. Born in Chicago in 1945, Guercio, as a teenaged guitarist, shared the stage with
. During his college years, he studied classical composition. After relocating to Los Angeles, he broke into the city's highly competitive session scene, playing on various records. Becoming a songwriter, he wrote
became a staff producer in the L.A. division of Columbia Records, a division of CBS Records. He had three 1967 pop hits with
who were from his native Chicago: "Don't You Care," which peaked at number six, "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)," and "Susan." Listening to these early sides, one can hear
beginning to shape a brassy "downtown" horn sound that would characterize later hits by
An old college friend from his hometown, Walt Parazaider, invited Guercio
to come hear his new band, the Big Thing. Impressed, he offered to become the band's manager and producer. The band accepted, and in summer 1968, Guercio
flew them out to Los Angeles, rented them a house, and gave them an allowance of $75 a week. He also changed the band's name to the Chicago Transit Authority and lined up gigs for the band in area clubs where they became a popular attraction. While attending a barbecue party, Guercio
was asked by Jim Morrison
's girlfriend to change her flat tire. While in the middle of doing that, Blood, Sweat and Tears
manager Bennett Glotzer asked him to produce the band's next Columbia album. Guercio
said he was in the middle of recording an album for Chicago
. Glotzer said if he would produce his band's next LP he would help him get a deal with Columbia Records. Guercio
agreed and made the grueling L.A. to New York commute while recording what became the band's self-titled number one pop album which spawned the hits "Spinning Wheel" and "You've Made Me So Very Happy."Guercio
gave a tape of the Chicago Transit Authority to CBS Records president Clive Davis
who offered a recording contract. The band's debut LP, The Chicago Transit Authority, was recorded in 15 days during January-February 1969 and issued in April of that year. The LP spawned two Top Ten pop hits: "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" and "Beginnings."
In January 1970, Guercio
shortened the name to Chicago
. Meeting resistance at radio stations for Chicago II
and Davis decided to creatively edit the LP's six-plus minute tracks, shortening them down to a more radio-friendly length of three minutes. The single versions of "Make Me Smile" and "25 or 6 to 4" made it into the Top Ten pop charts. Chicago 3 went to number two in winter 1971, sparking gold and platinum sales of the band's three previous albums. It also was the beginning of a streak of five number one platinum and double-platinum pop albums: Chicago V ("Saturday in the Park"), Chicago VI ("Feeling Stronger Every Day," "Just You 'N' Me"), Chicago VII ("(I've Been)Searchin' So Long," "Call on Me"), Chicago VIII ("Old Days"), and a greatest hits set Chicago IX.
At the peak of their success, animosity began to develop between Guercio and the band, stemming from the band's disapproval of the pop tone of their music (they wanted to be more experimental), their grueling tour schedule, and they wanted a bigger share of the royalties. In an attempt to resolve the situation, Guercio
shared a percentage of his royalties. Tensions swelled to the point that Guercio
parted ways in October 1977. Guercio
went on to build Caribou Studios, a popular, successful recording studio in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.