Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rockin' at Chess Records

Like Muddy Waters' house, the unobtrusive building at 2120 S Michigan Ave is another hot spot for blues fans. Keith Richards called it "Mecca" and dragged the Rolling Stones here in 1964. The band had to haul its own equipment up the stairs. And during two heady days in June, they recorded parts of 12 x 5, their first American album.

The building was once Chess Records, the seminal electric blues label that paved the way for rock 'n' roll. It is now the Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation, named for the bassist who wrote most of Chess's hits. Staff give tours Monday through Saturday that take in the reception area (Minnie Ripperton worked the desk) and main studio (designed by a 21-year-old newbie who inadvertently created the room's remarkable sound). Bands play free concerts in the side courtyard on Thursday evenings.

Listen in, and you can't help thinking Dixon summed it all up when he said, "The blues is the roots, and everything else is the fruits."

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