ARTS AND CULTURE
Where to Find the Blues in Chicago
With Chicago having been one of the most important cities in the history of the blues, it’s no surprise that the genre can be found on stages all over town. There’s even an official Chicago blues tour, which aims to take fans to places they’d miss if they’d venture out on their own. For the blues fan visiting Chicago, here are some of the crucial crossroads.
Buddy Guy’s Legends
The Louisiana-born Buddy Guy arrived in Chicago in 1957, during a tense period when segregation stifled racial harmony and black artists and their music were overshadowed by their white counterparts. The talented guitarist went on to play a huge role in Chicago’s blues history. Born in 1936, the hardworking musician is still touring as his 80th birthday approaches. Guy opened Buddy Guy’s Legends in 1989, a downtown establishment that has played host to a few of his famous friends over the years, including The Rolling Stones and the late Koko Taylor. There’s live music every night while you enjoy Louisiana-style cuisine and soul food, and the walls feature autographed photos, endless awards, retired Buddy Guy guitars and more.
700 S. Wabash Ave., 312-427-1190
Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation
Chess Records had several locations during its heyday, but its most famous address, which it occupied between 1956 to ’65, was immortalized in a Rolling Stones song in 1964. The British band was one of many famous artists to perform at the site. Others include Etta James, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. Willie Dixon was one of the label’s main producers and songwriters, and his bass rounded out the “Chess Records sound.” After he passed away, his wife Marie purchased the building in 1997 and renamed it in his honour. It’s dedicated to the preservation of Chicago blues and the venue showcases autographed photos, memorabilia, awards and more throughout the space. There are also events happening throughout the year, including an outdoor concert series that runs into mid-September.
2120 S. Michigan Ave., 312-808-1286
Women vocalists dominate the stage at this River North club that’s been around since 1985. Blue Chicago is right in the heart of the nightlife action and its infectious energy entices you to join in on the dance floor.
536 N. Clark St., 312-661-0100
Crossroads at House of Blues
Located on the ground level of the famous House of Blues, Crossroads serves up local blues bands alongside a menu of reimagined Southern favorites. Highlights include shrimp and grits, pulled pork sliders and Cajun chicken pasta.
329 N. Dearborn St., 312-923-2000
If you’re looking for something to do after hours, this Lincoln Park gem has been entertaining locals and visitors since 1968. Local and nationally known bands have been known to grace the two stages here, which both feature bands every night until 4 a.m. (5 a.m. on Saturdays). There’s also a full menu of Southern-inspired dishes, burgers and more.
2548 N. Halsted St., 773-477-4646
Underground Wonder Bar
Another spot notorious for late-night action, Underground Wonder Bar appeals to a younger, hipper crowd. It’s based in River North and showcases not only the blues, but also jazz, reggae and funk. Stars from Jimmy Buffett to Vince Vaughn have joined the band onstage. There’s a lower-level lounge as well, and the vibe is even groovier.
710 N. Clark St., 312-266-7761
Chicago Blues City Tour
If you're non-commital about which blues haunt to visit, try the Chicago Blues City Tour. The 90-minute luxury bus tour takes enthusiasts all over town to some of the most popular sites in blues history, from the neighborhoods of Bronzeville to River North. Famous clips from The Blues Brothers play on the bus as you tour the town. All ages are welcome for these year-round tours departing daily at 3:30 p.m. from downtown.
This article was originally published on July 7, 2015