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Biography

Here you can learn more about Peter Cetera's amazing career.

Childhood

Born on September 13, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, Peter Cetera was the second of six children; although, he mentioned being left the oldest of five children after his brother died. In 1987, he joked that they were the Von Trapp Family Singers of the south side of Chicago. The children were taught to harmonize at an early age, singing their way through household chores.

Peters first instrument was the accordion. He said that he would have preferred guitar, but considering he was only 10 years old at the time, the wishes of his parents won out. Since the family was Polish, Peter once said that the accordion was actually a lot of fun because he learned a lot of polkas.

While attending St. Margaret of Scotland grammar school, Peter was approached about attending the seminary. He accepted, but it ended-up being a brief stint. During his sophomore year in high school, Peter saw his first rock n roll concert. The Rebel Rockets were wearing sunglasses and standing on their amplifiers. For Peter, there was no going back. He left the seminary (much to his mothers dismay) and saved up $85 to buy his first guitar. After hooking up with a high school buddy, they proceeded to play all the high school homecoming and weekend dances until they graduated.

Peter knew at an early age that he wanted to make a career out of his musical talent. Since his parents needed some convincing though, Peter did what he once called obligatory stints in IBM school and construction while still playing music in Chicago clubs with his band called The Exceptions whenever he could. That all changed in December of 1967...

The Chicago Years

The band Chicago formed in February of 1967 in Walt Parazaiders apartment. While they had two excellent baritone and bass ranges in Terry Kath and Robert Lamm, the band had difficulty covering the higher-range harmonies. Since Chicago had all the ranges covered musically with the brass section, the members felt they needed to do the same thing with the vocalists. One weekend, the Exceptions were playing at the same club as Chicago, then called the Big Thing. Peter felt that his time with the Exceptions was coming to an end anyway. So, by the end of that weekend in December of 1967, Peter was the tenor vocalist and bass player for the Big Thing.

By the summer of 1968, the bands manager, Jimmy Guercio had moved the guys to Los Angeles and renamed them the Chicago Transit Authority. The band was together twenty-four-seven for the most part, rehearsing many songs written primarily by Robert Lamm, hoping to obtain a recording contract, which they eventually did.

CTAs self-titled debut album was recorded during a 7-10 day period in January of 1969. While the albums longer tracks were not favorable for playing on radio, the band felt that the underground play CTA got on college campuses aided in the bands success. While CTA was not the commercial success the band was hoping for, they continued touring.

During this time, Peters main roles in the group continued to be strictly that of bass player and vocalist. Things remained as such until the summer of 1969 when he and fellow band mate Walt Parazaider were attacked during a baseball game. Peter was seriously injured and spent several days in the ICU recovering from a broken jaw along with some other injuries.

Peter was at home recovering from his injuries when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July of 1969. This was when he made his first attempt at song writing. Inspired by something Walter Cronkite said that fateful night, Peter picked up his guitar and wrote, Where Do We Go from Here, which would appear on Chicagos second album. Along with his other talents, this established Peter as a major song writing force within the band. He would go on to write many of Chicagos hits, including If You Leave Me Now from Chicago X, which would end up being the bands first number one single.

As the years went by, Chicago established a large fan base and made several successful albums. In fact, when Chicago III was released, all of Chicagos albums were on the charts. A rigorous touring and recording schedule as well as the demands of Guercio, started taking a toll on some of the band members who would eventually turn to the use of drugs to help them cope. This merely created a viscous circle as Guercio was having trouble getting the performances I needed vocally among other things Things eventually got so tense that Guercio and Chicago finally parted ways in 1977.

Even after severing ties with Jimmy Guercio, Chicago continued with its demanding touring schedule, at least until early 1978. In January of 1978, Chicago guitarist and vocalist Terry Kath died from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound. Many band members, Peter included, were wondering if the band should just call it quits. Other musicians, such as Doc Severinsen, encouraged the band to go on.

Although the band did replace Kath with guitarist and singer Donnie Dacus, they continued their downward spiral. Peter once said that even though one might think Kaths death would inspire the band members to clean up their act, he said it just made things worse. They began to party before and during concerts as well as after.

Eventually, the bands dedication to nothing but partying would get to their record company, CBS. Chicago was dropped from their label following the release of Chicago 14, which sold less than a million copies in 1980.

Peters first solo effort was a self-titled album released in 1981 when Chicago first signed with Warner Brothers Records. Peter has stated on several occasions that he thought this album never got the recognition it deserved simply because the record company did not want Peter to get any big ideas about going solo. Therefore, even though Livin in the Limelight was released as a single, Peter felt as though the album itself was buried by the record company.

While Peters first solo efforts were apparently stifled, his band began to thrive again with the release of Chicago 16 in 1982. Peter combined efforts with David Foster, the bands new producer, to get Chicago back on top. The single, Hard to Say Im Sorry, which Peter co-wrote with Foster, yielded the bands second number one song and began the bands renaissance.

