BUCKHANNON — Jawbone Park was a scene of celebration Tuesday evening as the community gathered in commemoration of James Carter “Jimmy” Pankow’s birthday. Pankow is a talented trombonist and the co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band “Chicago.” Many folks may recognize their music as they were a major hit in the 70’s and 80’s, known as the rock band “with horns”, incorporating elements of classical jazz, R&B, and pop. Honoring Pankow stems from Mayor David McCauley’s admiration and an encounter with Pankow and his band, but most notably his ties with the City of Buckhannon.
The relation Pankow has with the city began with his lost love for a lady by the name of Terry Heisler, who left her home to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College. Pankow was crushed by her absence in moving east to Buckhannon and soon after, their relationship ended. With his heart broken, Pankow made the attempt in winning back his ex-fiancée by composing a 13-minute rock opus spotlighting Chicago’s second album release on January 26, 1970.
Pankow’s tribute to Heisler was titled “Ballet for a Girl in Buc[k]hannon”, but the city’s name was erroneously misspelled by leaving out the “k.” This has been an ongoing playful highlight to the story of Pankow’s connection to the city. As many locals are aware, those foreign to Buckhannon can have a pretty rough time with the name. Though Pankow was aware of the correct spelling of the name, the deletion of the “k” in the title of the song remains uncertain as to how or why it was removed in the process of the album’s release.
The “Ballet” was quite the composition, as three of the seven tracks to this multi-piece classic are instrumentals titled by Pankow as “West Virginia Fantasies.” Chicago continued to release many more albums, selling over 40 million units in the U.S., including 23 gold, 18 platinum, and eight multi-platinum albums, ranking Chicago ninth on a list of the hundred greatest artists of all time, according to Billboard’s 200 album chart success in October of 2015.
A beautiful sign was erected in dedication to Jimmy Pankow at Jawbone Park. The birthday celebration was proceeded by greetings from Dean of WVWC Dr. James Moore and Bryson VanNostrand of ART26201. John Waltz of the Buckhannon Community Theatre discussed connecting creative alike minds. He mentioned how “we are forming a community of artists” and was presented a special gift of $1,000 from Mrs. Shirley Lewis as a contribution to the projects for the Colonial Theatre. Delightful music was accompanied by Dr. James Moore and Connor McCauley in their version of the “Ballet.” A special thanks to Jerry Arnold, Brad Hawkins, and the City Streets and Parks crew for the installation of the Jawbone Park’s newest sign.