As the ’70s dawned, Chicago rock was dominated by the ensemble horn sounds of Ides of March, Ask Rufus, and Chicago Transit Authority. Medusa, however, hunted down British and German hard rock, brought to Midwestern shores by the Bayou Record Shop and their Billingsgate label, which released early Scorpions, Neu!, and Epitaph LPs domestically. Those discs made it to Foreman High, of the northwesterly Portage Park neighborhood, site of guitarist Gary Brown and drummer Lee Teuber’s first efforts. They teamed with bassist Kim Gudaniec and golden-maned vocalist Ed Paprocki in the short-lived Apparition in 1972, before settling on new vocalist/guitarist Donna Fields. Her casual interest in Greek mythology redubbed the band Medusa after the hideous Gorgon, but Fields’ docile vocals clashed with Medusa’s snake-haired sound, resulting in a frontman-fishing 1974 ad placed in Illinois Entertainer.
Fresh out of hard-rock band Kaleidoscope, singer Peter Basaraba came to Medusa armed with his own originals, plus crowd-pleasing Blue Oyster Cult and Johnny Winter covers. Sessions at Stephen Wilcox’s Pepperhead Studios in Oak Park resulted in 1976’s “Temptress” b/w “Strangulation” 45, while emerging Brown/Fields originals were taped in his Portage Park basement, aided by Gudaniec’s growing recording expertise. But the Pepperhead-labeled “Temptress” 7” and business cards offering “cosmic rock” tempted few. All the while, a foreboding intro and incantatory guitar fires on “Black Wizard,” tailor made for Medusa’s sorcerous goat/pentagram stage banner, languished on an unreleased reel.
When Fields entered nursing school in July, 1976, Medusa looked itself hard in the mirror. Basaraba split for Oblivion, who’d re-record “Temptress” in 1977. A break-in at Brown’s—a mortal blow to band equipment—finally fossilized Medusa. Afterward, the Brown/Fields duo morphed into pop-metal purveyors Backstreet, while Teuber shelved his sticks indefinitely. Medusa faded into less than myth, virtually unheard, and unheard of, until 2013’s First Step Beyond LP reanimated their 1976-vintage output.