July 24, 2018

Bluesy Tuesday

While thousands of rock and hip hop fans from across the country will be pouring into Chicago next weekend to enjoy Lollapalooza, I’d thought I’d spend a few days this week talking about Chicago’s amazing musical tradition, and all the things you can do to see it! Nowhere in the country loves the Blues quite like Chicago (our Blues Festival, pictured here, is one of the biggest in the world), so if you’re looking for a low-key destination that’s not going to burn a hole in your wallet or give you tourist-induced claustrophobia, you should look into visiting Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven, a museum and foundation dedicated to preserving the long and storied history of the Blues in Chicago. It’s in the South Loop neighborhood just outside downtown, on Michigan Avenue a little south of Cermak Road. The museum is housed in a building that once held the legendary Chess Records studio, the place where one can argue that Rock and Roll was born! Let’s talk about that for a minute.

I think the story of the Blues in Chicago highlights in a lot of ways how much of a beautiful cultural melting pot our city can be. In the early and mid 20th century, Chicago became a haven for African-American migrants moving on up from the Deep South, and they brought the Blues with them. Many of the most famous Blues icons in the whole world, from Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to Buddy Guy and Bo Diddley and even Rock n’ Roll pioneer Chuck Berry made the trip to Chicago from the likes of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri to look for a place to start their careers.

For many of them, that place turned out to be Chess Records, a record label and studio founded by Phil and Leonard Chess, who had immigrated to Chicago from Poland in the 1920s. In that little studio-turned-museum on Michigan Avenue, they all recorded some of the most famous and influential songs of the 20th century and added one of the beefiest chapters to the long annals of Chicago’s musical tradition. Though it’s not quite the same as it was in the 1950s (what is?), Blues clubs can still be found all over the South Side, and if you’re looking for a real Chicago experience, you should definitely check out the Blues Heaven museum (http://www.bluesheaven.com/tour.html), and try to catch some live music, too! The museum is easily accessible via the Red Line train, which has a stop just five minutes away from our lofts, so if you’re staying, ask us for some more recommendations!