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TRUE BLUE from Ellis Kell


Dateline: 1980
(Somewhere west of Cook County on I-80...)
Elwood to Jake: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses."
Jake to Elwood: "Hit it."

Eighteen years later:
(Somewhere east of Rock Island County on I-80...)
Dad to Mom: "It's 2 1/2 hrs. to Chicago, we've got two kids with full bladders, half a box of Twinkies, and I'd be wearing my sunglasses, if I could remember where I put them."
Kids to Dad: "How much longer before we get there?"

At 5:30 p.m., on Saturday afternoon, October 24th, Dan "Elwood Blues" Aykroyd walked in the front door of the world’s first House of Blues Hotel, to hear Loews Hotels President and CEO Jonathan Tisch greet him with, "Welcome to your hotel, Dan." Aykroyd, co-owner of House of Blues, beamed back his familiar wide grin as he, too seemed almost overwhelmed with pride at all the rich, warm colors of the hotel’s lobby and adjoining lounge area. Meanwhile, a large, gold Tibetan Buddha sat peacefully watching from just inside the hotel’s doors. The brand new House of Blues Hotel is now open - the latest addition to the revitalized Marina City Complex in downtown Chicago. Located in the landmark Marina City complex, developed by famed Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg in the 1960’s as "a city within a city," this new House of Blues/Loews Hotel is within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile, the Loop, and virtually all downtown Chicago landmarks and attractions.

Designed by award-winning interior designer, Cheryl Rowley, the world’s first House of Blues Hotel integrates gothic, Moroccan, East Indian and New Orleans styles, and carries the eclectic themes throughout the hotel and its guest rooms. The look , feel and textures are consistent and in harmony with the original design of the House of Blues venues, per the vision of House of Blues founder Isaac Tigrett. Unique architectural artifacts, including ancient blue glass panels from an East Indian temple, adorn the hotel and actual Indian clothing fabric is used to decorate the wall panels of the elevators. The rich, vibrant colors are used thoughout - even down to the bellman’s carts. The multi-cultural connection is visibly complete and intact with the House of Blues principles of ‘All Are One’ and ‘Unity in Diversity.’

House of Blues Hotel marks the return of Loews Hotels to the Windy City after more than twenty years, since the organization previously owned and operated two Ambassador Hotels there from 1965-1972. "…it is a unique project that combines the elements of entertainment and hospitality…a perfect compliment to both our existing properties, as well as those under development," according to Jonathan Tisch, President and CEO of Loews Hotels. Tisch’s cutting edge approach to marketing and hotel operations, coupled with a conservative development philosophy, has lead to his being regarded as one of the industry’s leading authorities. Tisch and the Loews organization both share a strong commitment to social responsibility and community outreach.

Jeff Lapin, President of House of Blues Hospitality, Inc. was quoted as saying, "We are thrilled to welcome Loews Hotels as the operator of the first House of Blues Hotel. The unique characteristics that make each Loew property distinctive from each other, and the chain’s understanding of combining entertainment and hospitality, make them an ideal partner." Lapin will lead House of Blues Hospitality in the international creation of interactive themed hotels, and is also Executive Vice President of House of Blues Entertainment, Inc., where he is also responsible for growth and development.

Upon their arrival, House of Blues Hotel guests are greeted by friendly doormen and bellmen dressed casually in classic denims and cottons. ‘Backstage passes’ take the place of the standard clip-on nametags, and the pace and mood is set at ‘comfortable and fun’ from the git-go. At the registration desk, guests receive a ‘CD packet’, which includes their key cards, room number, welcome message from the management, a complete description of hotel services and facilities, and a complimentary music CD of the blues, r&b, rock or another popular musical genre.

