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast)
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - They came out of Chicago and put the city’s name at the top of the music charts where it stayed for decades. Now more than 50 years after releasing the band’s first album, Chicago will bring its unique brand of rock and roll to downtown Wilmington’s Live Oak Pavilion on Tuesday, October 12th. The concert starts at 6:00 p.m., and according to founding member Lee Loughnane, it will feature a cross-section of the band’s greatest hits.
“We’re going to start with Introduction, first song, first album,” Loughnane said during a break in-between sound checks on the current tour. “It will probably be two sets and take a twenty-minute intermission. Do an hour, twenty minutes, then another hour. The shows have been going well, and people are very accepting of songs that have been around for a long., long time and they never get tired of hearing them. It’s great to do it.”
Loughnane is one of three founding members currently touring with the band, along with keyboardist and singer Robert Lamm and trombone player James Pankhow. Chicago has toured regularly since releasing the first album, Chicago Transit Authority, in 1969. After taking a pandemic-forced break for more than a year, the current lineup went back on the road in June.
“We were chomping at the bit to get back to work, and it kept getting pushed back to the point where, all of a sudden in June, we started working,” Loughnane said. “We started in Kansas, and we’ve moved to the east coast, back to the west coast, and now we’re back in the east again. The thing that has come out is that everyone is so excited to be back with each other again, and listening to live music or, for that matter, just being back to dinner with loved ones and being able to feel comfortable doing that. The comfort level is coming back slower than I wanted to, but I think that there’s a lot more factors that are involved with that comfort zone.”
Loughnane first picked up the trumpet at the age of eleven, introduced to the instrument by his father who had played in the military. He played in bands during his high school years, and while attending DePaul University, Loughnane met saxophone player Walt Parazaider, and was invited to sit in with his band that also included guitarist Terry Kath and drummer Danny Seraphine. Their efforts morphed into what would ultimately become Chicago in 1967. Those four musicians, along with Lamm, Pankhow and bassist Peter Cetera, launched a new style of music that combined a horn section with a rock band, and became an instant sensation. Their debut album peaked at #17 on the charts in the United States and included two hit singles, Does Anybody Know What Time It Is and Beginnings. The next ten albums Chicago released all landed inside the top-ten, with five of them reaching number one.
“It’s amazing, you really have to pinch yourself sometimes that we’re actually still able to do this, this much time later,” Loughnane says. “But people really want to hear the music that has come through us. It’s affected different generations of people in a similar way as it did when it was first written. We had no idea that could happen when we wrote it!”
Loughnane and his bandmates have received a lengthy list of awards and honors, including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, being presented The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They’ve won Grammy Awards and American Music Awards. From his place on stage, Loughnane says he’s come to better appreciate the audiences that buy tickets to enjoy Chicago’s music.
“I think it’s more intense now than it ever was because we didn’t believe it in the beginning,” he says. “We thought we’d have one album, maybe two. So, to be recording our 38th album now, it’s like ‘That can’t happen! That’s not gonna happen! What, are we going to be together for life?’ Yeah, it looks like it! So, we’ll see what happens next. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to stop any time soon.”
You can get tickets to Chicago’s concert in downtown Wilmington by clicking here to visit the band’s website. I hope you enjoy the interview with legendary trumpeter Lee Loughnane as much as I did.
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