1982 was also an important time for Peter on a personal level. This was when he married longtime girlfriend Diane Nini. Peter told People magazine in 1987 that it was Ms. Nini who got him through his Elvis phase in the late 1970s and early 1980s After they married, Diane gave birth to Claire in September of 1983.

1984 saw the release of what some have called Chicagos biggest commercial success. Chicago 17 once again saw Peter emerge along with David Foster as a leading force within the band. In a 1987 interview, Peter said he thought he had to take control of the reinsbecause the only way out was up. While Chicago 17 spawned four top-ten singles, it also created a desire, among some of the band members at least, to embark upon a heavier touring schedule once again. On the other hand, Peter had the urge as well as the blessing of the record company to go forth with another solo effort. After being given an ultimatum by the band to tour or leave, Peter left Chicago in the spring of 1985, saying he was tired of the touring schedule along with the bands jazz-rock style.

The Solo Years

One of Peters first moves as a solo artist had nothing to do with music and was exactly that--a move. He gave up the fast track lifestyle of the Malibu area (where, according to his former band mates at least, he was a hermit anyway) and settled with his wife and young daughter in the Ketchum, Idaho area.

In June of 1985, Peter began working on his second solo album in earnest. Wanting to produce the project himself, but fearing the record company would reject the idea, Peter recruited Michael Omartian to co-produce the album. (Peter insisted on several occasions that the album was co-produced by himself and Omartian, even though Omartian is the only one given production credit.) Showing a desire to distance himself a bit from his old band, Peter made Solitude/Solitaire a combination of some classic ballads with some unexpected rock n roll tunes. Actually, he wanted one of the more up tempo songs, such as Big Mistake, to be his first solo single. Plans were changed however when Peter was approached by the makers of the movie, Karate Kid II. They wanted Peter to write and sing a ballad as a theme for the movie. The Glory of Love would hit number one in the summer of 1986 and would eventually be nominated for a Grammy as well as an Academy Award.

Riding the coattails of the first smash single, The Next Time I Fall was released in August of 1986. This duet with then primarily Christian singer Amy Grant would become the first of several hit duets for Peter. Future singing partners would include Agnetha Faltskag (formerly of ABBA), Chaka Kahn,. Crystal Bernard, and Ronna Reeves.

While Solitude/Solitaire gave Peter two number one singles, many award nominations (including a Grammy nomination for best male vocalist in 1987) and would eventually go platinum, it also solidified his image as a balladeer. When Big Mistake was finally released as a single, it had only minor success.

In several interviews after leaving Chicago and following the release of Solitude/Solitaire, Peter was quite honest about his dislike of touring. He often said he would tour following the release of his third solo album, which was One More Story. This album spawned the hit, One Good Woman, and was less techno sounding than its older brother, which Peter would call, the computer album in some interviews.

While One More Story gave Peter another hit single, it did not yield any award nominations, nor did it result in the U.S. tour many fans were hoping for. Peter did do some promotion for One More Story outside the United States; mostly in Japan. Upon returning home, Peter found turmoil in his personal life. Short of doing a duet with Cher for the movie Chances Are in 1989 as well as No Explanation from Pretty Woman in 1990, and performing with Voices that Care in 1991, Peter took a four-year self imposed hiatus following his divorce from wife, Diane Nini.

Even though he had pretty much disappeared from the music industry for a few years, he still kept busy. After taking acting lessons in the mid 1980s and deciding the profession would not be something that (he) ate and slept, Peter finally did give it a try in 1991. He had a minor role in the movie version of Sidney Sheldons Memories of Midnight, which also starred Jane Seymour.

Peter decided to tell the truth when he began his fourth solo effort entitled World Falling Down in 1991. This album, which took a year to complete because it was recorded in nine different studios over two continents, examined the issues involved in regard to the end of a relationship. The albums 10 tracks, although they were more up tempo than the previous two albums, mainly covered the topics of divorce along with single parenting. World Falling Down was a commercial success, producing three top ten singles on the Adult Contemporary chart including Restless Heart, which ended up as the number two song over all for the year in 1992.

Even with the good fortune World Falling Down brought Peter, he still opted not to tour, saying that he wanted to spend time with his daughter and get used to being single again.

1995 was a year of change and trial for Peter. First, he was with a new record company--River North Records. He began doing the majority of his recording in Nashville with the album entitled One Clear Voice, and would eventually start living there half of the time as well.

Peter did, at long last, plan to tour immediately following the albums release. However, a mere three and a half weeks prior to the release of One Clear Voice, Peter was in a very serious accident while riding on his Harley, forcing him to be hospitalized, have major surgery to repair his injured face, and postpone the planned tour indefinitely. The tour was rescheduled, and from the winter of 1995 through the summer of 1996, Peter made stops in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, Singapore, and Manila, among others. When he was asked why he waited so long to tour, he simply stated that he wanted to be home to raise his daughter Claire.

A new daughter and a new album were among the 1997 highlights in Peters life. Senna Cetera was born to Peter and then girlfriend Blythe Weber, whom he met while they were both working at River North. And after much haggling between himself, the powers that be in Peters old band, and the powers that be in Peters record company, Youre the Inspiration: a Collection was released just three weeks after Senna was born.

