Why Jimi Hendrix Called Chicago’s Terry Kath The Best Guitarist In The Universe

Feature Photo: Columbia Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Terry Kath was only 31 years old when he died of a gunshot wound to his head. It was an accidental shooting that occurred at the house of one of Chicago’s crew members. The band Chicago had thought about disbanding when Terry Kath passed away but eventually decided to continue.

Terry Kath has left behind a legacy of brilliant guitar playing with the band Chicago. In the late 1960s, the band Chicago did some shows with Jimi Hendrix. The legendary guitarist was blown away by Terry Kath’s guitar playing. When first hearing Terry Kath play, Jimi Hendrix was quoted as saying that he thought Terry Kath played guitar better than he did. It was later reported that Jimi Hendrix called Terry Kath the “Best Guitarist in the Universe.”

Fans and critics should take note of Jimi Hendrix’s comments about Terry Kath. We are talking about a legend in, Hendrix who has been regarded by many as the greatest guitar player of all time, pointing to Chicago’s Terry Kath as being a better player. Was Jimi Hendrix right, or was he just inspired by great musicianship? One close listen to Terry Kath’s guitar solo on Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” confirms that Hendrix was spot on. If you need further proof that Jimi Hendrix praised Terry Kath, listen to his guitar work on “Liberation.” The song is the closing track on The Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago’s debut album.

Terry Kath’s virtuoso guitar playing was never celebrated as it should have been because Terry Kath was a team player. Many of the band members in Chicago stated that Kath was more interested in delivering great albums with his band Chicago. Anyone who has grown up listening to the first five Chicago albums knows that Terry Kath delivered on his goal.

When rock critics write about the great guitarists of the classic rock era, the names Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Duane Allman are always mentioned at the top. Terry Kath rarely gets a mention. That’s a shame because his solos were among some of the greatest in rock and roll history, both in the studio and on the stage. Just listen and judge for yourself.

Terry Kath, born on January 31, 1946, in Chicago, Illinois, began his musical journey in 1963 with his first semi-professional band, The Mystics. He moved on to Jimmy Rice and the Gentlemen in 1965, followed by playing bass for Jimmy Ford and the Executives. Kath became the band’s leader, guiding its musical direction, while trumpeter Jimmy Ford, saxophonist Walter Parazaider, and drummer Danny Seraphine completed the lineup. However, after being dismissed from the group due to a merger with another band, Kath joined the Missing Links in 1966, recruiting Parazaider and Seraphine.

The Missing Links performed regularly in Chicago clubs and ballrooms, occasionally joined by trumpeter Lee Loughnane. When Kath’s associate James William Guercio offered him a position in the Illinois Speed Press, Kath declined, preferring guitar and lead vocals. Instead, he formed a new group with Parazaider, Seraphine, and Loughnane, soon recruiting trombonist James Pankow and keyboardist/vocalist Robert Lamm. Their band, initially called The Big Thing, gained singer and bassist Peter Cetera and moved to Los Angeles, signing with Columbia Records under the name Chicago Transit Authority.

Before his passing, Terry Kath appeared on the following Chicago albums: The Chicago Transit Authority (1969), Chicago (1970), Chicago III (1971), and Chicago at Carnegie Hall (1971). He also contributed to Chicago V (1972), Chicago VI (1973), Chicago VII (1974), Chicago VIII (1975), Chicago X (1976), and Chicago XI (1977). Posthumously, his work was featured on Chicago Presents the Innovative Guitar of Terry Kath (1997) and Chicago XXXIV: Live in ’75 (2011).

Terry Kath Guitar Playing Chicago

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Check out this great album that was released a few years ago showcasing the talent of Terry Kath and his great guitar playing.

Why Jimi Hendrix Called Chicago’s Terry Kath The Best Guitarist In The Universe article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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