MOORHEAD — It’s been 50 years since Chicago Transit Authority released its debut, self-titled album.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because just as the record was getting played on radios, the actual CTA threatened to sue and the band shortened its name to Chicago.
The album delivered hits like “Beginnings” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” which the band will likely play Friday, May 10, during its show at Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead.
“It’s through the years with Chicago,” says trumpet player Lee Loughnane.
Fifty years and 19 Top 10 horn-driven hits, like "Saturday in the Park," "If You Leave Me Now" and "Old Days," to pack into the night’s two sets, split by an intermission.
The group recently toured playing its second album, 1970's "Chicago," front to back. While some tunes from have been staples in the group’s live sets, like “25 or 6 to 4,” “Colour My World” and “Make Me Smile,” it was a double album with lots of material the band hadn’t played in years.
“Music has always been easy for me to remember. Everything else is difficult. So I got that going for me,” Loughnane, 72, says with a laugh. “We played these songs in the beginning so many times, it was, for me, like riding a bike. Some of the other guys had a bit more difficulty recalling the stuff we did.”
The tour gave them an opportunity to not just relearn some old tunes, but reflect on what they had accomplished at a young age.
“One thing all of us realized was how challenging the music is today. It hasn’t gotten any easier than when we recorded it,” he says. “The writers were amazed that this had come through them. They said, ‘Where did this come from? We were in our early 20s.’”
Going back so deep into the group’s history also allowed them to revisit the work of founding guitarist Terry Kath, who died in 1978 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot.
“We definitely remembered him more,” Loughnane says. “We play ‘25 or 6 to 4’ every night forever and we always think of Terry because that’s a classic guitar solo… Terry, his spirit is within the band at all times.”
Loughnane, trombonist James Pankow and keyboardist/singer Robert Lamm remain the only original members after sax player Walter Parazaider retired from touring in 2017 due to a heart condition.
Original drummer Danny Seraphine and the band split ways in 1990 over musical differences. Seraphine recently participated in Concordia College's Day of Percussion.
Bassist/singer Peter Cetera left in 1985 to go solo.
While all members contributed to writing in the beginning, by the 1980s Cetera had the most say and ballads like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re the Inspiration” won out over horn sections under producer David Foster.
“That’s the direction he wanted to go. He wanted to work with the tenor voice,” Loughnane says of the time they worked with the producer. “He was much more involved in the writing of the songs. He even admits he probably overproduced us. But the success is documented. Those songs still go over great and people that grew up in the ’80s were surprised that we had any songs in the ’70s.”
While the group’s albums in the ’80s may have been a departure, it produced their best-selling records and help get them inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
“We didn’t think that would ever happen,” Loughnane says. “We decided we’d just keep going one day at a time, enjoying ourselves and playing music. If it happens, it happens. That’s not what happened. It’s still an honor. Not everyone gets it.”
If you go
When: Gates open at 5 p.m.; show starts at 7 p.m. Friday, May 10
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead
Info: Tickets from $40.50 to $130.50, plus fees; https://jadepresents.com or 866-300-8300