Chicago’s Electric Blues: Making Modern Music History

Chicago’s Electric Blues: Making Modern Music History

At Shoreline Sightseeing, we aim to give our customers one of the most authentic and immersive Chicago experiences, and while that starts with architectural river tours of Chicago, we know that there’s a never-ending nightlife to keep you entertained after we’ve docked our boats for the day. If you’re looking for something fun after your sightseeing during the day, Chicago has one of the world’s best music scenes. In fact, it is the birthplace of rock and roll’s predecessor: the electric blues.

Chicago Blues in the 1940s

The Smoke Daddy in Chicago
The Smoke Daddy

As farmers displaced from the country in the great depression flocked to the city to find work, they brought their acoustic folk and blues traditions with them. As the ever-industrializing Chicago became noisier and noisier, however, the need for amplification grew, and blues music in Chicago gradually went electric, even stylistically adapting to all of the tones an amp can bring to the guitar. With this new electric sound palette, the forefathers of modern music took the helm of the Chi town blues scene, which included John Lee Williamson and Johnny Shines, leading to eventual refinement by legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James, all of whom drove blues to be heavier and harder, leading us to rock and roll.

Eventually this popular music made its way over to the United Kingdom and inspired young musicians like Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, and Brian Jones, giving birth to what most people know to be hard rock. These days, you can find everything from purist blues that sounds like it did in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, to a busy contemporary scene of electric blues in Chicago, as well as a world-class rock scene.

Chicago Blues Today

Contemporary blues can sound vastly different from what was being played in Chicago in the 1940s… or it could sound exactly the same depending on what club you’re at and who is playing. There is no shortage of blues clubs in Chicago, but here are three of our favorites:

  • Blue Chicago can be found at 536 N. Clark and focuses on local Chicago female blues singers like Shirley Johnson.
  • Buddy Guy’s Legends is at 700 S. Wabash and actually has the titular blues musician on stage every January, though he often oversees the venue from the bar during the other 11 months of the year.
  • The Smoke Daddy is at 1804 W. Division and not only hosts some of the hottest blues musicians but also has genuine southern barbecue to tide you over until the band packs up their gear (the show usually goes until 1 AM).

Book Your Shoreline Sightseeing Trip Today

We have Chicago architectural boat tour schedules that can accommodate tourists, city dwellers, and suburbanites, making the perfect start to a day of sightseeing in Chicago. After you’ve seen what our tours have to offer, check out the Electric blues scene.