The Mix That Made Chicago Great
"The blues was born behind a mule,” said a great Mississippi Delta bluesman Muddy Waters. He made Chicago his home and Chicago made him one of the fathers of Chicago blues.
The mules were left behind as a mass amount of African-Americans left their southern homes and headed north. They had hopes of finding work and a good life. Between 1916 and the end of the 1920’s about 75,000 southerners made the south side of Chicago their home. The entertainment part of this community became known as “The Stroll” which was inclusive of State Street between 26TH and 39TH Street.
The Stroll was a happening place as the north and south came together in jazz clubs and cafes creating a brand new blues sound. The intimate connection inspired musicians all over town. It became common for white musicians to head to The Stroll after their gigs and pick up on some new tunes.
Several of those that came for music lessons were later credited with the creation of the Chicago Jazz Style of the 1920’s which was another music genre brought over in the great migration. New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz but Chicago is recognized and applauded for its expansion. King Oliver brought Chicago the most famous jazz icon. His band, Creole Jazz, played at Lincoln Gardens, originally named the Royal Gardens Cafe.
The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is a living piece of Chicago history dating back to 1907. It is the longest running jazz club in the United States. The Green Mill is best known for being a gangster hangout and a speakeasy during prohibition. Billie Holiday, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman are just a few of the greats that performed at the Green Mill. Live music has been playing every night since 1942 with a variety of music genres: jazz, blues, piano, big band, and swing band.
Tommy Dorsey, “The Father of Gospel Music,” arrived in Chicago from the south as part of the great migration. Gospel music is another genre that exploded in Chicago with its roots tracing back to the early sounds of jazz and the blues.
Mahalia Jackson, known as the Queen of Gospel, was influenced by blues artists Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. She moved to Chicago as a teen and joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church and became a member of the Johnson Gospel Singers.
Gospel music broke through the religious bars of confinement in the northern churches in 1931 when a former southern pastor and Dorsey jazzed up their favorite spirituals. The exciting sounds were contagious and all African-American churches wanted their own gospel chorus. The Chicago Gospel Music Festival showcases the best Gospel Music performers and is held at Millennium Park.
Indie rock, honkytonk, folk, and country are music genres showcased at Schubas and Lincoln Hall. Schubas is a Chicago Historic Landmark hosting live performances every night. Lincoln Hall is Schubas’ sister club established about a mile away with a following of postgrads, college students, young professionals, music lovers, and musicians in their 20’s and 30’s.
Communities of musicians coming together and sharing the sounds of their soul. “The Stroll” contained in a few blocks on the south side of Chicago created sounds that have influenced all of Chicagoland and the entire world.