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rotary connection

Rotary Connection

Formed in Chicago in 1966, Rotary Connection were formed, originally, as a Soft-Psychedelic Rock/Soul group, who later became of interest to Soul fans as an early introduction to the music scene, of the fine songstress Minnie Riperton.

Rotary Connection (at various times) comprised of:

Minnie Riperton (vocals: b. 8th November 1947, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., d. 12th July 1979, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.)

Phil Upchurch (guitar: b. 19th July 1941, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Mitch Aliotta (vocals: b. 30th May 1944, U.S.A. d. 21st July 2015, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.) 

Sidney Barnes (vocals: b. Sidney Alexander Barnes, 1941, Welch, West Virginia, U.S.A.)

Bobby Simms (guitar: b. Robert Siemiaskzo, 1944, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 18th May 2015, Ludlington, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Charles Stepney (producer: Charles Stepney, 26th March 1931, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 17th May 1976, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Jon Stocklin (lead guitar: b. Jon Keith Stocklin, 11th January 1944, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 6th October 2013, Naples, Florida, U.S.A.)

Donald Simmons (drums)

Kenny Venegas (vocals)

Tom Donlinger (drums)

Jim Donlinger (lead guitar/vocals)

Jim Nyeholt (bass guitar)

Judy Hauff (vocals and keyboards)


Shirley Wahls (vocals: b. 28th December 1941, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Rotary Connection released 6 albums during their career, not only releasing their own material, they also provided background vocals for the group Electric Mud (Muddy Waters' own group).

The group set out as the brainchild of Leonard Chess’ son, Marshall Chess (of Chess Records).

Rotary Connection were signed to Chess’s subsidiary Cadet Records.

With the intention of positioning the group in a psychedelic environment, Marshall teamed up the group with the producer and arranger, Charles Stepney (who later collaborated with the group Earth, Wind & Fire), who infused the group with a more Soulful sound.

The Proper Strangers

the proper strangers (circa 1967)

Marshall then brought on board several band members of the Rock group, the Proper Strangers.

These included Bobby Simms, Mitch Aliotta, and Ken Venegas.

Sidney Barnes, a songwriter within the Chess imprint was also enlisted.

Judy Hauff joined the group, with a Chess receptionist called Minnie Riperton being additionally recruited.

Marshall utilised Chess’ own session musicians, who completed the new group.

Rotary Connection

These featured the guitarist, Phil Upchurch, and the drummer, Morris Jennings.

Rotary ConnectionRotary ConnectionRotary ConnectionRotary Connection

rotary connection - 1967 / aladdin - 1969 / peace - 1969 / songs - 1969

Rotary Connection released their first, self titled, album in 1967.

Charles Stepney utilised the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the ‘Eastern’ influenced set, which featured ‘Turn Me On’ and ‘Memory Band’.

Across this era, Marshall Chess utilised the group’s musicians on extra curricular material albums by the artists, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

In 1968, the group released two further Cadet albums, namely, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Peace’.

Whilst the second album featured Minnie Riperton more prominently, ‘Peace’ was a ‘politically aware’ festive release.

In 1969, Rotary Connection played at the Texas International Pop Festival.

They also performed live at the Palm Beach Pop Festival later in the year.

Rotary Connection went on to release three more albums.

Rotary ConnectionRotary Connection

dinner music - 1970 / hey love - 1971

In 1969 they released ’Songs’, Which was, essentially, and album of cover versions (including Otis Redding's ‘Respect’ and The Band's ‘The Weight’.


In 1970, they released ‘Dinner Music’, followed by 1971’s ‘Hey, Love’ (which featured the popular ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’).

In 2003, Rotary Connection featured in the television series ‘The Blues’.

Produced by Martin Scorsese, the series featured members of the Rotary Connection, the rapper Chuck D and members of The Roots.

Real Player


Rotary Connection (Cadet Records 1967)

Aladdin  (Cadet Records 1968)

Peace  (Cadet Records 1968)

Songs  (Cadet Records 1969)

Dinner Music  (Cadet Records 1970)

Hey, Love  (Cadet Records 1971)

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