Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven

Historic Building in Pilsen & Near South Side

Image by Charles Cook Getty Images

From 1957 to 1967, this humble building was Chess Records, the seminal electric blues label. It's now named for the bassist who wrote most of Chess' hits. Staff give hour-long tours of the premises. It's pretty ramshackle, with few original artifacts on display. Still, hard-core fans will get a thrill out of hearing stories from the heady era and walking into the studio where their musical heroes recorded. Free blues concerts rock the side garden on summer Thursdays at 6pm.

The Chess brothers, two Polish Jews, ran the recording studio that saw – and heard – the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Koko Taylor and others. Chuck Berry recorded four top-10 singles here, and the Rolling Stones named a song '2120 South Michigan Avenue' after a recording session at this spot in 1964. (Rock trivia buffs will know that the Stones named themselves after the Muddy Waters song 'Rolling Stone.')

The studio is being restored, and musicians will be able to record there again (at night, after the building closes to the public).


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