Discover the Roots of the Chicago Blues on a FREE audio tour or Foursquare trek

Learn about Chicago Blues History with a free audio tour, narrated by Buddy Guy.

Discover the roots of the Chicago Blues on a free audio tour, narrated by blues legend Buddy Guy. Use Foursquare to check in at any five locations on the Blues History tour (listed below) or at live blues clubs to earn your Chicago Blues badge. Foursquare is  a free game for your mobile phone.

1. Historic Site of the IL Central Depot: The Black Ellis Island, Roosevelt & Indiana
Two granite blocks mark the former spot of the Illinois Central Depot, or the Black Ellis Island, where thousands of southern African Americans arrived to start new lives in Chicago – the Promised Land.

2. Location of Historic Maxwell Street Market, Maxwell Street & Halsted
Maxwell Street was once home to a bustling street market, and a place to hear many of the first great blues musicians, new arrivals from the South who would set up at a street corner and jam.

3. Historic Site of Vee-Jay Records, 1449 S. Michigan Ave.
Situated on this stretch of the former ‘record row,’ Vee-Jay Records was the largest, most successful R&B label of its time, and recorded blues greats like Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and others.

4. Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation (Historic Site of Chess Records), 2120 S. Michigan Ave.
One of the most important sites in blues history, nearly every blues great passed through here when it was home to Chess Records. Almost any song you associate with Chicago blues was recorded here. The building now houses the Blues Heaven Foundation, begun by blues legend Willie Dixon to promote blues history and support working musicians.

5. Historic Site of State Street Stroll, corner of 35th St. & Calumet Ave.
In the 1920’s and ‘30s, this is where you’d come strut your stuff as music poured from the theaters, cabarets and nightclubs. The hardware store at the corner used to be the Sunset Café, a legendary jazz club where Louis Armstrong and others played.

6. Chicago Blues District, 708 E. 47th St.
This used to be the landmark 708 Club, one of the birthplaces of the Chicago blues. It was here that the instruments and style that defined the highly-charged electrified blues really came together.

7. Blues Brothers Mural, NE Corner of 47th St. & Prairie Ave. You might recognize this mural created for the filming of the original Blue Brothers movie, where Ray’s Music Exchange stood. It remains today as a testament to the blues’ Chicago roots.

8. Historic Site of Chess Records, NW Corner of 49th St. & Cottage Grove
Demo tapes were cleverly tested here at the original Chess Records offices by blaring music outdoors to folks waiting for the bus at the corner and seeing if they started grooving to the beat.

9. 4339 S. Lake Park, Muddy Waters’ Home
Blues legend Muddy Waters bought this place where Howlin’ Wolf and other musicians used to stay. When it got too hot to play indoors, neighbors were often treated to a jam session on the front porch.

Chicago Blues Clubs

1. Artis Lounge, 1249 E. 87th St.
This South Side neighborhood bar showcases local blues entertainment.

2. Blue Chicago, 536 N. Clark St.
Mark Blue Chicago on your map; comprising 2 clubs 2 blocks away from one another, Blue Chicago offers plenty of live music at a convenient downtown location.

3. B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted St.
This club on Chicago’s North Side features live music on a nightly basis.

4. Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S. Wabash Ave.
Local and international legends play here, and Buddy Guy himself graces the stage of his authentic blues club, where memorabilia like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker’s guitars complete the atmosphere.

5. New Checkerboard Lounge, 5201 S. Harper Ct.
No blues tour would be complete without a trip to the Checkerboard–at least according to Prince and the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, who were known to pop in for late-night jam sessions.

6. Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted St.
Its late hours, regular acoustic blues sets, all-night kitchen, and vibrant neighborhood full of shops, restaurants, and other entertainment recommend this club as a top blues destination.

7. Lee’s Unleaded Blues, 7401 S. South Chicago Ave.
Travel through an old railroad crossing to Lee’s Unleaded Blues, where local blues musicians give visitors a taste of the real deal.

8. Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave.
This welcoming neighborhood hangout in Logan Square presents renowned local and national bands 5 nights a week.

Related Posts and Events:

Chicago Blues Festival, June 10-12

Bernard Turner’s Self-Guided Tour of Historic Bronzeville

The Bronzeville Historic Society’s Chicago African-American Noteables Tour


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