With a rich musical history that's nurtured blues, jazz, rock, soul, house and gospel, Chicago has long been a crate diggers paradise. But the recent closings of legendary Jazz Record Mart and Shake Rattle & Read has prompted speculation on the relevance of record shops.
Well, Chicago's record stores continue to thrive and are gearing up for Record Store Day 2016 coming up Saturday, April 16. Most neighborhoods boast their own vinyl meccas and here are some of the best record stores across the city.
The biggest and newest record store blew into Chicago in February 2015, settling into a neighborhood of vinyl riches — Wicker Park. First opening in Minneapolis, Shuga Records (1272 N. Milwaukee) boasts 2,000 square feet with 20,000 records on the retail floor, not to mention the online inventory (search the digitable database via iPad) and hundreds of rare, vintage posters. A mix of new, classic and used records make up the collection.
With a chain of stores spread along the north side, Reckless Records is the city's most visible and commercially successful record shop. It's also a landmark that started in 1989 as a cool little shop with great prices that has expanded into practically an empire. The Wicker Park/Bucktown location (newer, and bigger, digs at 1379 N. Milwaukee Avenue) stocks the biggest and most diverse selection but the Lakeview store (3126 N. Broadway Street) offers more jazz and the Loop shop (26 E. Madison Street) is a little bit of everything.
This Wicker Park institution serves up more personality and endless genres compared to Reckless. Head to Dusty Groove (1120 N. Ashland Avenue) if you're searching for pristine Tropicalia imports or a specific dance hall collections, the global vinyl selection is exceptional. The shop is also noted for amazing soul and funk finds.
Hyde Park Records
If you think Chicago record stores begin and end in Wicker Park. think again. Hyde Park Records (1377 E. 53rd Street) supplies such a carefully curated collection of rare treasures that European DJs and crate diggers regularly make pilgrimages. This Hyde Park shop is also noted for house records and popular DJ nights.
Named for the vintage record players and turn tables that fill this quirky emporium, you can also scoop up a good picks for vinyl to actually play on the machines. Audio Archeology (1324 W. Devon Avenue) sells new and used LPS and the selection is pretty sizable. Celebrating the "vinyl lifestyle," this Roger Park shop also sells home accessories, record player equipment and vintage furniture.
Out of The Past Records
Literally packed with stacks of vintage records, Out of The Past Records (4407 W. Madison Street) is a Garfield Park institution. Specializing in classic soul, blues, jazz and obscure Chicago R&B, the store draws oldies fans from all over the world. The records aren't organized so be prepared to spend lots of time digging.
Let's Boogie Records & Tapes
The name says it all. This Bridgeport classic is as old school as it gets. Cassette tapes, LPs and faded KISS posters make you feel like you've stepped back in time at Let's Boogie Records & Tapes (3321 S. Halsted Street). The offering is very broad, with classic rock, pop, country and hip hop being highlights. Forget about maxing out your credit card on stacks of 70s rock because its cash only so bring lots of dollars.
Photos courtesy of Choose Chicago (Adam Alexander), Hyde Park Records