The hotel features 367 guest rooms, 12 junior, 3 grand, and 7 VIP suites, and in-room amenities include two-line telephones, direct Internet access, in-room fax, CD player, and VCR. A trademark ‘red toolbox’ sits on the desk in each room, filled with special goodies and treats for the guests. The "Did You Forget Closet" is always stocked with those various guest essentials that may have been overlooked during packing. A specially-designed ‘honor bar’ in each guest room offers healthy snacks, vanity items, various beverages and a few surprises. In addition to these room features, House of Blues Hotel offers 24-hour room service, same day valet and laundry, a 25,000 sq. ft. Crunch Health and Fitness Center, a 36-lane AMF Bowling Center, along with boat rentals and charters at the working marina located beneath the hotel on the Chicago River. The hotel complex features over 1,600 square feet of meeting and banquet space, and guests are only a few steps away from access to the largest House of Blues venue and music hall in the country.

One of the most unique features of the House of Blues Hotel comes directly out of the hotel management’s ‘Loews Loves Kids’ policy, where children receive star treatment. Children under 18 stay free of charge in the rooms of paying adults, and the hotel’s ‘Baby Blues’ program is specially designed to satisfy the special needs of families with small children. Occasionally the hotel will offer special treats for the kids and, as part of the Loews tradition, always provides babysitting services, children’s menus and kits to ‘child-proof ‘rooms upon request.

From the more luxurious suites to the smaller ‘cabin’ rooms, the multi-cultural elegance is maintained with warm, rich colors and original American folk art. Floors with the more efficient ‘cabin rooms’ also feature shared lounge areas, complete with TV/video monitors and digital stereo sound system. Guests will eventually be able to watch not only what’s going on in the Chicago music hall next door, but at other House of Blues venues across the country - and eventually around the world. Standard room rates range from $125 for cabin rooms - $175 for standard rooms, with suites starting at $325 per night. Special ‘Snooze & Blues’ packages are also available, and corporate rates range from $169 - $219. The House of Blues Hotel is on the leading edge of the new wave of ‘trendy hotels’ coming into their own in Chicago, such as the Allegro to the south on Lake Street. The theme, according to a House of Blues public relations spokesperson, is ‘fun but functional.’

In addition to the House of Blues own eclectic restaurant and lounge, with its Delta-inspired contemporary cuisine, the revitalized Marina City complex now also features a Smith & Wollensky - the legendary New York City steakhouse - overlooking the Chicago River to the south bank. Additional development within the Marina City complex will include a Sambuca Jazz Café, along with a Spruce restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine. Chicago blues icon Buddy Guy will also eventually host a brand new 450-seat live music club in the complex, in addition to his renowned live blues club on Wabash and his legendary Checkerboard Lounge on the city’s south side.

House of Blues Hospitality’s Jeff Lapin says, "The House of Blues Hotel along with the entire Marina City complex will bring more than 1000 new jobs to Chicago. This coupled with the beautification and rejuvenation of this historic landmark will generate a significant economic impact for the city."

This is truly the house that Jake and Elwood built, with ‘a little help from their friends’ Isaac Tigrett and the folks at Loew’s Hotels, of course. Co-owner Dan "Elwood Blues" Aykroyd was quoted, during the original opening of House of Blues Chicago, as saying something to the effect that everything the HoB company would do in the future would be related to and linked back to the Chicago venue. After all, this is where it all started: the fictional Jake and Elwood careening through Cook County, with legions of Illinois National Guard, Chicago’s Finest and Illinois State Police cruisers in frantic, hot pursuit. Though Jake and Elwood and their ‘mission’ were fictional, the House of Blues Hotel is a state-of-the-art mission accomplished, and dream come true for music fans and Chicago visitors from all walks.

The new hotel is only 30-40 minutes from Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and only 20-30 minutes from Chicago Midway Airport. The mailing address for the House of Blues Hotel is 333 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60610, and you may phone (312) 245-0333 for more information. For those on the web, e-mail

Moving into the cold of winter always makes me think of ‘The Iceman’, the late Mr. Albert Collins, and how he used to sing that Blues about being stalled in the frozen winds of Chicago. Only ‘The Iceman’ could crank on that battered old Telecaster, and make it sound just like some old Cadillac refusing to wake up and turn over on an icy Chicago morning. When Albert would finally get that old Caddy to kick-off, he would make that old Telecaster scream with joy. If you’ve ‘been there - heard that’ you’ve had a taste of the Blues, and how it ‘aint all about bein’ sad.’ With that said, let’s roll on down the road.

