Chicago celebrates music history in revived zone

Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:25pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mark Guarino

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Music that went silent nearly 40 years ago on an historic stretch of Chicago's celebrated Michigan Avenue is poised to return, thanks to an unlikely mix of rock stars, politicians and real estate developers.

Chicago has rezoned Motor Row -- near Chess Studios, the famed "home of the electric blues" -- as a live entertainment district, set to open in early 2013.

The building stock is "quite remarkable," says developer Pam Gleichman, CEO of Landmark America, Illinois, the company spearheading the project.

"This historic location gave birth to all this wonderful music that we listen to today. Chicago is astounding for playing a role in all that history."

Early in the last century, Motor Row was one of the nation's showroom districts for the nascent automotive industry. The buildings themselves were used as marketing tools as they featured large glass storefronts, generous spaces and exotic ornamentation.

Music bloomed nearby -- just north of Motor Row was Record Row, the center of Chicago's recording industry between the late 1940s and the mid-1970s, once second only to New York City. Record labels Vee-Jay, Chess, Wonderful and King all operated studios along the strip, which mainly housed large record distributorships.

Landmark recordings by Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley and others were made there. The Rolling Stones recorded an early EP at Chess and titled one of the songs, "2120 South Michigan Avenue" - the building's address - in its honor.

The dozens of labels that operated on Record Row produced a wide range of genres, said Chicago music historian Robert Pruter.   Continued...