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True Blue from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist



Once in a while, 'ya just gotta get out of town for a while... Picture, if you will, a nice quiet getaway to a secluded little cottage on a picturesque lake somewhere...NAH! Forget about it! We're on our way out of town, heading east on I-80 to the Windy City. Pretty lake, yeah, sure - but quiet and secluded just aint on the program this weekend, brothers and sisters. If you are planning your next visit to the 'City of Big Shoulders' and 'Home of the Blues,' there are some great sites on the web that can help you get your arms around those big shoulders, and help keep you from having the Blues while you're there...

Finding accommodations and securing admissions downtown Chicago can be a real challenge - to say the least - especially when there's a big convention or festival on the slate. The web site provides a great window to avails, pricing, and reservations in Chicagoland at: , and for a good source of Chicago area theatre, events and ticket information you'll also want to check out: offers a good basic user's guide to Chicago Blues clubs, featuring links to Buddy Guy's Legends, Blue Chicago, Blue Chicago on Clark, Blues, Blues Ect., Kingston Mines, Rosa's, Lilly's. These links are found at:

House of Blues offers up its signature mixed bag of diverse, world-class entertainment including Blues, rock, jazz, contemporary, folk, country, and even the occasional 'all ages' concert event. The Chicago HoB property features concert venue, company store, restaurant-bar, and the first-ever House of Blues Hotel - A Loews Hotel. For more on House of Blues Hotel, re-visit our December '98 True Blue feature at: Schedules for all of the House of Blues venues from coast to coast are always available online at:

The Windy City is also home the world's biggest homegrown Blues music labels, Alligator Records. Bruce Iglauer started this label out with his landmark recordings of the late Hound Dog Taylor, and virtually sold these early recordings from the trunk of his car. Today, Alligator Records is one of the biggest Blues labels in the world, and home to such artists as Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Carey Bell, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, John Jackson, Long John Hunter, Saffire, Bob Margolin, Coco Montoya and many others. For more information, Alligator Records has a great web site at:

If you plan to make a weekend of it in Chicago, make sure you stop by the Maxwell Street Market on Sunday morning, before you head out of town, for a little heritage and history. The original market area, and cradle of the Chicago Blues, was centered around the crossroads of Maxwell and Halsted Streets, but has been relocated in recent years to Roosevelt Road and Canal Street. It's a flea-and-farmer's market that stretches several blocks down Canal Street, with everything from soup to nuts and more. Maxwell Street was the 'Ellis Island of The Midwest' for immigrants to Chicago, and is where the great Chicago bluesmen honed their craft. You can almost hear
the echoes of Little Walter Jacobs and Muddy Waters drifting in and out of the crumbling brick canyons and well-worn walkways of this historic area. You can still actually visit the old market area down the road and treat yourself to one of the world's greatest hotdogs or Polish sausages at Jim's Original Hot Dog Stand, right there on the corner of Halsted and Maxwell. Just follow that grand smell of grilled onions, and you can't miss it. The Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition's web site can be found at:,

and Chuck Cowdery's excellent Maxwell Street site is on the web at:

Its like 'The Great One' Jackie Gleason used to say, "a little traveling music, maestro..," as we pull up stakes and head down the highway to Chi-town. This morning's snail-mail delivered just the ticket for our road-trip soundtrack, a brand-spankin'-new live CD from Howard & The White Boys entitled "Live at Chord On Blues." For more than a decade, Howard and the boys have delivered their proven brand of high energy houserockin' at thousands of gigs across the country. They remain a true blue Chicago favorite, and this live collection (recorded this past January at the Chord on Blues venue in St. Charles, Illinois) will surely tell you why. This band always packs the house, whether it be at Chord On Blues or Buddy Guy's Legends - where they have also been a longtime house favorite. You'll even find Buddy himself strollin' out on stage to trade licks with Howard and the boys from time to time. The lead cut from this CD, "Havin' a Good Time is a Full-Time Job" pretty much tells the tale, and other hot 'n funky tracks like "Turn On Your Lovelight," "Bo Diddley," and "I Got My Mojo Working" are just more icing on the cake. Get some for your ownself today "Live at Chord on Blues," Howard and the White Boys, on the Evidence Music label (ECD 26109-2) For more information on the band, visit their web site at:

Chicago Blues Partners...

Chicago Blues alumni Elvin Bishop and Little Smokey Smothers reunite on "That's My Partner," brand new from the Alligator label. Both of these gentlemen honed their signature Blues chops in the bars and soul food kitchens of Chicago in the 1960's and 1970's. Smothers evolved out of the Delta Blues tradition with Howlin' Wolf, and then served as mentor to a young Bishop in Chicago. Bishop, of course, went on to fame with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and has seldom been absent from the club and concert circuits ever since. This hot new live collection, recorded at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco this past January, brings together two true blue Chicago bluesmen for some real-deal blues and a real good time. Perfect for that drive to Chi-town!

With H&TWB smolderin' in the CD player, a half-a-pack of Twinkies, and my shades pulled down, its only a little over two hours 'til we hit Lake Shore Drive. I just can't be hangin' around this place no more, and I'm ready to blow this pop stand! Watch out for me now, and until we meet again at this crossroads...

Blues to 'ya!

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