You can also get a real good taste of what the Blues is all about in the offering from the legendary Venice Beach boardwalk musician Ted Hawkins. "Love You Most of All," on Evidence Records showcases a real deal street musician, who was born to a father he never knew and raised by an alcoholic mother in extremely harsh circumstances and surroundings. Hawkins died suddenly on New Year’s Day in 1995, but was catapulted to international success for the last year of his life, due to the efforts of Tony Berg, a Geffen Records executive. Berg had heard the street musician performer at a homeless benefit in Santa Monica, and signed him to the Geffen label. Earlier in his career he had been well received in Europe via the American Activities label. Tour stops through the UK resulted in standing-room-only and sold-out houses, the kind of response and recognition Hawkins had never experienced in America. Without a North American label deal, he returned to obscurity as an street musician on the Venice boardwalk, singing and playing for pocket change.

"Love You Most of All," showcases the inspired voice and talent of Ted Hawkins on a variety of tunes and musical styles, including classics like "Bring It On Home," "Your Cheatin’ Heart," "Dock of the Bay," and "Blowin’ in the Wind." Renditions of what might normally seem to be odd selections such as "North to Alaska" and "59th St. Bridge Song" are delivered with pure inspiration and Hawkin’s signature pride. For those of you who would like to find out more about the music of Ted Hawkins, contact The Cameron Organization, Inc., 2001 West Magnolia Blvd. (Suite E), Burbank, California, 91506. To have your local record outlet order the CD or cassette for you, ask for Evidence Music release number ECD 28003-2.

1998 has yielded a plentiful harvest of new Blues and Blue-tinted music. True Blue has handpicked the following dozen selections, from 1998’s new releases, as great ‘stocking stuffers’ for the music fans on your Christmas list:

  1. "The Secret Handshake," Geoff Muldaur (Hightone Records) Did you ever hear someone new and wish you could have discovered them much earlier?

  2. "Happier Blue," Chris Smither (HighTone Records) Chris Smither has really come into his own in the past several years, and this CD was a landmark in his career.

  3. "Ride With Me," Long John Hunter (Alligator Records) Pride and joy of the Lone Star state, Hunter continues to take the blues world by storm with this raging new collection.

  4. "Where the Blues Begins," Deborah Coleman (Blind Pig Records) Backed by the late, great Luther Allison’s touring band, Ms. Coleman is one of the hottest and most popular new artists on the blues scene today.

  5. "Born to Play the Blues," Larry McCray (House of Blues Records) This collection showcases the stellar guitarist and soulful vocalist like never before.

  6. "New York State of Blues," Michael Hill’s Blues Mob (Alligator Records) This is what happens when stellar modern players lock up grooves with a social consciousness and street smarts.

  7. "Turn the Heat Up," Shemekia Copeland (Alligator Records) This young lady serves it up pipin’ hot from the heart and soul of the Blues.

  8. "Hard Luck John," John Lee Granderson (Testament Records) A true Maxwell Street original!

  9. "The Road," Mike Morgan & The Crawl (Black Top Records) Smooth as a Texas 2-lane blacktop, with Mike Morgan’s fiery guitar and Lee McBee’s signature blues harp and soulful vocals.

  10. "Just Won’t Burn," Susan Tedeschi (Tone Cool Records) This little lady from Boston is all Blues and all business!

  11. "One of the Fortunate Few," Delbert McClinton (Rising Tide/Universal) The King of Texas boogie-woogie-blues, and Quad Cities’ favorite, scores big again with his newest release.

  12. "The Chess 50th Anniversary Collections," (Chess/MCA/Universal) These are the classic Chess recordings, ladies and gentlemen, masterfully re-packaged and released. Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Etta James, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Little Milton, Chuck Berry - all the Chess greats are here! Required for Blues 101.
The True Blue Salute for 1998 goes to all of you who continue to support the music, through buying the artist’s CD’s and tapes, and especially by supporting their live performances. Like the classic tree falling in the forest, who would there be to listen to the Bluesman, if it weren’t for the Blues fan. Keep your ears open, your eyes on the road, and have a Blue Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Until we meet again at this crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!

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