38 Years Ago Today We Lost Terry Kath


(Reprinted from The College of Rock and Roll Knowledge)

There is a story that says that Jimi Hendrix, when asked what it is like to be the greatest guitarist in the world said “I don’t know you’d have to ask Terry Kath.” (It has been said that Hendrix made that comment about Rory Gallagher also).

Terry was the original guitarist for and a founding member of Chicago. It was 38 years ago today that we lost Terry.

By 1978, Kath was regularly carrying guns around, and enjoyed playing with them. Around 5 p.m., on Jan. 23, after a party at roadie and band technician Don Johnson’s home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, Kath took an unloaded .38 revolver and put it to his head, pulling the trigger several times on the empty chambers. Johnson had warned Kath several times to be careful. Kath then picked up a semiautomatic 9 mm pistol and, leaning back in a chair, said to Johnson, “Don’t worry about it … look, the clip is not even in it.” To satisfy Johnson’s concerns, Kath showed the empty magazine to Johnson. Kath then replaced the magazine in the gun, put the gun to his temple, and pulled the trigger. However, there was a round in the chamber, and Kath died instantly. Terry was only 31 years old.

His guitar playing on the first few LP’s by Chicago is legendary.

What is the first song you think about when you hear Terry’s name?

RIP Terry. You had the whole world watching and listening.


…and Kath was extremely underrated as a singer, too. Take a listen.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mvcoogan
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 11:33:11

    25 or 6 to 4 is the obvious answer, right? The quintessential Terry Kath licks?


  2. Ed Cyphers
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 14:57:54

    Yeah, I think it may be both Kath’s best moment and Chicago’s greatest song.
    And that weird to say because, as far as I can tell, its lyric is about nothing more than staying up late.


  3. Renee Gray
    May 25, 2017 @ 13:08:43

    I am a huge fan of Terry Kath. I am glad to read anything I can about him. Just wanted to mention, the firearm was a semi-automatic, not a revolver. It took one pull of the trigger, when the empty clip was inserted, to kill Terry. The elusive chambered round. It was a horrible, horrible accident. He forgot to empty the chamber. He put a gun to his head. He pulled the trigger. Three things that a gun-owner should never do, were done in seconds, resulting in the death of the most innovative guitar player that ever lived. Anyone curious about Terry Kath should watch the Tanglewood concert on YouTube. Mesmerizing. It’s impossible to take your eyes off Terry.


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