Dec 7, 2021 - Things to Do

10-stop tour of Chicago musical history

Marker for Muddy Waters House.
The city of Chicago has placed these markers at 50 significant musical sites around town. Courtesy of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs launched "Music Lives Here" this summer, a list and map of 50 historical music sites around town.

Why it matters: Compiled by Aaron Cohen, author of "Move on Up: Chicago's Soul Music and Black Cultural Power," the project organizes Chicago's vast musical history into an easy format for learning and enjoyment.

The downside: "The list could have easily gone to number 100," he tells Axios.

Between the lines: We asked Cohen if he could boil it down to a 10-site tour for Axios readers along with songs to go with them:

♜ Chess Records: 2120 S. Michigan Ave.

  • "Jewish immigrants Leonard and Phil Chess established the premier Chicago record label here, where many of the best blues, soul and jazz artists found a home."
  • Tracks: Jackie Ross, "Selfish One";Howlin' Wolf, "Spoonful."

🪕 Old Town School of Folk Music: 909 W Armitage Ave.

  • After leaving a tiny storefront in Old Town, the venerable folk music performance and educational space moved here in 1968 and later expanded to Lincoln Square.
  • "Students who went on to wide acclaim include John Prine and Steve Goodman."
  • Tracks: John Prine, "Sam Stone"; Steve Goodman, "City of New Orleans."

🎸 Muddy Waters' House: 4339 S. Lake Park Ave.

  • When Muddy Waters moved up to Chicago from the Mississippi Delta, he plugged in to become one of the world's most popular and influential blues stars.
  • His longtime home is being redeveloped to honor Waters' music and legacy.
  • Tracks: "Got My Mojo Working" and "Rolling And Tumbling."

🪘 Puerto Rican Congress of Mutual Aid: Division and Mozart St.

  • Carlos Ruiz established the Congress of Mutual Aid in the 1950s to give Puerto Rican migrants in Chicago a cultural hub.
  • Over the next decade, his Ebirac Records would document the city’s burgeoning salsa bands.
  • Tracks: Justicia, "Stone Flower:"; Ebirac All Stars, "Plena Matrimonial."

🚂 Soul Train Studio: 141 W. Jackson Blvd.

  • The original home of Don Cornelius' groundbreaking television dance show, "Soul Train," where Chicago music royalty would show up for Cornelius and play their songs.
  • Tracks: Curtis Mayfield, "Move On Up"; Chi-Lites, "(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People."

☘️ Irish American Heritage Center: 4626 N Knox Ave.

  • If you want to watch — or learn — traditional Irish music and dancing, this is the place to be. The center also features a few stellar pubs.
  • Tracks: Frank Quinn, "If You Are Irish (Come Into The Parlor)"; Liz Carroll, "Never Far Away."

🎶 Vee-Jay/Brunswick Records: 1449 S Michigan Ave.

  • Before Motown, Vee-Jay was America's primary African American-owned record company, distributing John Lee Hooker, The Impressions, The Staple Singers and even, briefly, The Beatles.
  • After its 1966 demise, Brunswick set up shop here and continued releasing great Chicago soul.
  • Tracks: Gene Chandler, "Duke Of Earl"; Barbara Acklin, "Love Makes A Woman"

🎹 First Church Of Deliverance: 4315 S Wabash Ave.

  • This was the first church to feature the Hammond organ with gospel music.
  • Rev. Clarence Cobb broadcast his choir and Sunday night services from here, which spread his music and message far and wide.
  • Tracks: Myrtle Jackson, "He's Sweet I Know"; Irma Gwynn, "I Told Jesus."

🎤 One-Derful Records: 1827 S. Michigan Ave.

  • George and Ernie Leaner ran one of Chicago's most successful Black-owned labels during the 1960s.
  • Home to great R&B and gospel artists, it also hosted the first known studio recording of the soon-to-become Jackson Five.
  • Tracks: Five Du-Tones, "Shake A Tail Feather"; McKinley Mitchell, "The Town I Live In."

🇲🇽 La Villita (Little Village) Arch: 3123 W. 26th St.

  • Little Village was one of the first areas to showcase upbeat dance music duranguense, created by immigrants from the Mexican state of Durango.
  • First developed in suburban Aurora, the music and dance (pasito duranguense) took off here then spread through Latin America.
  • Tracks: Los Horóscopos de Durango, "Dos Locos"; Grupo Montez de Durango, "Lágrimas de Cristal."
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