By Maureen O’Donnell Bob Koester, longtime owner of Chicago’s legendary Jazz Record Mart and founder of the Delmark Records label, died Wednesday [May 12] at 88.
He had had a stroke and was in hospice care, according to his son, also named Bob.
The store he ran for decades at various downtown Chicago locations drew legions of jazz and blues fans from around the world.
Bruce Iglauer, founder of Chicago’s Alligator Records, called Mr. Koester “a hero not only to blues and jazz but to Chicago music.”
Mr. Koester was one of the first to capture the sounds of the city’s South Side and West Side blues clubs, according to Iglauer, who once worked for him. Iglauer said he gave artists free rein in the studio.
That approach resulted in classics including “Hoodoo Man Blues” by Junior Wells. Mr. Koester lifted some forgotten artists from the 1930s out of obscurity, getting them to record for the first time since they’d made it big in the era of 78 rpm records. He also was one of the first to record the country-flavored blues of Big Joe Williams and Speckled Red.
In an online tribute, longtime WXRT DJ Terri Hemmert called Mr. Koester “a force of nature,” the Jazz Record Mart “one of the coolest record stores in the world” and said she’d buy a record just because it was on his label.
“If it was on Delmark, I wanted to hear it,” Hemmert said.
Mr. Koester called the Jazz Record Mart the “World’s Largest Jazz and Blues Specialty Store.” He first opened the store on Wabash Avenue near Roosevelt University.
He met Sue, his wife of more than 50 years, at his next address, 7 W. Grand Ave. She was working nearby at the American Medical Association and came in to buy a record. …Read full obit