The Collection album, as many of Peters fans have dubbed it, was difficult in that it took a while for the albums concept and direction to be decided. Originally, this album was to consist of Peters six previous duets plus four or five new ones. When this plan fell through, Peter decided to do a combination of his solo greatest hits and some of the songs he had written for and performed with Chicago. The band refused to release the recordings for Peters use. This left River North president, Steve Devick, the daunting task of talking Peter into re-recording some of his old Chicago tunes. Peter called that a painful thought in a 1997 interview. He agreed to remake and modernize If You Leave Me Now, Baby, what a Big Surprise, and Youre the Inspiration for the new album. He got the group Az Yet to sing background vocals on the latter song, saying that it was their turn because Peter appeared on both the track and video remake of Hard to Say Im Sorry. Peter, although reluctant at first, would later admit that he was glad Devick had talked him into doing the project.

Peter spent the next few years focusing on his personal life. He spent his time in Idaho, snowboarding with Claire and getting to know Senna. He also enjoyed his favorite activities, including mountain climbing and golf. From a professional standpoint, he said he wasnt happy with his record company--that he felt as though he could not do the type of music he wanted. River North ended up declaring bankruptcy during the summer of 2000, forcing Peter to wait until his recordings were released by the courts to release his sixth solo album, Another Perfect World, which he would eventually do via DDE Music in March of 2001.

In 2002, Peter was asked by his old friend and writing partner, David Foster, to perform a medley of the hits they had written together. While Foster played the piano, Peter was also backed-up by a symphony orchestra at the Concert for World Childrens Day. This lark, as Peter called it, would eventually result in his first tour in seven years.

The next spring, Peter got together with some fellow musicians from Nashville and created an unplugged group. They re-worked some of his solo hits as well as some of the songs he performed with Chicago. The summer and fall of 2003 was spent touring and performing with various symphony orchestras. Tour stops included two in Chicago, IL--where Peter taped an episode of Soundstage for PBS--Dayton, OH, Salt Lake City, UT, along with several cities in Florida.

In 2004, Peter put out his long-awaited Christmas album. You Just Gotta Love Christmas includes many holiday classics along with three new tracks, which were penned by Peter himself. Peter made his seventh solo album a family effort, with his eldest daughter, Claire, appearing on two tracks. Both Claire and Senna--Peters youngest child--did the artwork for the cover of the album. To promote his newest CD, Peter did a mini-tour, singing the songs from the album and signing autographs at many Borders book stores throughout the U.S.

Peters future plans are unknown. Fans, however would love to see him embark on another tour and record another solo album.
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Resources

VIDEO

Cover Story. Air: Spring, 1987.

Crook & Chase. Air: October 25, 1996.

AUDIO

The Peter Cetera Superstar Music Special. Air: Week of May 13, 1996.

The Peter Cetera Superstar Music Special. Air: Week of September 13, 1997.

CBS Syndicated Interview. Air: Fall, 1986.

CBS Syndicated Interview. Air: Summer, 1988.

PRINT

Chicago: Feelin Stronger Every Day. By Ben Joseph. Quarry Publications. Ontario Canada. 2000.

Peter Cetera Interview Transcript from July 31, 1986. Posted by SoundCity on the Peter Cetera Club Message Forum.

AOL Chat Transcript from March 17, 2001.

Peter Cetera, who's from Chicago (the city) No longer has anything to do with Chicago (the group), which makes him happy. By Stephen Williams. NY Newsday Entertainment Section. 1986.

Life after Chicago: Its hard for Peter Cetera to say hes sorry. By LynnVan Matre. Chicago Tribune. October 5, 1986.

Peter Cetera Fact File. Teen Magazine. January, 1987.

One More Story-- The Peter Cetera Fanclub Newsletter. May, 1996. Volume 3. Issue 1.

Warner Brothers Records media information for World Falling Down. May, 1992.

In a year of grief, the band that made Chicago famous comes alive again. By Jim Jerome. People Magazine. October 16,1978.

Glory of Love singer Peter Cetera left Chicago (the band) for Idaho (the state) and solo success. By Steve Dougherty and Todd Gold. People Magazine. February 2, 1987.

Peter Cetera hit the top when he began doing what he does best--being his own voice. Seventeen. March, 1987

Cetera savors solo success of Solitude/Solitaire. By Steve Gett. Billboard. August 30, 1986.

Making tracks: Harley crash just a temporary setback as ex-Chicago singer Peter Cetera hits the road to tout latest CD. By Buddy Seigal. Los Angeles Times. November 14, 1995.

Peter Cetera tries different approach: Branches new subjects, attitude on reflective set. By Melinda Newman. Billboard. August 15, 1992.

For former Chicago crooner Cetera, making hits is a hard habit to break. Billboard. July 10, 1997.

Platinum goes bankrupt. By Robert Manor. July 26, 2000

Special Thanks to: ague18, catladyofmespo, UptownGirl, Karen, and my anonymous source.