We’ve invited our Colorado friend June to join us on one of our upcoming Chicago jaunts. Seeking to gauge whether she might like the same things as we do, I mentioned our love of jazz clubs. She came back saying she loves jazz clubs and also blues clubs. Plenty of those in Chi-town, but it got me thinking about a blues club venture I’ll never forget.
I wrote to her: If you wanted to go to a blues club back in my day, here’s where I would have taken you for the real deal (1). I went there once with a group of U of C med students. It was only a 2 mile drive from U of C, but a world away, across Washington Park (the western edge of civilized Hyde Park), then up Indiana, three blocks from the Dan Ryan expressway, which Mayor Daley put in to really cut off the ghettoes. Theresa’s was in a neighborhood called Bronzeville, and you can guess where that name came from. When we lived in Hyde Park, we were taught our boundaries. The northern border was 47th. I lived for 3 years on 48th. I never tiptoed an inch north. There lies Bronzeville! Buddy Guy’s club was on 47th then, and we didn’t go there either.
But Theresa’s was a trip, straight out of the movies. From the street, it looked like somebody’s house. There was a big chain across the door, which they lifted to let you in once you checked out. You walked downstairs to the club, which was rockin’, in that bluesy sort of way. I have no recollection who was playing. As we stood there, our few white faces standing out big time, some of the larger local male patrons sidled up and asked respectfully “can we dance wiff yo’ dates?” Um, yes, was the answer, and no harm came to anybody. I’ll bet some of those girls can tell better stories than this one. After a while, we headed back to our own world, knowing we’d had an “only-in-Chicago” experience.
1, Chicago Bar Project. Theresa’s Lounge. https://chibarproject.com/reviews/theresas/