If rock star Peter Cetera’s mother and the nuns at the Catholic school he attended in his hometown of Chicago had their way, Cetera would be a priest or a polka-playing accordionist today. And a frustrated rocker to boot.
“My mother and the nuns talked me into seminary my first year in high school. I realized my real love was music and I didn’t want to be a priest,” said Cetera in a recent phone interview from Boulder, Colorado, where he was “not at home and not touring,” just chillin’.
“So, I went to normal high school,” he continued. And that’s where Cetera’s music story picks up the pace.
“I met this guy who was the last of the beatniks. He introduced me to the music of Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley, and we started a band.” One band led to another, then another, then to The Big Thing, a Chicago-based group that invited Cetera to join, and later became Chicago Transit Authority, then just Chicago. Yeah, that Chicago: “If You Leave Me Now,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Colour My World,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “You’re the Inspiration,” “Stay the Night,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” … etc.
Cetera was the voice and, with the advent of music videos, became the face of Chicago, the rock band with horns, from 1967 to 1985. It was that original group (Cetera, Robert Lamm, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane and Walter Parazaider) that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 8. Cetera didn’t attend the ceremony.
“That was 30 years ago,” Cetera said of his Chicago time. Another lifetime.
Cetera will be in concert, with his band The Bad Daddies, at the Event Center at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia, at 9 p.m. Friday, May 6. Tickets are $65 and $95 and you must be 21 or older to attend concerts at the Event Center. (www.hollywoodcasinocharlestown.com)
The singer, songwriter and bass player, who will be 72 in September, has been at home in Idaho since 1985, shortly before he parted ways with Chicago, the band, and after his oldest daughter was born. “We didn’t want to raise her in L.A., so we looked around and settled in Idaho,” Cetera said.
The year after he left Chicago, he released a solo album. Wanting to do a solo project and take a break from Chicago’s heavy touring schedule is what brought about a mutual parting of ways. Cetera says he doesn’t know if he quit or was fired when his request was met with a do it or you’ll be replaced response.
The first single from his solo project, “The Glory of Love,” was used as the theme song for “The Karate Kid, Part II.” It also went to No. 1 in 1986. Cetera also penned Chicago’s first No. 1 single, “If You Leave Me Now,” in 1976 (it also won Chicago’s only Grammy Award to date) and a second No. 1, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” in 1982. In 1986, a duet with Amy Grant, “The Next Time I Fall,” hit No. 1 and was nominated for a Grammy. In the early 2000’s, Cetera performed a series of shows with an orchestra backing him, playing songs from his career.
But, he said, the Bad Daddies, his current band, is the “best band I’ve ever had. There’s seven of them,” he said. “They are dear friends from around Nashville, top session and touring musicians. It’s fantastic!
“It’s always nice to have people that love to do the music we’re doing,” Cetera said.
“I was with Chicago from the beginning to 1986, and 98 to 99 percent of their music hits are from that era,” Cetera said.
“Basically, my show is the hits I’ve had and written with Chicago and my solo career,” Cetera said, adding that he is “not a fan” of doing songs from a new album in concert; fans come to hear the songs they know.
“When people come, they don’t know what to expect but they leave saying, ‘Oh my gosh! That was good!'” he said.
— — —
Chicago will mark 50 years in 2017. No way!
My sister, Carol, was/is a big Chicago fan. I think she even bought me a ticket or two to see them with her in concert back in the day when I made $2.50 an hour.
Cetera says it doesn’t seem like it was 50 years ago, “but then I haven’t been there (with the band) since 1986.”
The last of the original members to join the band, Cetera said he was the “frustrated rocker, even though I’m known for my ballads. From the beginning I’ve been a rock ‘n’ roll/blues guy.”
When Chicago took a turn at jazz rock, Cetera said, “that wasn’t my forte and it wasn’t theirs either. I appreciate jazz players but that was not me, or the other people in the group.”
That and the crushing tour schedule and the band not agreeing to give him a break to do a solo project brought an end to his time with Chicago.
So what else does a rock ‘n’ roller in Idaho like to do?
“Outdoor activities, biking, hiking … I have a weekly basketball game every Wednesday with friends. We’ve done it for a lot of years,” Cetera said. “I do as much as I can do.”
About that accordion …
As a youngster, Cetera was considered a child prodigy on the accordion. But, hey, how are you going to keep them on the accordion once they learn to play licks on a guitar?
“I own the accordion I’ve had since I was a kid,” he said. “Every couple of years I’ll dust it off and work the bellows, but I don’t remember any of the things I used to play and my fingers don’t work like that anymore.”
And son, have you been forgiven?
“It took [my mother] a while to forgive me,” he laughed, about his mother’s desire for him to become a priest. “I still don’t know what I’m going to after this music thing.”
Cetera still does weekend shows, but not the month-long tours of days gone by. “The actual traveling lost its lustre years ago,” he said, “when flying was actually fun. Not any more. But once we get to the gig everything is set up and sound check, everything’s great.”