When he was about 3 years old, Mason Swearingen was riding in the car with his parents when “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago began to play.
That’s one of his earliest musical memories, he said, and today, he’s the leader and member of the band Beginnings that travels the nation doing Chicago covers.
“It’s one of those powerful memories,” Swearingen said . “It just goes to show how amazing Chicago’s music is.” He comes with the eight-member band to perform at the James Lumber Center at College of Lake County in Grayslake on Saturday. It’s the first time his group has performed in the Chicago area.
Swearingen plays bass and sings with the group that features the traditional horns including saxophone, trombone and trumpet that made Chicago famous.
He grew up taking trombone and piano lessons, learning bass guitar, and performing with bands, including one that toured with Peter Frampton, he said.
About 15 years ago, he met “a talented bunch of musicians from Long Island” and they began playing Chicago cover songs.
“We had a number of horn players who were extremely talented, so we said ‘What better band to do cover songs for than Chicago?’ The thing we were all drawn to is just how deep their music is. They’re not your typical three-chord songs. The music is so well-written and so beautifully orchestrated. And they had so many hits over numerous decades. It truly made sense to us to pursue this. We all get so much out of that music. We become better musicians.”
About six years ago, the group began touring nationally, Swearingen said.
“We have a really good combination of musicians in the band and we found a very good agent/manager who really believes in what we do. That has made a big difference,” he said.
Swearingen describes the show as one “that encompasses all eras of Chicago’s music, from the first album up to the ’80s. We try to touch on everything, including some B sides, like ‘Skin Tight.'”
They also play all the favorites, including “You’re the Inspiration,” and “Beginnings.”
“We try to be very true to the music. We have four guys in the rhythm section that all sing and can sing lead — so vocally that’s a big thing. We’re able to cover a lot of the harmonies and pass the lead vocals around the same way Chicago did.”