12 Historical Jazz Clubs In Chicago
#1 Pekin Inn
Located on 2700 S. State Street is one of the most influential South side jazz clubs since 1910. This groundbreaking Jazz club was one of the first to employ musicians who played pre-jazz and ragtime genre music such as Tony Jackson, Joe Jordan and Wilbur Sweatman. The Pekin is rumored to be Chicago's birthplace for the modern Jazz scene. It allowed musicians to exercise and gain experience in the pre-jazz genre.
#2 Dreamland Ballroom
Located on 2618-20 S. State St. & 35th St. is the Dreamland Ballroom. The Dreamland Ballroom was one of Chicago's first ballrooms to be established in 1912. Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five, Sidney Bechet, Ethel Waters Alberta Hunter, Lawrence Duhe, and King Oliver were just a few of the jazz greats to grace the Dreamland Ballrooms stage.
#3 Lincoln Gardens
Located on 459 East 31st Street is the Lincoln Gardens dance hall. Originally named the Royal Gardens, but after a bombing in June 1927 the hall was closed and reopened as the Lincoln Gardens. The grandiose dance hall can hold up to 1,000 dancers on the floor at any given time. Bill Johnson was one of the first big name musicians to help establish the dance hall's legacy as a jazz venue with a residency. Thus beginning the normality of New Orleans musicians taking center spotlight across Chicago's stages.
#4 The Sunset Cafe and Grand Terrace Ballroom
Located on 313-17 East 35th Street was the Grand Terrace Ballroom. The Grand Terrace Ballroom was built in the year of 1909 but was later remodeled in 1937 from a plain automobile garage into one of the most infamous jazz venues. Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Johnny Dodds were some of the top jazz musicians to be featured at the Grand Terrace Ballroom. Today, the ballroom has been converted into a hardware store. A few of the interior walls have kept their original paint job and the current owners do allow jazz fans to visit the inside upon request.
#5 The Green Mill
Located on 4802 N. Broadway Ave is the jazz venue known as the Green Mill. The joint originally opened as the Pop Morse's Roadhouse in 1907 and served as a place for mourners grab a drink in remembrance of an old friend before heading to St. Boniface's Cemetery. However, in 1910 new management took over and converted the establishment into Green Mill Gardens, a dining and outdoor dancing hall. Sophie Tucker, Al Jolson, and Eddie Cantor all had the privilege of playing at the Mill. Unfortunately, the hall feel under Al Capone's territory for quite some time until its full demise. The Green Mill has now been restored to its prohibition-era decor and serves as a modern day speakeasy.
#6 The Vendome Theater
Located on 3145 S. State Street was the Vendome Theater. The Vendome Theater may have been built in 1919, but it didn't gain true popularity until the winter of 1925 when Louis Armstrong, the master cornetist, graced its stage with a residency. The crowds would hang onto Armstrong's every note. Lil Hardin-Armstrong (pianist), Jimmy Bertrand (drummer), Earl Hines, and Freddie Keppard (cornetist) were just a few of the other notable jazz artists to perform on the Vendome stage during the 1920s. Unfortunately, the theater was demolished in 1949 but its memory still lives on.
#7 The Plantation Cafe
Located on 338 East 35 St. was the wondrous Plantation Cafe. The Creole Jazz Band as well as the King Oliver band held long lasting residencies at the Plantation Cafe, along with many other talented jazz artists who would take center stage from time to time. However, in 1927 the cafe was destroyed by a fire never to be restored to its original build again.
#8 The Apex Club
Located on 35th St. just between S.Prairie Ave and S. Calumet is the amazing Apex Club. The club's grand opening in 1920 hosted an array of well known jazz talent, such as Johnny St.Cyr, Joe Poston, Jimmy Noone (clarinetist), Junie Cobb, Earl Hines, Johnny Wells, and Dave Nelson.
#9 The Entertainer's Cafe
Located on 209 E. 35th Street is the 1910 Entertainer's Cafe! The Club hosted several shows featuring Freddy Keppard's Band, Natty Dominique, Carroll Dickerson, Earl Hines, Vernie Robinson, and Sammy Stewart along with his Knights of Syncopation.
#10 The Monogram Theatre
Located on 3435-30 S. State Street is the beautiful Monogram Theatre. It's 1910 grand opening featured a few of the early jazz greats, such as Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, Sidney Bechet, and Erskine Tate.
#11 The Elite Club
Located on 3030 S. State Street was a little place known as the Elite Club. The Elite Club also opened its doors in 1910 with Albert Hunter, Earl Hines, and Jelly Roll upon its stage.
#12 The Friar's Inn
Located in a basement on 60 E.Van Buren Street was a night club named the Friar's Inn. Based out of Chicago's Loop area, the nightclub was right next to the Moulin Rouge Cafe. Mike Fritzel ran the Inn that was well known for hosting gangster clientele. The Inn only host three bands - a morning (3pm -6pm), afternoon (6pm-10pm), and night (10pm-4am) shift. The afternoon shift was usually a lighter rhythm section for guests to enjoy background music with their dinner and then the main band would grace the stage at 10pm and take you on a long musical journey into the wee hours of the morning. The main band was typically the Mares Group. Unfortunately, Friar's Inn held an extremely strict policy that only allowed white folks to enter the nightclub. The Austin High Gang, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Fred Teschemacher, Steven Brown, Emmett Hardy, Bud Freeman, George Brunies, Paul Mares, Bee Palmer, Leon Popolo and Mel Stitzel were all well known artists to hit the Inn's stage. Not to mention, the infamous Joan Crawford even danced background at the Inn during the early times of her career!