Similar to jazz, blues sprouted from the Mississippi Delta region of the south, making its way up the mighty Mississippi until finding a home in numerous nightspots throughout Chicago. Although eighty years removed from the time when jazz and blues filled the air, there are still plenty of hot and sultry blues spots in the Windy City. Here are the top ten:
With a name like B.L.U.E.S., this Chicago venue has to top the list. Filled with smoke and a slightly older crowd, the highly interactive blues shows held almost nightly are something to witness, whether you’re a blues aficionado or not. Music lovers cannot visit Chicago without stopping by this raw and uncut blues joint.
2. Kingston Mines
“Hear the music, drink booze, and talk loud” is a mantra that is enforced nightly at this Chicago blues haven. With the only bar open until 4:00 a.m. and two stages, Kingston Mines draws a full house every night of the week. With a 30-year history of providing the beauty of blues to the Chicago area, this blues spot is also a popular hangout for all of Chicago’s blues musicians. If you like noise and an endless array of entertainment, this is the blues joint for you.
3. Buddy Guy’s Legends
The polished interior of this mellow blues club attracts plenty of tourists and affluent locals, but the quality nightly blues lineups definitely warrant a visit or two. The club may have a reputation of catering to tourists, but the atmosphere, pool tables, southern kitchen, and quality blues tunes make for a terrific venue to listen to live blues music.
4. The Underground Wonder Bar
The founder of this tiny joint, Lonie Walker, may still play here three nights a week, but the other nights are filled with an eclectic musical lineup of blues, jazz, acoustic guitar, and piano music. The limited space makes for highly entertaining and interactive shows, making The Underground Wonder Bar a Chicago classic.
5. Checkerboard Lounge
The authentic blues experience offered at the Checkerboard Lounge draws students, tourists, locals, and die-hard blues fans to this Southside venue every night of the week. The neighborhood may not be as inviting as inside this classic blues joint, but anyone desiring a true blues experience should definitely make the trek.
6. Andy’s Jazz Club
Jazz and blues have had an intertwined relationship over the years, and there is no better place in all of Chicago to witness the delight of jazz than Andy’s. In addition to traditional swing and bebop, sometimes blues fills the air here as well. With music played all day long, you can stop by this Hubbard Street venue any time of the day for a rompin’ good time.
7. Pops for Champagne
This champagne and music bar has been going strong for over 25 years. Upstairs, patrons can usually be found sipping spirits and mingling around the stylish bar, while downstairs, the sweet sounds of blues and jazz envelope the intimate space. In addition to 125 varieties of champagne, Pops also has a full raw bar and comprehensive up-scale menu.
8. Close Up 2
The Close Up 2 may not specialize in blues, but the sultry sounds of smooth jazz performed by local and national artists at this intimate venue make it a favorite spot for many of Chicago’s music aficionados. The music, lights, and overall ambiance provide a perfect date night destination.
9. Blue Chicago on Clark
Where do the best female blues vocalists in the country come to play? They come to this legendary venue. The sweet and soulful sounds that permeate the air from this blues hot spot are simply legendary.
10. Green Mill
Once a popular hangout spot of Al Capone and a speakeasy during the Prohibition era, the Green Mill has managed to retain the air of bygone years. This undeniably cool joint is now a favorite spot for much of Chicago’s trendy, music-loving population.