Guitar Legend Terry Kath

Guitar Legend Terry Kath

Grossly Ignored, Highly Underrated


Lately our world has grown a bit quieter in the wake of music greats departing from our lives. Thus far in 2016 we have mourned the losses of such talents as David Bowie, Pete Huttlinger, Glenn Frey, Joey Feek, Merle Haggard, and most recently, Prince. I hope to share with you my thoughts on another music legend who, like his colleagues, left our world too soon.

I’ve been asked in interviews and by readers: Are any of your characters based on real life people? In some cases, yes they are. One of my favorite characters in the Bane Shaw series, Marsh Ellis, is loosely based on three people: a friend from high school, my deceased brother, and Terry Kath.

Terry Kath was the founding member of the band Chicago. Although his life was tragically cut short in 1978 at the age of thirty-one, I prefer to remember how he lived instead of how he died.

Early interviews with Chicago’s band members suggested they were music snobs – and rightfully so. They were proud of their education and knew they were exceptional. Unlike the other band members, Terry Kath had no formal music training. Nonetheless, he was a gifted, self-taught musician and was considered the band’s leader. His presence and leadership is evident when watching recordings of live concerts; Tanglewood 1970 is one of my favorite concerts. The band members looked to him when glitches occurred, and Kath remained the smooth artist who transitioned the entire group from SNAFU to spectacular. Whether he was head-banging the beat of a song with drummer Daniel Seraphine or admired under the proud eyes of James Pankow, aka “Jimmy Trombone”, when he led the band in Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon, Kath was the engine that drove this well-tuned, pristine machine known as Chicago.

With his iconic guitar and sexy baritone voice, Terry Kath set a standard few musicians could ever achieve. The lucky concert ticket holder witnessed a guitarist who could simultaneously play rhythm and lead on one guitar; a feat only a handful of musicians have ever mastered.  We were treated to ripping wah-wah pedal solos, (25 or 6 to 4) that rocked out several minutes of live musical genius.  The legendary and brilliant Jimi Hendrix once told Walter Parazaider, Chicago’s saxophonist, “… I’ve been watching you guys and I think your guitarist is better than me.”

At the time of his death, Terry Kath left behind a two year old daughter, Michelle.  During the last few years, Michelle has worked tirelessly on a documentary about her father. I can only imagine the bitter-sweet emotions she has encountered on her journey to discover the man who graced us with his talent, shared his thoughts with us through his music, and allowed us the privilege of seeing the beautiful relationship he had with his family and his band members.

Please look at these links and follow Michelle as she prepares to release the documentary on the daddy she never knew. I am thankful for her courage and tenacity to forge forth and bring us her personal discovery of one of the greatest guitarist of all time.


  1. Michelle Turk says:

    Amazing talent lost way too soon. I would love to have seen how his talent would have grown if he were still with us today.

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