Discover the Chicago Blues

Chicago Blues developed during the Great Migration, an African American relocation and revival akin to the Harlem Renaissance. African American workers migrated in droves from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to seek out industrial jobs in Chicago. Thankfully, they didn't leave their six-note scales and harmonicas behind.

These gifted musicians used electric guitars and amplifiers to build on the energy and rhythm of the Delta blues. This uniquely Chicago style grew rapidly, transcending the street corner and fast becoming a staple of the city's nightlife scene. Today, blues music is as much a part of the Chicago landscape as deep dish pizza and the Wrigley Field bleachers.


Buddy Guy's Legends

Two of the city's best blues clubs are located, rather conveniently, across the street from one another in Lincoln Park. 

Kingston Mines (2548 N. Halsted St.) and B.L.U.E.S. (2519 N. Halsted St.) aren't the largest venues, but they're proverbial titans in Chicago's blues scene. At Kingston Mines you'll find strong drinks, delicious barbeque and live music seven nights a week. B.L.U.E.S. is famous for its carefully curated list of live performers as well. As an added bonus, the neighboring clubs offer a dual cover charge. So if you're interested in visiting both establishments, you can do so for one price.

In the thick of posh River North nightclubs and restaurants is Blue Chicago (536 N. Clark St.), an intimate and old school venue in the heart of downtown Chicago. This place takes you back to a time when rhythmic bellyaching was the city's soundtrack.

Just south, you'll find one of Chicago's largest stages at the House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.). Besides national touring acts and music's biggest stars, you'll find a solid calendar of renowned blues musicians.

Arguably the most famous of them all is legendary musician Buddy Guy's eponymous club, Buddy Guy's Legends (700 S. Wabash). With Cajun soul food on the menu and rare blues memorabilia on display, this South Loop venue draws visitors from all over the world. If you're lucky, you may even catch the club's namesake on stage.


With the country's most exciting blues club scene and the genre's most powerful record labels, Chicago became a beacon for musical talent. We could write a book profiling the hundreds of distinguished blues musicians with ties to Chicago. Instead, we've highlighted a small handful of the music style's pillar performers, all of which called Chicago home.

Muddy Waters 

Muddy Waters came to Chicago in the early 1940's to become a fulltime musician; it turned out to be a pretty good career choice. Waters blossomed as a recording artist with hits like "Rollin' Stone," "Still a Fool," and "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man." The blues legend, who is ranked No. 17 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, passed away in his suburban Chicago home in 1984. A year later, the inaugural Chicago Blues Festival took place in his honor.  

Buddy Guy 

With a career that spans more than 40 years, Buddy Guy is one of Chicago's most popular musicians and widely considered one of the best guitarists in the world. But the celebrating recording artist's appeal isn't limited to Chicago. Guy is an internationally renowned name, a seven-time Grammy winner, and ranked No. 30 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Koko Taylor 

Koko Taylor went from one music mecca to another when she moved to Chicago from Memphis in 1958. After years of performing in Chicago's premier blues clubs, she was discovered by famous record producer Willie Dixon. Taylor would go on to be the genre's predominant female force, winning more than 25 Blues Music Awards and winning a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1985.  

Bo Diddley

You don't earn a nickname like "The Original" without creating groundbreaking music. Bo Diddley had a unique sound and rhythm all his own. Raised on Chicago's south side, Diddley developed an affinity for instrumentation and quickly built on his start as a street musician to become of the legendary 708 Club's cornerstone acts. From the club scene to the national stage, Diddley developed a national audience with hits like "Who Do You Love" and "Bo Diddley."

Howlin' Wolf 

And no discussion of Chicago blues is complete without a mention of Chester Burnett, also known as Howlin' Wolf. Burnett was famous for his enormous stature and booming voice. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds, his powerful vocals cut on tracks like "Smokestack Lightnin'" and "Spoonful." Burnett was a signature artist on Chess Records, a fabled Chicago recording label.


Blues Festival

The Chicago Blues Festival, the largest free blues music festival in the world, began in 1984 as a tribute to recently deceased guitar legend Muddy Waters. Today, it's one of Chicago's most celebrated annual events. More than 500,000 fans flock to Grant Park annually for a weekend-long exaltation of howling lyrics and bass lines. This event attracts the industry's biggest artists and boasts past performers like B.B. King, Etta James and Ray Charles.


Related Listings

House of Blues
329 N. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 923-2000

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Kingston Mines
2548 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 544-5442

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