Connor McCauley and Dr. James Moore, academic dean at West Virginia Wesleyan College, play a section of the band Chicago's song, 'Colour My World' in honor of Jimmy Pankow's 72nd birthday.

City celebrates 72nd birthday of Chicago’s legendary trombonist, Jimmy Pankow

BUCKHANNON — The City of Buckhannon rolled out the red carpet for Jimmy Pankow, the trombonist of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Band, Chicago, in honor of his 72nd birthday Tuesday.

What does Pankow have to do with Buckhannon?

Well, learning about the connection between the two was just part of what Tuesday’s program was all about, as Buckhannon mayor Dave McCauley — a longtime fan of Chicago — explained to residents and city officials gathered for the city’s Inaugural Jimmy Pankow Birthday Celebration.

Mayor Dave McCauley explains Pankow’s connection to Buckhannon at Tuesday’s event.

McCauley said Pankow, who was born Aug. 20, 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri, was one of the founding members of the band Chicago when it made its debut in Illinois in 1967. Pankow had been engaged to the woman he considered to be “the love of his life,” Terrie Heisler, McCauley said.

A photograph of Pankow’s fiance, Terrie Heisler in a West Virginia Wesleyan College yearbook from the early 1970s / Photo courtesy Ann Bergstrom

However, their romance was short-lived when Heisler left Chicago to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon in 1968. When their romance faded soon after, Pankow was said to be heartbroken.

Pankow subsequently wrote “Ballet for a Girl in Buc[k]hannon” — a seven-track grouping of songs that appeared on Chicago’s second album in January 1970 — about Heisler. (The city’s name was misspelled on the track listing, but McCauley believes Pankow knew the correct spelling of ‘Buckhannon.’)

“Three of the seven tracks of his multi-part work are instrumentals titled by Pankow as ‘West Virginia Fantasies,'” McCauley said in his remarks. “Jimmy revealed in a 2018 interview just prior to Chicago’s performance in Charleston, West Virginia, that, “‘[Ballet] was a long-winded paean to the love of my life.'”

“Chicago went on to release dozens of albums and according to Billboard is ranked ninth on the list of the top 100 greatest musical artists of all time,” the mayor added.

On Tuesday, McCauley announced the city will be developing a “Pankow Cove” in Jawbone Park, which will include a steel cutout of Jimmy Pankow, as well as a “ChicKago bench,” a nod to the misspelling of ‘Buckhannon” on the album.

Although Pankow’s birthday celebration was missing Pankow — McCauley has promised the trombonist will eventually visit — it wasn’t without music. Actor and musician Keith Buchanan sang Pankow “Happy Birthday.”

McCauley’s son, Connor McCauley, and Dr. James Moore, academic dean at West Virginia Wesleyan College, played a section of “Colour My World,” with Connor McCauley on keyboard and Moore on trumpet. The song is one of seven tracks on Pankow’s 13-minute long composition, “Ballet for a Girl in Buc[k]hannon.”

Tuesday’s birthday celebration — which included a huge sheet cake — was also about promoting visual, musical and performing arts in Buckhannon. John Waltz, executive producer with Buckhannon Community Theatre, was on hand to receive a $1,000 donation from local resident Shirley Lewis.

BCT executive producer John Waltz thanks Shirley Lewis for a $1,000 donation to the Buckhannon Community Theatre.

Waltz invited community members to attend BCT’s performances of “Dracula” at the historic Colonial Theatre scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 24-27.

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