Although Chicago is often thought of as a ballad-based soft rock outfit, early on in their career, guitarist/singer Terry Kath brought a much more rock-based edge to the band. Kath proved to be an integral member of the group, who was looked up to as an on-stage leader by the other members, but a senseless tragedy silenced Kath's guitar playing for good in the late '70s. Born on January 31, 1946 in Chicago, IL, Kath learned guitar completely by ear, and by his teenaged years was playing Ventures covers in local outfits. Throughout the early to mi-'60s, Kath played in such forgotten groups as Jimmy Rice & the Gentlemen and Jimmy Ford & the Executives, the latter of which served as the backup group at one point for Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars (Kath also doubled on bass at times for these bands, as well). By the later part of the decade, Kath had signed on with several other Chicago-based musicians to form a rock band that would utilize a horn section, and during early 1967, the Chicago Transit Authority was born. It was after an early CTA performance that Kath received perhaps the highest accolade any guitarist could obtain, when Jimi Hendrix told sax player Walter Parazaider, "Your guitar player is better than me." Later shortening their name to just Chicago, the band would soon go on to become one of the top rock bands during the following decade.