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Article posted: 7/1/2013 9:00 AM

1985 Bears ready to jam at Eyes to the Skies


Dan Hampton is putting the band back together.

The ex-Chicago Bear star and NFL Hall of Famer is partnering with two of his former teammates from the Bears teams of the 1980s for a revival of the Chicago 6 -- a band originally formed out of the free time created by the 1987 NFL players' strike.

Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael -- all members of the 1985 Super Bowl championship defense -- will be getting together at next week's Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle for the band's first real gig in years.

"This is us all looking at each other and saying, 'We did this 20 years ago, and we had a little fun,'" Hampton said. "These folks at Eyes to the Skies have given us an opportunity to put the band back together, and how many people in life get to put the band back together?"

In the beginning, the Chicago 6 consisted of three Bears -- Hampton, Walter Payton and Dave Duerson -- and three Chicago Blackhawks -- Troy Murray, Gary Nylund and Curt Fraser. The band played its first show on Dec. 10, 1987, in front of a sold-out UIC Pavilion.

Hampton played bass, Payton was on drums, Fraser and Nylund played guitar, Duerson played horns and Murray was on saxophone. They shared singing duties and covered a number of different rock artists. The band played on and off during the offseason for the next couple of years, during which time Wilson replaced Murray on sax.

And then the adventure fizzled. Members went their separate ways and careers came to an end, replacing football and hockey with day jobs.

For Hampton, music has always been a part of life. When he was a kid, he fell out of a tree and spent six months in a wheelchair. During that time, he asked his dad to teach him to play music.

Hampton was a saxophone player in his high school band when the football coach finally got him to try out for the team. He went on to play college ball at Arkansas before playing 12 seasons for the Bears, making four Pro Bowls.

But even when football took center stage, music was always there. Hampton now plays six instruments and has performed in a handful of different bands over the past 40 years.

"Music is like riding a bike," he said. "Once you've done it and played it, you know how to play it and it's one of the things that you just (do). If you care about it, you practice a lot by yourself for the opportunities like this."

Nowadays Hampton runs a security company that began working with Eyes to the Skies a few years ago. Someone from the festival recently asked him if the Chicago 6 still played. Hampton said he'd see if he could round up the crew along with some new faces.

The original plan was to get together with a few of the current Blackhawks who play music.

"Obviously they've been busy over the last month," Hampton said.

But he was able to get Wilson and McMichael to buy in, along with four other musicians to make a seven-piece band. The Chicago 6 will play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 6, during the festival on the Van Kampen Stage in Community Park near Route 53 and Short Street.

Hampton said audience members can expect Wilson to sing some Motown hits from the Temptations and Smokey Robinson, and McMichael to sing some Hank Williams Jr. and ZZ Top songs. Hampton said he'll be singing some Eddie Money and John Mellencamp.

"I've never met an athlete that didn't want to be a rock star or a movie star," Hampton said. "And I've never met a movie star that didn't want to be an athlete. We're going to have fun and we'll be prepared and have a lot of good music."

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