Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Has Chicago Lost its Blues Mojo?

"Sweet Home Chicago" ain't such a sweet home for preserving blues history. Which is a shame for a city that cashes in big on its long-running Blues Fest and bluesy clubs around town. Here are 3 seminal sites in jeopardy:

1. Muddy Waters' house - Last week, a big red "X" appeared on the brick two-flat at 4339 S Lake Park Ave, an early step in the demolition process. I wrote about Muddy's house - where legendary jam sessions broke out in the yard - a few years ago, when it was still in decent shape. Now the windows are boarded up and ominous yellow warning signs hang in front. Urbanist Lee Bey looks at whether everything gonna be alright in this article.

2. Chess Records Studio - While Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley and the Rolling Stones all plugged in at 2120 S Michigan Ave, this building also was on the chopping block until Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation bought it. (Dixon was the bassist who wrote most of Chess's hits.) Dixon's family opens the studio for tours most days, but it's ramshackle with few original artifacts on display. Still, when Willie's grandson hauls out the bluesman's standup bass and lets you take a pluck, it's pretty damn cool...

3. Blues Museum - Chicago has been trying to open a blues museum for years. The latest incarnation was in summer 2012, when the city floated the idea for a "Blues Experience" museum/nightclub downtown on State St. Cue the hemming and hawing. Meanwhile downriver, St Louis secured $6 million to build the National Blues Museum to launch in 2014.

Chicago needs to get its mojo workin', as in this live album when Waters and the Stones played the Checkerboard Lounge in 1981.

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