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Chicago Blues Guide

Chicago, US

Listen to the soul of the Windy City

As legendary guitarist Robert Johnson put it, Chicago has been a “sweet home” for the blues: the most recognizable cultural signature this city has produced, Chicago blues has distinct and conflicting roots: African American migration from the South and the growth of the modern music industry; local folk genius and ethnic entrepreneurial savvy. This rich sense of origin and history makes blues music such a renowned civic resource, one that still shapes cultural and social practice throughout the Windy City.

The geographic roots of the blues are unknown, given the multiple versions appearing across the African American South near the turn of the century; like the rest of the economy, music production suffered during the Great Depression: sales for black blues performers exponentially decreased. The decline slowed the migration of blues artists, whose motivation for coming to Chicago, like other black southerners, included economic possibility...still, the city continued to serve as an incubator of blues music, as musicians awaited the rebirth of the record industry. During the 1950s, Chicago blues flourished again, developing the using of rhythm sections and amplification; confidence on guitar and harmonica leads and routine reference to Mississippi Delta styles of playing and singing, which has been identifying it 'till today.

In 1984 Chicago introduced an annual blues festival; a continue participation in Chicago blues culture underlines that, as in earlier times, the music serves as “living history,” shaping both memories of and hopes for urban social life. No matter what music genre is currently leading Chicago music scene, this city will always be considered a Blues town.