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Chicago rock legend Joe Jammer will celebrate his birthday tonight by doing what he loves doing best, playing his guitar and cranking up his amp. For those unfamiliar with the iconic Jammer, let me educate you.

The Joe Jammer story began in the late 1960s, when an aspiring young Chicago guitarist named Joe Wright began working as a roadie for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Who.

Those gigs led to his working on Led Zeppelin's crew, during which Wright's fledgling career caught a lucky break. Wright and Zep's Jimmy Page struck up a friendship, resulting in the Midwest-born string-bender getting to jam on stage with Zeppelin at some early U.S. gigs.

Performing as "Joe Jammer," Wright eventually was brought to England by Zep's manager, Peter Grant, who hooked the young American axe man up with renowned British producer Mickey Most.

The Joe Jammer Band recorded some songs and opened for Zeppelin, including the prestigious Festival Of Bath in June 1970.

Jammer later went on to play guitar for European rockers Maggie Bell, who were the opening act on Bad Company's 1975 world tour. Around this time, Jammer also dated Elyssa Jerret, who later was stolen away by Aerosmith's Joe Perry (well-documented in Stephen Davis' best-selling Aerosmith biography, "Walk This Way").

Albums were made, tours were done and Jammer did lots of elbow-rubbing and jamming with major rock stars of the day, including Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

After a wild decade in the U.K., Jammer relocated during the 1980s and 1990s to Montreal, Canada, where he maintained a busy recording/performing career that included writing and recording both the Montreal Canadians theme song, "Le Bleu, Blanc, Roughe," and a tribute song to the Montreal Expos titled, "Let's Go Expos!"

Twice featured in "Sports Illustrated Magazine," Jammer proudly served as the "Jam Master" band leader at the MLB All Star Game Owners Gala in Cleveland in 1997, where his band included the musically talented MLB players -- Mike Bialecki (Cubs) on drums, Paul O'Neil (Yankees) on drums, Bernie Williams (Yankees) on guitar, Jeff Juden (Expos) on guitar and Mark Langston (Angels) on guitar.

Since returning to Chicago in the late 1990s, Jammer has been active in area clubs and recording studios. A couple of years ago, he revisited familiar territory by writing "The White Sox Victory Song," which gets radio play during baseball season.

Though Joe Jammer never attained the fame and fortune of many his early European cohorts, a typical show these days finds him with his guitar in hand, ripping through a blend of classic cover songs (many with great stories attached) and his own original songs.

Joe Jammer may have missed grabbing the brass ring back in the day, but he is a golden musical treasure that every regional rocker should seek out.

He's talented, entertaining and full of great rock 'n' roll war stories of the road.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at beatboss@aol.com.

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