Chicago – Hot Hot Hot

My outstanding pilgrimage in 2011 was to Chicago. I had never been to this city before, a wrong that badly needed righting. I arrived fairly late on a Thursday evening and headed straight for my hotel on Chicago’s south side, with a plan to get up and about early Friday morning and pound the streets to find numerous sites of former prime Jazz hotspots. Hot Jazz hotspots!

First up, the Dreamland Cafe (aka Dreamland Gardens, Dreamland Ballroom). The following all played here during the 20s and 30s : Louis Armstrong, Jack Johnson, Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, Cab Calloway, Joe Oliver, Honoré Dutré, Johnny and Warren “Baby” Dodds, Freddie Keppard, Doc Cheatham. The venue and its name led a nomadic life : in the 1920s up to 1928, it was at 3518-20 S. State St. Then it stood at this spot you see here from 1933-1946. From 1910 to the early 20s, the building on S. State St was known as the Dreamland Ballroom. It changed to be known as the Dreamland Cafe in the early 20s.

And as if by magic, here is the afore-mentioned Dreamland Ballroom site. These musicians graced this spot : King Oliver, Johnny & Warren “Baby” Dodds, Louis Armstrong and Hot Five, Alberta Hunter, Sidney Bechet, Lawrence Duhé, Ethel Waters.

Nearby, stood the Monogram Theatre. These musicians appeared here : Sidney Bechet, Ethel Waters, Erskine Tate, Ma Rainey. This place operated at 3435-40 S. State St. from around 1910 onwards.

This next place was actually top of my list to see, more or less since I learned about recordings by Duke Ellington and Earl Hines here. The Grand Terrace. Also went through name changes including the Sunset Cafe, Louis Armstrong played here with Carroll Dickerson’s Band, and His own Sunset Stompers. From 1921-1937, its name was the Sunset Cafe. Then from 1937 it was named the New Grand Terrace, and Count Basie would appear here, as would Tiny Parham and Fletcher Henderson.

Back wall, Grand Terrace, Chicago, IL
Here are a series of pictures of the back wall of the Sunset Cafe/Grand Terrace, the only part of the interior that remains as it was back when the great Jazz musicians of the 20s and 30s graced the stage.

Back wall, Grand Terrace, Chicago, IL
Back wall, Grand Terrace, Chicago, IL
Back wall, Grand Terrace, Chicago, IL
The Stroll, Chicago, IL
On the south side of Chicago is an area known as The Stroll. The significance here is that it hosted entertainment venues that pre-date the famed Royal Gardens.

While it was the Sunset Cafe, the following appeared here : Erskine Tate, Carroll Dickerson’s Band, Earl Hines, Cab Calloway, Sammy Stewart Band, Buster Bailey, Louis Armstrong Sunset Stompers, Charlie Elgar’s Band, Boyd Atkins Band, Tiny Parham. After 1937 when it became the New Grand Terrace, these musicians were on the bill : Earl Hines, Dave Peyton, Tiny Parham, Carroll Dickerson, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie.

Still in South Side Chicago, on S MLK, also named as S Broadway, we have the Metropolitan Theatre. I had to get this one in because one of my favourites, and such a larger than life character appeared here, among many others. Fats Waller! The venue operated from 1917 to 1930 and entertainers included Erskine Tate, Fats, Bob Schoffner, Omer Simeon, Quinn Wilson, Wallace Bishop, Sammy Stewart, Louis Armstrong, Clarence Jones and his Syncopators

Not far away from the Metropolitan stood the Regal Theatre shown in this video, and what a list of names thrilled the people here! Earl Hines, Dave Peyton, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fess Williams, Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake, Jimmy Lunceford, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Noble Sissle all appeared here. Also shown here is the site of the Savoy Ballroom, for whose opening Louis Armstrong wrote Savoy Blues in December 1927

And now for the historic first public appearance of Louis Armstrong as a performer in Chicago with King Oliver’s band. That’s all I’m writing here. The video narrator does the rest adequately (can I say ‘superbly’? No? Oh ok then). Clarence Williams, Jimmie Noone, Bill Johnson, Buster Bailey, Johnny and Baby Dodds also played here. Oliver’s band was called King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band which he started in 1922 at this spot after returning from touring in Bill Johnson’s Original Creole Orchestra. It was then that he summoned Louis Armstrong from New Orleans. The rest is history.

The final video in my Chicago south side tour is the first house Louis Armstrong bought, in 1921. He would have been able to walk quite comfortably to many of his regular spots which we have visited in previous videos.