Upon the band's 1967 inception, they were initially called "The Big Thing", eventually taking on the moniker The Chicago Transit Authority when producer James William Guercio took them on in 1968. Fusing brass and jazz with a soulful rock and roll feel was their trademark and Guercio instinctively felt that their sound would prove successful, lobbying for his label to give them a shot.
The Chicago Transit Authority were signed to Columbia Records late that year and recorded their debut in late January. While Guercio had recently produced Blood Sweat and Tears' second album (which proved to be a huge smash), he did so to raise capital for his band. By the end of The Chicago Transit Authority's sessions, it was clear that the album would have to be a double. Very skeptical, seeing as the band had no track record, Columbia only agreed to the concept if the group would take a royalty cut.
In their original incarnation, keyboardist Robert Lamm, guitarist Terry Kath and bassist Peter Cetera all shared lead vocals, while James Pankow, Lee Loughnane and Walter Parazaider handled all brass and woodwinds and Danny Seraphine played drums. Lamm, Kath and Pankow were the band's main composers at this juncture. Kath's prowess as a guitarist was so strong that even Jimi Hendrix became a major fan of Kath's playing.
Released in April 1969, The Chicago Transit Authority proved to be an immediate hit, reaching #17 in the US and #9 in the UK. While critical reaction was also strong, the album initially failed to produce any hit singles, with the group seen as an album-oriented collective. In 1970 and 1971, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" (#7), "Beginnings" (#7) and "Questions 67 and 68" (#71/#24 re-release) would all prove to be belated hits. Buoyed by the success of their later albums, the album stayed on the charts for a then-record 171 weeks, and was certified gold (and later platinum and double platinum).
While the band toured the album, legal action was threatened by the actual Chicago Transit Authority, forcing the group to reduce their name to, simply, Chicago.
In 2002, The Chicago Transit Authority was remastered and reissued on one CD by Rhino Records. However, Rhino Records trimmed some of the songs, noticeably the fadeouts on "Questions #67 and #68" (six seconds longer on the LP) and "Free Form Guitar" (five seconds longer), and the 10 second gap between "Someday" and "Liberation".
|1969||Billboard Pop Albums||17|
|1969||UK Pop Albums||9|
|1969||"Questions 67 and 68"||Billboard Pop Singles||71|
|1970||"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"||Billboard Pop Singles||7|
|1971||"Beginnings"||Billboard Pop Singles||7|
|1971||"Questions 67 and 68"||Billboard Pop Singles||24|