I need to write something – I’m long past due – and I want to write something fun; so I’m going to write about a couple of blues joints in Chicago. My favorite of the two, Wise Fools Pub, apparently is not a blues establishment any more, sadly. The other is Kingston Mines, about a ten minute walk from Wise Fools, but Kingston Mines is still a blues joint. Between the two is B.L.U.E.S, which I don’t recall from my original visit to Wise Fools and Kingston Mines. I thought I recalled a House of Blues establishment in the vicinity on a subsequent visit, but I can see no evidence on the world wide web that my memory is remotely accurate in this matter.
At any rate, I prefer the dark and dingy local establishments to the bright, flashy commercial blues venues. I have mentioned in a previous post a few of my favorite blues bars, I’ll list them again here, just for fun in no particular order:
Dandelion Pub on West Burnside, Portland, OR (I think the Dandelion is gone, but that’s where I first heard Lloyd Jones, over 25 years ago)
The Hillside Club in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI This was really a local calypso club, but once a week they had a Jersey girl in a stretch leopard print jumpsuit singing blues – she could sing ‘em deep down inside you, and her jumpsuit (well, she in the jumpsuit) was a visual sideshow.
The Peacock Tavern in Corvallis, OR Not known for blues now, but there was a time…
BB Kings on Beale Street in Memphis, TN The original establishment, and regardless of what it has now become, it was a great place for music back when. A great female vocalist fronted for the house band (I think it was the King Beez, but not sure) during the time I was in Memphis.
Preservation Hall in New Orleans, LA technically New Orleans jazz, but so closely related to blues it doesn’t matter.
A 60 ft ketch (the name of which I can’t remember) in Red Hook Harbor, St Thomas, USVI There is no blues joint in the world that can compare to that ramshackle boat when Ken and Curt and I were Goin’ To Kansas City on her deck, under Caribbean stars with soft, tropic breezes wafting and gentle waves slapping time against the hull.
So back to Wise Fools – a dark, dingy labyrinth of smoky rooms filled with growling, driving, soul satisfying blues. Some pool tables – I have a few impressions – taking two or three steps down to the front door, ducking from one room into the other (low ceilings, I think), the hazy, smoky ambiance, the music, and thinking, “This is perfect!” And ah, yes - Diane – the lovely, tall, leggy, slender, blue-eyed redhead from Burbank, IL who was my tour guide – and unlike the Oakridge Boys, I still remember her name. A little note of possible interest: I was the tour guide for this same memorable redhead when she visited St Thomas, and I took her to the Hillside, listed above.
I bought a t-shirt, which became my favorite and therefore in time became tatters. It was a great shirt and was a fond reminder of wonderful memories.
Kingston Mines was very good also. But in my memory it wasn’t as bluesworthy as Wise Fools. Music was good, ambiance was good, patrons and air quality were blueperfect. But the package was just a step or two down from Wise Fools. Same redhead guide, same night, also bought a t-shirt, but it wasn’t as good either, and it was lost before it wore out.
After we went bluesing we made the obligatory nightlife visit to Rush Street. Maybe Rush Street is OK, but I had just been on Halsted, down to Lincoln and had been in two of the greatest blues joints I have ever visited. Rush street was a bore – the prettiest woman in all of Chicago was on my arm, and we had been together to Wise Fools and Kingston Mines, what could Rush Street possibly offer?