Where’s the Money for a Terry Kath Documentary?

This writer has long been a champion of Terry Kath, lead guitarist/soulful vocalist of Chicago on their first eleven albums, and the man who, more than any other, lent a counter-culture soul to their early work. The comments below this YouTube video make for interesting reading:

Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest guitarist issue didn’t have terry kath listed…….i’d say his rep has faded.  the fact that he’s not in the top 2 or 3 is a joke….

If Hendrix acknowledged TK’s “superiority”, and Hendix is Stone’s number 1, then that makes TK “Guitarist Zero”

Any so called rock magazine that lists U2’S  Edge as a top guitarist and leaves Terry Kath off the same list isn’t worth the match it would take to burn the shitty rag

Neil Young could not put strings on Terry Kath’s guitar.

This is true. Young is a amateur plunker compared to Terry.

In 2011, Dweezil Zappa, a pretty amazing guitarist, gave his “My Top 10 Guitarists” list. Terry Kath is #1, and Clapton is, very instructively IMO, NOT listed: “1. Terry Kath- This man was simply the best guitarist in the world. A full-forced powerhouse of energy. Just as good as, if not better than Hendrix. Terry could play blues, jazz, and all that feedback stuff people love Hendrix for playing. Not to mention he had a superb voice.

In fairness, there are also many comments calling out the author of the post for singling out Robert Lamm, for being negative in tone, and for sounding like the adult narrator from The Wonder Years.

Another comment gives this explanation for Kath’s relative obscurity:

Well, keep this in mind: The radio plays singles from the albums. Most of the songs he performed on the albums were never released as singles; furthermore, most of the singles that were released, especially in the beginning (like 25 or 6 to 4), had his guitar solos cut out. Most people don’t know who he is because, vocally, Peter Cetera out-shined everyone else, and when it came to writing, Robert Lamm and James Pankow wrote most of the hits that Terry sang and performed on. Let’s take Terry’s 4 most successful singles: 1) “Make Me Smile” (written by James Pankow) had the solos cut out in the beginning and the middle as “Now More Than Ever” was merged with the first part of “Ballet”; 2) “Colour My World” (again, written by James Pankow) was vocally strong (as his entire performance on Chicago II), but lacked guitar work; 3) “25 or 6 to 4” (Vocals by Peter Cetera, written by Robert Lamm) had the middle solo removed for radio play and is still missing 45 years later in most versions released; and 4) “Wishing You Were Here” (written by Peter Cetera) had a good (not great) vocal by Terry, but he was playing Bass Guitar, while Peter Cetera played lead. Other singles that had Terry featured prominently (“Dialogue Parts I & II” & “I’m A Man” & “Little One”) were either cut even worse than “25 or 6 to 4” or just didn’t chart very high at all.

In any case, respect is high among musicians and in-the-know rock fans old enough to remember Kath’s work. Hopefully Michelle Kath’s upcoming documentary Searching for Terry will enlighten those who haven’t yet come to appreciate the man’s work.


See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/08/06/songs-you-may-have-missed-161/

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mvcoogan
    Feb 10, 2016 @ 13:53:54

    That song should be in the dictionary when you look up “ballsy guitar solo”! But I never knew his name. I think maybe Kath lived in the shadow of all those horn arrangements that did more to define Chicago’s sound, than his guitar did. His talent was hidden in plain view as it were.
    I’d love to see a documentary on him.


    • Ed Cyphers
      Feb 10, 2016 @ 13:58:52

      Agreed Mike. I’m eager to see it.
      I loved Kath as a singer too. Check out the song at the “see also” link at the bottom of the post. It’s a favorite of mine, from my favorite Chicago album, VIII.


  2. Ed Cyphers
    Feb 10, 2016 @ 14:18:48

    I think you hit the nail on the head. If Kath hadn’t been a member of a band who helped pioneer a sound that prominently featured horn charts, he would have gotten much greater acclaim.


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