Award-winning songwriter and musician, Jim Peterik, has had a remarkable journey in the music industry, including collaborations with renowned artists and experiences born out of chance encounters. In an exclusive Elmhurst Magazine interview, Peterik revealed some captivating stories and insights into his illustrious career.

York High School musicians: Vasili Malamis, Matthew Markwald, Mike Pavlik, Julian Dominguez

Recently, Jim Peterik wowed audiences with an exceptional performance at Elmhurst University. With his characteristic humility, Peterik reflected on the special nature of the concert. “Every show is like a new show for me,”he mused. “But this one was really special, because we were raising money for Elmhurst Centre for Performing Arts.” His dedication to supporting meaningful causes shone through as he recounted the event.

During the interview, Peterik fondly reminisced on his long-standing connection with music powerhouse, Cathy Richardson, lead vocalist for Jefferson Starship. Their partnership, which originated from a surprising encounter, has blossomed into a close bond. “We’ve been best friends ever since she was 18,” Peterik revealed. “I produced her first album, Moon, Not Banana, and then we’ve written through the years and performed so many shows together.” This collaboration stands as a testament to the enduring power of musical partnerships rooted in mutual respect and admiration.

The narrative took an intriguing turn as Peterik humorously recounted the serendipitous meeting that kick-started his association with Richardson. “I was at a gas station and pumping gas…the guy who owns the station comes up and says,‘You’re Jim Peterik!’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he goes on to say, ‘Well, my daughter sings!’ I’m going oh, man, I heard this one before,” Peterik chuckled. This seemingly inconsequential encounter led to the discovery of a future star. “A chance meeting at a gas station through her father, and I met one of the future stars in my life!” Peterik exclaimed, highlighting how destiny can unfold in the most unexpected ways.


“To me, my bucket list is for people to say, ‘What’s the greatest
song you ever wrote?’ And I go, I haven’t written it yet!”



When they met, Richardson was on the verge of both stardom and adulthood. “Eighteen years of age,” Peterik confirmed. “She’s was right in this (recording) room, playing her guitar and singing these amazing songs.” The recollection paints a vivid picture of an emerging talent about to embark on a remarkable journey in the music industry.

As the interview concluded, Peterik’s enduring passion for creating music and fostering meaningful connections with fellow artists shone through. His anecdotes, laced with humor and warmth, shed light on the fortuitous encounters and enduring partnerships that have shaped his musical legacy.


Elmhurst Magazine: When I was recently at Elmhurst University, you and Cathy Richardson really impressed the audience. The theatre was packed with about 200 people, and the way you both performed that song was fantastic!

PETERIK: Whenever Cathy joins the Ides of March on stage, we always give it our all, no matter what song it is. This particular song holds a special place in our history of writing and performing together in the band.

EM: You have a prolific songwriting career and were recently inducted into the Illinois Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How many songs have you written for yourself and other artists? It seems like they are countless.

PETERIK: I’ve lost count, but it’s probably around 7,000 songs. However, the cream rises to the top, with around 100 songs standing out. Out of those, about 50 have become widely recognized. It’s truly an honor to hear people humming my songs without even realizing that they are listening to my work on the radio or online. It’s a thrilling experience.

EM: What I admire about your concerts is the way you involve the audience and share a story between each song. It truly creates an intimate experience, even with a crowd of over two hundred people.

PETERIK: Indeed, storytelling is an essential part of my performances. I learned from masters like James Taylor, whose stage presence and storytelling I admired during my teenage years and early twenties. Ensuring that people get the backstory has always been important to me. For instance, there’s the story of Sylvester Stallone calling me about writing Eye of the Tiger. It was a moment that nearly slipped through my fingers. My wife of 51 years, Karen (Peterik), encouraged me to return Stallone’s call. That call, which I initially thought was a prank, turned out to be the defining moment of my career. It was a conversation that changed my life and put me on the map.

EM: And there’s the Grammy Award behind you!

PETERIK: Absolutely, that call from Stallone steered my career in a new direction. It was a pivotal moment despite my earlier success with the Ides of March, starting back in ’64, and our hit Vehicle in 1970, which was influenced by Blood, Sweat and Tears and marked the addition of a full brass section.

EM: Where were you, and what were you thinking when you wrote “Vehicle”?

PETERIK: I don’t know. But if I could think it again, I’d write another one of those. But it was about the girl that I was dating. I met her at a Turtle’s concert. She was 15. I was 17. And we started dating, and it was going great. And then she says, “What are you doing? You’re the first guy I ever dated. And I want to date other guys.” And I was like, really depressed, you know? And in about six months, she said, “You got the cool new car. You got a Datsun 240Z. Can you take me to the Patricia Stevens modeling school?” I said, sure. So I take her in my 240Z, and I figured I’d get a kiss on the cheek or something. She said see you next week, and let’s do it again. So after a while, I said “All I am is your vehicle, baby.” I wrote that song and it went to number one, and the girl starts calling me again. And 51 years later, she’s still my wife!

EM: And she became Mrs. Karen Peterik!

PETERIK: She was the inspiration. That’s right. And I still pay her royalties!

EM: You know, when I look back on your career starting so early in the ’70s, you have worked with so many artists. Let’s just start with in the Chicago area: Cheap Trick and Kevin Cronin from REO Speedwagon. Tell us about that. The joy of working with professionals and some you met at a very, very young age, and you’re still friends with them?

PETERIK: First of all, there’s nothing like collaboration. I can write a song on my own, and I do often. But there’s something about getting together with someone like Don Barnes of 38 Special or Kevin Cronin, who, by the way, came to the Blue Village in Westmont when he was like, 15, and that was the place to be. So it was really just the place to be. And that’s where Kevin Cronin first saw the band. And then he hired us for their prom at Brother Rice High School!

EM: We all have bucket lists. What is on Jim Peterik’s bucket list?

PETERIK: To me, my bucket list is for people to say, “What’s the greatest song you ever wrote?” And I go, “I haven’t written it yet!” I’m always trying to beat the best that I’ve done, whether it was “Eye of the Tiger,” or “Vehicle,” or “Hold on Loosely,” and those are all great. “But I have to try to keep trying to beat them and to keep that level up there – that’s the goal.

EM: What’s next for Jim Peterik and Ides of March? You have somethingcoming up this spring on March 15 at the Norris Theater in St. Charles. Tell us about that because I’m going to be there.

PETERIK: The 15th of March is our 60th anniversary officially. And it’s going to be a hell of a show with a symphony. This January sees the release of World Stage’s Roots and Shoots volume and just a some great artists. Expected to appear are: Kevin Cronin, Colin Peterik, Don Barnes, Paul Childers, and Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger. And it’s going to be epic to hear the songs like “Vehicle” with a full orchestra. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s gonna be exciting.

EM: By the way, speaking of brass horns at your concert at Elmhurst University, you invited two or three horn players from York High School. They were fantastic!

PETERIK: At that pace, they didn’t miss a note. I mean, they were right on it, and these are all 15 and 16 year olds.

EM: That’s why the concerts at Elmhurst Centre for Performing Arts are so special!

This is an abbreviated version of the full interview edited for clarity. ■