Sunday, June 13, 2021

Chicago Places #2: Chess Records

     You discover a whole new city on foot.
     I mean, I knew Chess Records was at 2120 S. Michigan, because the Rolling Stones cut a little organ-and-harmonica instrumental there in 1964 called "2120 South Michigan."
     Or at least, I knew Chess had been there. Maybe it is incurious of me—okay, it definitely is incurious of me—but the question of whether the classic recording studio is still there never crossed my mind. Or if I knew, I forgot.
    Shameful. The place where Muddy Waters recorded "Hoochie Coochie Man" and Chuck Berry sang "Maybellene" and "Johnny B. Goode" and the Rolling Stones recorded "Satisfaction" (a year after recording Muddy Waters' not-at-all-similar "I Can't Be Satisfied.")
      Then again, had I known, it would have watered down the happy surprise of walking with my younger son down Cermak, exploring his new neighborhood, turning the corner onto Michigan, and seeing, first this little gated music venue, "Willie Dixon's Blues Garden," just south, a kind of foreshadowing, and then the famous building itself, which Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation owns. 
     All these years in Chicago, and I never parked the car and walked around Motor Row. That's one of the many glories of having children. For the first two decades, you show the world to them. And then, if you're lucky, they show the world to you.


  1. Now that I'm in the U.P. full time I've had to give up my docent gig at 2nd Presbyterian at 20th and Michigan, but be sure to get a tour one day when you're in the area. A Tiffany window by Agnes Northrup (the new giant Tiffany at the AIC is also by her) plus a bunch of other Tiffany windows, plus some wonderful eye-level windows by Edward Burne Jones and an arts and crafts interior mostly untouched from when the Pullmans worshipped there (you can still see their pew slip). Only church in Chicago that's a National Historic Landmark and one of only three in the state. I see they have a Graceland walking tour coming up too, that I can guarantee would be worth the time.

    1. Thank you for this wonderful tip. I’m going to add chess records and historic second church to my summer to-do list.

  2. I had a nightclub at the corner of 22nd and Michigan back in the 80s and spent a lot of time in that area when the Capone hotel used to still stand there.

    I get by there every now and then it sure has changed one of the few things that's still there that was there then is chess records at least the notion of Chess records. It's a Willie Dixon garden is really nice.

    I hope your son really enjoys living over there it's got a lot of great memories for me


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