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Blues History of Joliet and Southern Chicago, Illinois

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On this our “Second Anniversary Bash” (Sunday March 24, 2013) we’d like to share the reason for choosing the name: JOLIET HERITAGE BLUES JAM. Many don’t know how rich Joliet’s Blues history actually is.

Did you know that Buddy Guy for about three years (1959-‘61) managed “Joe Howard’s Club 99?” Club 99 was located on Joliet’s Southside at 111 Patterson Road. Club 99 featured Blues and R&B thru the 1970’s. Practically every Chicago Blues luminary you can think of appeared at Joe Howard’s. Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Walter “Shaky” Horton, Elmore James, Jr. Wells, Bo Diddley, Freddy King, Albert King (as late as the early 70’s, I remember seeing his bus pulled up there). Yes and the King of the Blues himself, BB King and many more! The T-Bird Huck Band was fortunate to make it to that “hallowed ground” (the very same Club 99 stage the aforementioned performed on) a few times in the mid 70’s. It was a true honor and Blues Blessing!

Joliet was a “hotbed” of these now nearly extinct black owned venues (also known as the “chitlin’ circuit”). Two notable locations (virtually across the street from each other on old Highway 1A aka/Lockport Rd./IL Rt. 171) in the 1960’s, were the “Coliseum” and the “Stardust Lounge.”

The late great master/father of Hammond B-3 Jazz Organ, Jimmy Smith played the Stardust (an intimate setting) often.

The Coliseum (now a big garage in a junkyard) hosted many of the same acts as did Club 99.

I remember in 1969 (as a teenager before the legal age) sneaking into “Boss City” on S. Chicago St. and “Winter’s Lounge” (now “Terrace Inn Lounge”). I experienced my first jam session at Boss City. It was more of a jazz set, but wow were those cats jammin’!

That’s where I met tenor saxophonist Calvin Carson (whom way back in the day did shows with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, BB King, Albert King and more).

Many called us the original Joliet/Blues Brothers… and many of my fondest musical memories were along side Michael Ciancanelli (my partner in the Blues for nearly 35 years: 1970-2006).

Michael and I (both under-aged) would sneak into Winter’s Lounge to hear Calvin on tenor, Willard Saunders/Hammond B-3 and Eddie Duncan (from “the hill”) on drums.

Week after week we would see that trio blow the roof off the joint! WOW what an inspiration. We also caught international Jazz giants Gene “Jug” Ammons/tenor sax and guitarist George Freeman there. Oh yeah, Bluesman/R&B artist Bobby Rush too! Winter’s closed a few years later (then re-opened as Terrace Inn).

In 1984 I caught up with Calvin (Carson) again by chance; he was gigging in (of all places) a bowling alley! By the next week I had him in my band until his untimely death in 1990. I was blessed to have been mentored by and performed memorable shows with him including Stateville Penitentiary, Sheridan Correctional Facility and the Joliet Correctional Center twice (where the opening scene of the “Blues Brothers” movie was filmed) plus festivals & clubs. Anyways…back to the Joliet Heritage Blues history…

Some of you may remember “Sippin’ E-Z Lounge" in downtown Joliet. Sippin’ E-Z Lounge was owned and operated by our good friend and Blues lover Henry Hammond (deceased 2006). This is where our Blues Jam first began (on Wednesday nights) in 1993. Henry was a personal friend of Buddy Guy’s (who made a couple of “cameo appearances” thru the years).

I remember nights sittin’ there and eatin’ neck bones, wings, catfish, greens and more while listening to “Little Milton” Campbell, Jo Jo Murray and other Blues artists would appear from time to time. The “Turntable Lounge” on Collins St. owned by Howard Boykin was another venue where you could occasionally catch live music. As late as about 1990.

I remember seeing legendary B-3 Jazz organist Charles Earland there. Another Joliet venue that would feature live Blues (infrequently) was Bole’s Tavern where we seen BB King (one night/two shows) in 1975. Way back-in-the-day before it was Boles the building originally housed new car dealer Southtown motors; Plymouth/Chrysler. What a treat it was to see BB there in an intimate club setting! At the end of the show/night BB remained on stage and obliged whoever wanted his autograph to meet him on stage…WOW! Not long after that BB’s popularity grew with the masses and he only played concerts/large venues. Also worth mentioning are the Sahara Lounge owned by Don Hudson, the Hillside, the Harlem, and the Pheasant Club (Lockport Twp), the Big Ten and the 2100 Blues Club.

There were some “unique” cats/characters playing Blues & Jazz back then. Many of the names have faded thru the years. I do remember “Guitar Red,” guitarist Billy Thompson and my favorite, “Little Joe” Holder aka/”Guitar Shorty” or just plain “Shorty.” He was the “real deal!”

One night on our way to play a house party (in the rich part of town) when we pulled up next to “Shorty” in his big white “Coupe de Ville” (he could barely see over the steering wheel). We got ‘em to come do the gig with us and man he brought the house down!!! What a night, just one of many great memories.

Many times I or we were the only white boys in the house. Back then people had mutual respect and accepted one-another for who and what they were. Nobody in those clubs back then cared about the color of each other’s skin. We all knew we were brought there together by one common denominator…the BLUES! I was in later years (1981 to 1992) fortunate to be a sales representative (for Miller Beer) to all of the aforementioned venues till they one by one closed down.

Now the only “sole/soul survivor” of those magical/musical glory days is Lionel’s Terrace Inn, 630 Gardener St. Joliet, IL.

For the most part these days the Terrace Inn features DJ’s spinning dance & dustys (old R&B/Blues) but will occasionally feature live music. We still frequently stop by to see Lionel and his fine staff.

I’m sure there’s people around who may remember more names/places/details, etc… that I’ve forgot or never knew. Id’ love to sit down with them, or better yet wish there were a true historian whom documented or has documentation on the entire Joliet/Blues music scene. ( BHF Note! eMail your Joliet Blues History to us at DanMarolt@BluesHallofFame.com and we will pass it on to T-Bird Huck )

Well that’s a microcosm of the Joliet blues scene (as I know it) from real life experiences and talkin’ to the old timers I’ve met. Ask my old partner Michael, he can attest to what you’ve read here as can my buddy (whom many of you know) Twist Ferguson. We’ve been crossing paths for “many moons.” I wish my old high school friend/rival Blues band leader/Joliet Blues pioneer Kevin Martis (deceased 1992) “Mojo Blues Band” was here to contribute… he shared some of the same experiences (and some of his own).

You know now why it’s called the JOLIET HERITAGE BLUES JAM (JHBJ). That’s why we believe it’s so important to keep this proud Joliet Blues Heritage going. The JHBJ has found a great home at KEGLERS. KEGLERS has a good vibe/music/club atmosphere, a great kitchen (open till 10:00 pm), staff, management & ownership. KEGLERS now, is where each Sunday musicians, friends, fans and music lovers can come together and take part in keeping the Joliet Blues Blues tradition alive! We’ll hope to share this great experience with you each and every Sunday. Thank you for allowing us to share this story with you. We hope to see you soon.

Facebook http://www.tbirdhuck.com (under const.)
Booking info: Bird Haus Productions, Joliet, IL (815) 919-1616

Thank you T-Bird. . This is exactly the Blues History that these pages were made for.

Can you remember and write us some stories about your 1970's travels to Chicago's South Side Blues Clubs?

Dan " Lucky" Marolt



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