Where to find the Best Live Blues Music in Chicago and New Orleans
Blues Music in the USA is associated with three cities, Memphis, Chicago and New Orleans. And indeed, America is the home of Blues music. Having originated in the deep south with African American communities in the Mississippi Delta, Blues music slowly began to spread northward as migration headed North after the Civil War.
In the 1920’s Blues music was very popular in New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit and Chicago. Blues really went mainstream in the 1960’s blues music was “discovered” by young white American and European musicians. Blues music heavily influenced many popular bands like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Cream, Canned Heat, and Fleetwood Mac and this brought the blues to young white audiences.
Slide guitar, the harmonica, and deep soulful music are all characteristic of blues music. Chicago blues features electric guitar while Mississippi Delta blues more often uses a slide rule and a steel guitar.
If you are in Chicago or New Orleans don’t miss the opportunity to hear some great Blues music live, it is one of our favorite things to do in Chicago and New Orleans when we visit.
Best Places to See Live Blues Music in Chicago
B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted
This Chicago Blues bar on the Northside of Chicago in Lincoln Park is an institution. It is a small, intimate atmosphere for a night of friendly Chicago blues music. B.L.U.E.S. features mainly local Chicago blues artists. You can check the schedule on their website.
2519 North Halsted, Open Weds-Suns doors open at 8, show starts at 9:30. The bar is small.
Located a very short distance across the street from B.L.U.E.S is Kingston Mines, one of my favorite Chicago Blues clubs. Kingston mines has had several expansions and now is much larger than the original club which opened in 1968.
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The bar serves southern style food and you can come early get a seat and grab some food.
There are two stages which rotate bands. So, two acts, 365 days a year. You can combine it with a visit to B.L.U.E.S or make it a night of its own. The schedule is on the website and you can buy tickets in advance.
House of Blues
House of Blues is a chain with bar, restaurant and blues venue all combined into one. They are a relative new comer to Chicago, having started originally in New Orleans (more below). You can buy tickets and make reservations in advance on their site.
Conveniently located in central Chicago in Marina City, near the Chicago River, it is easy to reach if your hotel in Chicago is downtown. House of Blues features some national acts so make sure to plan in advance to avoid disappointment.
Buddy Guy’s Legends
One of the last remaining legends of American blues music, at 80 years, Buddy Guy’s bar in downtown Chicago is one of the most awarded blues bars in the country.
Originally from Louisiana, Buddy Guy is a huge influence on the Chicago blues style and has been the influence on many rock legends including Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won numerous GRAMMY awards including a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award. On Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, Buddy Guy is #23.
It is a wonderful place to see some national blues acts and Buddy Guy himself is usually around for the month of July performing with a few of his fellow blues musicians.
Chicago Blues Festival
Held in early June each year the Chicago Blues Festival is a three-day outdoor festival of blues music. In 2017, the Chicago Blues Festival found a new home moving after many years from Grant Park to Millennium Park. The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest of Chicago’s music festivals and is free to attend. Over 500,000 blues fans attend over the three days. Past performers have included Blues Legends Ray Charles, B.B. King, the late Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt.
Where to Stay in Chicago to Enjoy Great Blues Music
All of the live blues music venues listed above and the Chicago Blues Festival can be conveniently reached from downtown Chicago. There are a variety of hotels in Chicago to suit any budget and style. House of Blues and Buddy Guy’s are walking distance in the city, and Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted are a short taxi ride from downtown.
Best Places to See Live Blues Music in New Orleans
New Orleans has a long history of live music and is known for Jazz, Blues and Swing or Big Band music. New Orleans blues is more country in style. Visit Chicago as well and see if you can hear the difference. Not to be outdone by its Northern cousin Chicago, New Orleans has plenty of venues to see live blues music.
Funky Pirate Blues Club
Located on Bourbon Street, the Funky Pirate Blue Club, is right in the thick of it in New Orleans. Owned by Tropical Isle, also on Bourbon Street, the Funky Pirate is known for its great cocktails as well as great blues music. Big Al Carson is the MC and often performs on stage.
Maple Leaf Bar (Jazz and Funk as well)
For over 40 years, since 1974, the Maple Leaf Bar has provided live music in New Orleans. The range of music styles is broader than just blues, so if you really want blues music check who is playing.
Many local and national acts have appeared here since its opening. It is also known for its poetry readings, usually held on Sunday afternoon.
House of Blues New Orleans
With a location in Chicago as well, the original House of Blue began in 1992 in Cambridge, MA. The food is southern style, the artwork pays homage to African American history and it is modeled after a juke joint. It is a dinner and show venue and you should make reservations in advance.
They also feature a Sunday Brunch accompanied by Gospel Music.
The Three Muses
Music, fancy cocktails and great tapas are the three muses in the name. Many people come to eat and listen to live music. It is small, intimate and fills quickly so you may have a wait for a table or book online via Open Table. Check the website for event information.
They have just opened a second location on Maple Street (closed Monday).
Oop Poo Pah Doo Bar
Leather couches give this bar a living room atmosphere. The name of this bar is from a 1960’s Rhythm and Blues (R&B) hit single by Jessie Hill.
This club has a reputation as an authentic New Orleans juke joint. Open seven days a week from 10 am.
Where to Stay in New Orleans to Enjoy Great Blues Music
Choose a hotel in New Orleans in the city for easy access to all of the blues venues listed above.
And as we are a food and travel blog, we would be remiss if we don’t mention Café Du Monde in New Orleans. You have to try the beignets, you will be glad you did!
And if you are a country music fan- find out more about Branson Mo and Pigeon Forge TN.
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