Terry Kath: Wikis


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Terry Kath
Birth name Terry Alan Kath
Born January 31, 1946(1946-01-31)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died January 23, 1978 (aged 31) Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, Vocals, Bass
Years active 1967 - 1978
Associated acts Chicago
Website Official site

Terry Alan Kath (January 31, 1946 – January 23, 1978) born in Chicago, Illinois, was the original guitarist and founding member of the rock band Chicago. He died in 1978 at the age of 31 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.



A multi-instrumentalist who played lead & rhythm guitar, banjo, accordion, bass, and drums, Kath played lead guitar in a band called "Jimmy and the Gentlemen" during the mid-1960s. He played bass in a road band called Jimmy Ford and The Executives. Kath's close friend, Walter Parazaider, played in these bands as well, and they were together in developing the band later to be called Chicago.

Kath was an important contributor to Chicago, beginning with their first album The Chicago Transit Authority released in 1969. The album includes his composition "Introduction" which was described as "Terry's masterpiece" by later Chicago guitarist Dawayne Bailey.[citation needed] The song displays many varied musical styles, including jazz, blues, salsa, rock and roll, acid rock, and pop.

The same debut album includes an instrumental guitar piece entitled "Free Form Guitar". The album liner notes indicate that this nearly seven minute piece was recorded 'live' in the studio in one take using an overdriven Fender Showman amplifier and a Fender Stratocaster guitar (on the album's gatefold sleeve, however, Kath is pictured playing a Gibson SG). "Free Form Guitar" is also noted as being an influence on the genre of noise music.

The hit "Questions 67 & 68" contains lead guitar techniques that became staples of the Chicago sound.[citation needed] The song "Beginnings" includes acoustic rhythm guitar by Kath. Another of Kath's more notable highlights as a recording guitarist is his extended guitar solo in the middle of the Chicago hit song "25 or 6 to 4".

Fascinated by gadgets, Kath once owned nearly twenty guitars,[citation needed] though his early staples were a Gibson SG and a Fender Stratocaster. Kath was also one of the few well-known guitarists to make regular use of the unique 1969 Les Paul "Professional" model.[1] He utilized no special tunings or modifications. He is most associated with a specially decorated Fender Telecaster and was connected with Pignose amplifiers.[2] He experimented with a wide variety of amplification and distortion devices and used a wah-wah pedal frequently.

Kath's singing was also an important feature of Chicago's sound.[3] In a group of many song composers who often let other members of the band do the lead singing on their compositions, Kath's vocal style can be heard in "Colour My World" and "Make Me Smile" , both from Chicago. His screaming in the live version of "Free" from Chicago at Carnegie Hall, released in 1971, is another example of his singing style. Kath also played bass and sings lead vocal in the closing song "Tell Me" in the 1973 drama movie Electra Glide in Blue. "Tell Me" was also used as the last song in the final episode of Miami Vice.


Kath reportedly had a history of using alcohol and other drugs, including cocaine, and struggled with weight problems in his last few years. He gained a noticeable amount of weight through his career, and by 1976 he was quite overweight. Chicago bandmates have indicated that he was also increasingly unhappy.[citation needed] Bassist Peter Cetera even went so far as to say that Kath would have been the first to quit Chicago had he lived (and, according to then-producer James William Guercio, Kath was working on a solo album before he died).[4] Despite his personal problems, this was not the cause of his accidental death.

Around 5 p.m., late in the afternoon of January 23, 1978, after a party at roadie 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. Picking up a semiautomatic 9 mm pistol, Kath put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger, saying, "Don't worry, it's not loaded," after showing the empty magazine to his friend. However, one bullet remained in the chamber, killing him instantly when fired; a week shy of his 32nd birthday.

Kath was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Terry and his wife Camelia Emily Ortiz (married 1974) had one daughter, Michelle, born in 1976. Camelia later married Kiefer Sutherland.

Discography with Chicago


  1. ^ Bacon, Tony. 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul. Backbeat Books. pp. 60. ISBN 0-87930-711-0. 
  2. ^ The history of the Pignose Amplifier company
  3. ^ Kath's AMG biography by Greg Prato hosted by VH1
  4. ^ "Chapter IX ~ Tragedy". Official Site of Chicago. http://www.chicagotheband.com/history09.htm. 

External links

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