Grooving In Chi: The Song
Esquire Crack Team '68
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Grooving In Chi: The Song

In late 2000 I licensed “Grooving in Chi” from the Terry Southern Literary Trust for a song I was composing, and worked out a deal to derive lyrics from this landmark piece of New Journalism. I read and reread the piece, determined to get the mood and intent of the 4,500-word story into a scant six verses and chorus. From the opening paragraph, Terry gives us details as they happen, with his inimitable blend of serious fact-finding and black irony. We get the energy, movement, characters, danger, fear of bodily harm (not to mention harm to our democracy) in a style simultaneously bolder and more intimate than standard reportage. I had no idea whether it would work as music, but certainly there was already a strong rhythm present in the phrasing, and that eased my path. I eventually booked Fantasy Studios the following March to record the finished song.

      With producer Geoff Blaisdell and engineer Steve Fontano in the control room (Geoff also doubling on chorus vocals), and the rhythm section of Ed McClary (drums), Terry Miller (bass), Bob Mocarsky (organ), we quickly got a driving rock thing happening. After I laid down the guitar solo, we took the tape upstairs and sound designer Jim LeBrecht folded in riot sounds and the chant “the whole world is watching!” which director Haskell Wexler gave us from the audio source from his film Medium Cool (another stunning document from Chicago ’68.) My accountant, native Chicagoan Ric Schneider, voiced the cab driver, and film producer Saul Zaentz came down from his office on the seventh floor to voice the “Humphrey delegate” in the Hilton bar. Allen Ginsberg chants “Om” in verse four (courtesy of the Ginsberg archive at Stanford), and in the fade you can hear Terry Southern himself saying, “hmm ... perhaps it’s a raid.”

      After the CD’s release, Nile Southern was touring with his newly released book Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern and invited me to perform “Grooving in Chi” on my electric guitar in bookstores. Much fun, and just like Rick and Louis on the tarmac in “Casablanca,” it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Ed McClary: Drums
Terry Miller: Bass
Bob Mocarsky: Piano and Organ
Geoffrey Blaisdell: Vocals
Dallis Craft: Vocals
Produced by: Geoffrey Blaisdell
Co-Produced, Recorded and Mixed by Steve Fontano
Production Guidance and additional engineering by Fred Catero
Cover photograph of William Burroughs, Terry Southern, Allan Ginsberg and Jean Genet, by Michael Cooper © 1968.
Grooving In Chi ©1968, by Terry Southern, first appeared as a feature article in Esquire Magazine, November 1968. Subsequently it appeared in Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, edited by Nile Southern and Josh Alan Friedman, published in 2001 by Grove Press.

Gordon Whiting
August 2018

 Grooving in Chi
 (Terry Southern-Gordon Whiting)

 • Published by Basic Songs Ltd. ASCAP ©2001
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 • Sound recording produced by Basic Signal Ltd. USA ℗2001
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