Band August to revive Tourism’s greatest song on TV

By Ruth L Ratny Oct 23, 2013, taken from

A gorgeous song written by one of the city’s most prominent ad music composers for one of Illinois Tourism’s greatest campaigns will be reintroduced Nov. 8 during WGN/9’s midday news, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Paul David Wilson’s “Calling Me Home, Chicago” will be played by Gary Mackey’s August, the Band, appropriately called “The Wall of Sound, with 11 musicians playing rock and R&B.

Back in the Mad Men days of advertising when no spot was complete without an original jingle, Wilson headed Herschel Commercial, one of the city’s thriving 20-plus music houses. He was the hot gunslinger songwriter who wrote jingles for the biggest brands that often turned into memorable hit songs.

A decade ago, however, Wilson left the music business for health reason and the song was dormant until Mackey came across Richard Roeper’s article about the song two years ago. He contacted Wilson, saying, “I wanted our band to record ‘Calling Me Home’ as a single on our next CD.” He also expressed his belief that the song could be reprised as Illinois Tourism’s present day anthem.

When Wilson attended August’s recording session of the song, he said he had been struck by the amazing lead singer, Ron Porter. “I felt, with his smooth, powerful baritone, he is Chicago. And the arrangement was terrific.”

“Calling Me Home, Chicago” is as powerfully moving today as it was 28 years when it won the shootout among six music houses — for what was then called the Illinois Dept of Commerce and Community Affairs, Tourism Office.

Wilson recalls how he had received a phone call from Jan Zechman, head of Tourism’s agency at the time, who was looking for a song for Tourism’s upcoming broadcast campaign.

On the drive to his Oak Park home, Wilson, born and bred in Chicago, was thinking about the song: “What I wanted to say. All the feelings, thoughts, the memory was fresh now. I sat down on my piano, and then the intro came to me” and from the song flowed.

“Calling Me Home, Chicago” easily aced the shootout.

“When it was time to choose the voice, in my head I heard the silky, raspy and raw voice of Lee Montgomery,” who was the voice of the “Miller Time” campaign, Wilson recounted.

The agency produced the spot around celebrities “and the feedback was fantastic,” Wilson said. “We had a hit.”

“I believe in the words, but the power of Paul’s music, his notes, proved mightier than any pen on this day,” Zeckman wrote when declaring “Calling Me Home, Chicago” Tourism’s new campaign.

Mackey’s goal is to not only engage Tourism’s revived interest in the song, but “we’re determined to perform it around the world,” he declared.

Mackey can be reached at 630/655-1514.

August Reunion

The following article was published in the Aurora Beacon News, Thursday, August 16, 2007

August Reunion

30 years later, local band back together

by Randall G. Mielke, Special to the Beacon News

Sometimes, history repeats itself.

The local band, August, a popular group in the Fox Valley and Chicago area in the early to mid-1970’s, started with a telephone call when one musician suggested to another musician that they start a band. Now, August, a rock ‘n’ roll, soul and rhythm and blues band, is reuniting. The group“s first public performance in more than three decades will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Walter Payton“s Roundhouse in Aurora. The reunion started with a telephone call.

Almost like a scene from the 1980 “The Blues Brothers” movie, the second telephone call from Gary Mackey to Mark Werthmann, two of the original founders of August, came in February, 2006.

“Gary called me and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about it, ’” said Werthmann, who is the drummer of the group, “and then he literally said, ‘We“re putting the band back together.’ I went downstairs after the telephone call with Gary and the movie on TV at the time was “The Blues Brothers”, so that was a little freaky.”

Taking the coincidence as a good omen, the two musicians began contacting other members of the defunct band, and everyone they spoke to was in favor of reuniting, The eight-piece band in the ’70s experienced personnel changes over the four years they were together, but a gathering on 2006 brought eight of the former band members together.

“We had lunch,” Werthmann said. “Some guys had not seen each other since the band broke up.”

As is all too common with creative musicians on any level, the August break-up was a bit acrimonious.

“We were together for four years in the ’70s and personalities clashed; we drifted apart; we had personnel changes,” Werthmann said. “We had hired a personal manager-type guy and because of personalities, personnel changes were suggested. When you are 20 years old you think maybe that is what we needed. We started to follow his direction, but there were others that were fighting it.”

But, with the passage of time, apparently, all has been forgiven.

“When we had lunch it was like we had just left each other the previous day,” Werthman said.

Full rehearsals for the new August started in August of 2006. For most of the performers the three decades of not playing their instruments had no adverse affect on their talents.

“There were a few of us who had not done anything for a while and I was concerned that we might not be able to pull it off,” Werthmann said. “I was amazed that it came back so quickly. One thing we have to work on is our stamina, especially the horn players. Our enducance has to be built up.”

The band itself also has been built up. The eight-piece group of the’70s (a four-piece horn section and a four-piece rhythm section) is now a 12-piece group with three trumpets, three saxophones, one trombone and five-piece rhythm section. The current August band members include: Mike Fagan, Cip Garcia, Chuck Garland, Rick Johns, Scott Lies, Gary Mackey, Steve Owens, Larry Padilla, Roland Schuetz, Dave Simpson, Rick Van Pelt, and Mark Werthmann. In addition, Wednesday“s performance will include special appearances by Phil Barish, Jon Deiter and Dennis Morgan.

“When Gary and I first talked in February, 2006, we said ‘Let’s do it the way we want to,’” Werthmann said. “Let’s look for the sound now. We want to play music again; have some arrangements with some thought behind them; and have some musicianship in it.”

“A difference between then and now is that now we have written-out parts,” he continued. “Back then you are pretty crazy. You are in your 20“s, so you listen to the record, pick out your parts and then play them.” Werthmann believes that the new version of August may have a better sound.

“It“s definitely fuller,” he said. “Maturity will help form the way you are going to sound. In your 20’s you are basically crazy. With maturity, written charts, more thought behind it, and more cohesiveness, we will create a tightness. When we get done we want people in the audience with their mouths open saying, ‘Oh, my God!’”

The band’s web site ( recreated the excitement of hearing August in concert in the 1970’s with an “explosive sound that could only come from a highly polished group of musicians. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for August!’ The horns roar, the energy overtakes the crowd like a runaway freight locomotive, and nothing is the same anymore.”

That’s what can be expected on Wednesday at Walter Payton’s Roundhouse because sometimes, history repeats itself.