BLUES: An interview with David Grazian author of Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs

David Grazian

Question: The blues weren't invented in Chicago, but they were certainly shaped here: urbanized, electrified, and set to a danceable beat. Suppose I want to hear the real stuff, some authentic Chicago blues, and I go to a local blues club. What will I find there?

David Grazian: Nowadays a lot of Chicago blues clubs feel like Hollywood movie sets. On the surface they feel ramshackle and rusty—the barstools are worn out, the plaster is falling off the walls, and the floor seems barely mopped. But if one pans across their smoke-filled, dimly lit rooms, one begins to notice the bouncers with their headsets; the souvenir shops loaded with t-shirts, trinkets, and other tourist trap fare; and the well-heeled out-of-towners who arrive by limousine and tour bus, oblivious to the fact that many of these seemingly dilapidated clubs are located in some of the richest neighborhoods in the city, including Lincoln Park and the Near North Side. Like Hollywood's best film noir, these clubs are in the business of producing middle-class fantasies of urban life, thrilling and dark. But in reality, most of these places feel more like Disneyland with booze.

Question: OK, forget the contrived shabbiness of the club; the music is what's important anyway. When the band plays "Sweet Home Chicago," you can't get much more authentic than that, right?

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