During the Great Migration of the early 20th century, Chicago was a
destination for thousands of African-Americans escaping the Jim Crow laws of
the South. As they moved into the Maxwell Street area, one of Chicago’s oldest
neighborhoods, they brought Mississippi Delta Blues with them. Once in the
“city,” the music evolved into what is known as Urban Blues. And the music of
Maxwell Street inspired the British Blues Band invasion.
Chicago Blues is unique as it brought in amplified sounds of electric
guitar, harmonica, power drummers and electric bass players. The earliest bands
played at Chicago’s famous Maxwell Street Market, one of Chicago’s oldest
residential area, it is known as the birthplace of Chicago Blues. This former
Chicago resident considers it the only place to find an authentic Maxwell
Street Polish dog.
Unlike the Mississippi Blues, Urban Blues is not about life on the farm,
but life in the City. Chicago’s blues is known for inspiring groups like The
Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Rory
Gallagher. Each of these bands displays the influence of Chicago blues
musicians like Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.
With the onslaught of musicians and music came record companies like Ora
Nelle Records, Delmark and Chess Records. Alligator Records, formed in 1971 by
Bruce Iglauer, remains one of the premier blues labels to this day.
The Rolling Stones homage to Chess Records and their South Side location
led to the instrumental, 2120 South Michigan Avenue.