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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 12 October 1951Galena Park, Texas, USA
Nickname Hot Licks

Mini Bio (1)

Guitarist and songwriter Donnie Dacus was born October 12, 1951 in Galena Park, Texas. He's noted for his work with Stephen Stills in the early 70s, and a controversial stint with the jazz-rock group Chicago from 1978-1980 (he also had a brief fling with acting, starring in "Hair" in 1979).

His career started in a teenage band called The Shux (so named because Jimi Hendrix often ended shows by saying, "Aw shucks"). Reports indicate that The Shux had Go-Go girls, and that Dacus often dressed up as Hendrix. In 1966, the band played at a Mardi Gras in Fort Worth, Texas (the Doors played at there as well). After graduating from Cleburne High, Dacus left to record with a band called the "Yellow Payges."

According to various sources, Dacus worked on Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "CSN" album, doing background vocals and playing rhythm guitar. A few years later he teamed up with Stephen Stills for several projects (on "Stills" Dacus has two writing credits, and on "Illegal Stills" he is featured prominently).

Stills and Dacus suffered a bitter falling out when Dacus accidentally landed a part in the movie version of "Hair" (he accompanied a friend to auditions and got the part when Milos Forman spotted him). His long blond locks and bland good looks made him a natural for the character of Woof. He also sang some background vocals on Billy Joel's classic "52nd Street." However, fate would soon guide him to his most infamous gig.

In January of 1978, bearish Terry Kath - legendary guitarist of "Chicago" - fatally shot himself. Not wanting a Kath clone, the band decided to look for a replacement who could boost their sex appeal. Dacus auditioned between takes on Forman's film almost as an afterthought. "I knew most of the songs," Dacus has said. "I used to do 'Dialogue' in Top-Forty bands. I knew every hit song those guys ever did. They let me play five songs and by the third song, "25 or 6 to 4," I could tell everyone was looking around. I wasn't nervous. I went in there with the attitude, 'Hey, I'm gonna play with Chicago; they may hate me but I'm gonna have some fun.'"

It's been said that Chicago auditioned nearly 50 guitarists before hiring Dacus. Bassist Peter Cetera has disputed this, saying Chicago "interviewed about 20 different guitarists," and were just about at the end of their rope. Then Dacus came in and played their stuff with a lot of fire. According to trombonist Jimmy Pankow, what impressed Chicago was that Dacus "was somebody who believed in himself. He came in and said, 'I'm Donnie Dacus.' The kid had a lot of balls. Most of those [other] guys couldn't sing and play 'Little One' at the same time." Cetera, noticing Dacus had long, Frampton-ish hair (and, thus, 70's sex appeal), supposedly stated, "My God, he has long hair! Let's go!" Keyboardist Robert Lamm said, "He just blew us away. The kid's an original."

Dacus' debut with Chicago ("Hot Streets") went top-12 and platinum, but the controversy over the new guitar player began right away. No Terry Kath in looks (a plus), in voice, in soloing, or in composition (all minuses), Dacus faced an impossible task - to replace a fan favorite who had died tragically at the height of his popularity. To be fair to Dacus, Jimmy Page couldn't have effectively replaced Kath under these circumstances. In retrospect, Dacus gets mixed reviews. Some of his soloing is great, some bad ("Alive Again"). As a singer he's effective in ensemble ("Alive Again"), but sounds like a baritone trying to stretch it to tenor on leads ("Ain't It Time," "Take A Chance"). As a composer he pens a decent guitar riff ("Ain't It Time"), but has trouble rhyming. That Dacus entered Chicago at a time when their first wave of success was ending is not his fault, but he couldn't do much to pull them out of the tailspin, either.

That tailspin hit hard with "Chicago 13" featuring the Dacus single "Must Have Been Crazy." Neither the album nor the song went anywhere as Chicago failed to make platinum status for the first time (far better was a re-recorded, Chicago-ized version of the Dacus/Stills "Closer to You," strangely released only as a B-side single). Strained relationships between Dacus and the other band members added to the problems, and Dacus was fired after the Christmas tour of 1979.

What exactly happened between Dacus and Chicago may never be known. Collected hints over the years indicate that Dacus' ego got too big, and that his rolling and yelping stage style didn't fit in with the rest of the band. Dacus has remained publicly silent since the split and, in fact, it's difficult to find virtually any information about him from that time onward.

He surfaced in 1982, joining Badfinger for a tour, and sources say some Badfinger fans think he was one of Badfinger's best. He did some session work in New York and L.A during various times in the 80s, and filled in one night in 1987 as the guitarist of David Letterman's band. In 1987 and 1988, he is supposed to have had a leading role in "Cats" on Broadway. Reports indicate that Dacus is married with kids living in Austin, Texas, though he also allegedly maintains a second home in North Hollywood.

However, in recent years, Dacus sightings have been scarce. Former Chicago drummer Danny Serpaphine has this to say about the situation: "Donnie Dacus did disappear from the face of the earth. He was let go because he really didn't fit into the band, [and] never did; it was a mistake in the first place. It wasn't his fault either; he was a good guy. He just didn't fit in with the mix. I know it really hurt him to be let go like that, believe me now, I know how that feels."

- IMDb Mini Biography By: billfleck

Trivia (3)

Member of the rock group, Chicago.
Wrote, sang, and recorded with Stephen Stills before his two-album stint with Chicago.
He and Chicago were awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6438 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

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