Band August to revive Tourism’s greatest song on TV

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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.

Composer Paul David WilsonWhen 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.

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