Sites that shaped Chicago’s sound: from Louis Armstrong’s places to Kanye’s crib

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A healthy distance from the coasts, the city is a place where artists have felt free to experiment with music from blues and jazz to acid house and hip-hop

Chicago is known for many things: deep-dish pizza, improvisational theater and, yes, grim weather. Scratch deeper and there is a profoundly rich history of music, from blues and jazz to acid house and hip-hop. Because of its location a healthy distance from both coasts the city has always been a place where artists have felt free to experiment and collaborate without such constraints of commercial expectations, producing music that has shaped modern audio. Follow these address to insure where the music lived first.

4339 South Lake Park Avenue, home of Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters Photograph: Terry Cryer/ CORBIS

The pioneering Chicago blues singer and guitarist moved to the city in 1943 and by 1954 was a superstar, buying this 1879 red brick Victorian where he lived for 20 years. According to biographer Robert Gordon, Waters moved up the social ladder where reference is moved in, transitioning from a cramped tenement on the West Side to Bronzeville on the South Side, where Chicagos black middle class was prospering. This was a move toward prospects, toward promise and enterprise, Gordon writes.

Since he left, the home has gone through multiple proprietors and endured harsh Chicago wintertimes, squatters and general deterioration, landing it on the 2013 list of ten most endangered historic places by Landmark Illinois, a nonprofit advocacy organization. The bank accepted an offer from a buyer in 2014, but to date the property remains in ruins. In a recent Netflix documentary, Rolling Stones guitarist and Waters follower Keith Richards visits the house and, climbing its steps, is astounded at the decrepitude. Wow, youd have guessed Chicago could do something more for the old person, you know? It was a lot more vibrant the last day I was here, he says.

16 W Adams Street, Westmont, second home of Muddy Waters

Waters left Chicago in 1974 and relocated to Westmont, a chiefly white western suburbium where he lived in this modest, two-story frame house until his death in 1983. There he spent time with his grandchildren and extended family and entertained guests like BB King, Johnny Winter, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, who served as his best man at his 1979 wedding to Marva Morganfield that took place in the back yard. Unlike Chicago, the tiny suburbium has espoused their connection to blues royalty: Visit nearby Muddy Waters Park, take in Muddy Waters Blues Night in July and spend time with a special Muddy Waters exhibition of photographs and memorabilia in the downtown city centre. The house is now a private residence.

4023 S Vincennes Avenue, home of Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole Photograph: Alamy

Before he gained pop renown for his velvet vocal style, Nat King Cole ran the local nightclub circuit as jazz pianist Nathaniel Adams Coles in a trio that included his brother, Eddie Coles, on bass. He lived at this three-unit greystone in Bronzeville until 1937 when he left for southern California and determined stardom. Before then, Cole took in performances by Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong along the stretch of clubs through the neighborhood, stimulated his first recordings, played theaters including the Regal Theater and Savoy Ballroom, and tackled organ obligations at the True Light Baptist Church where his father was the minister. The house is now a private residence.

1125 S Francisco Avenue, home of Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman Trio Photograph: Frank Driggs Collection

The King of Swing and eminent clarinetist moved to Lawndale on the citys near West Side when he was still a young boy. According to biographer Ross Firestone, Benjamin David Benny Goodman lived with his parents and nine brothers and sisters in a cramped three-story tenement. We had to be close-knit, Goodman afterward said. We all lived in the same apartment. During that time, Goodman took clarinet lessons at a nearby synagogue and became a teenage sensation, performing and recording with bands while still in high school. By 1925 at age 16, he became a member of the Ben Pollack Orchestra, one of Chicagos top dance bands at the time.

8358 S Indiana Avenue, home of Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson Photograph: David Redfern/ Redferns

One of the most transcendent American voices, gospel giant Mahalia Jackson was a global star when she purchased this modest corner ranch home in 1956 in Chatham on the South Side. At the time, the neighborhood was mainly white and Jackson suffered intense discrimination, including bullets through her window. It wasnt until broadcaster Edward R Murrow conducted a live television interview in her kitchen that the hot flamed out. Jackson was known for cooking big dinners here for visiting friends, including Harry Belafonte, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. When she lived here, Jackson became the voice of the civil right motion, performing at rallies, processions and even President John F Kennedys inaugural ball. A city park located only four blocks away is named in her honor.

7921 S Indiana Avenue, home of Thomas A Dorsey

Thomas A Dorsey on piano Photograph: JP Jazz Archive/ Redferns

The root of contemporary gospel music is a single man: Thomas Dorsey, a blues pianist, composer and later reverend who made a new voice that wove together the fervency of the rhythm and blues with church spirituals. As the composer of thousands of anthems, recorded by superstars such as Elvis Presley and sung around the world, he generated an enduring songbook that remains vital today. The Father of Gospel Music and his family lived in this bungalow during his years a musical director of Pilgrim Baptist Church, once one of the largest black churches in the US, until his death in 1993.

421 E 44 th Street, home of Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong Photograph: David Redfern/ Redferns

While he is most associated with New Orleans, the famed trumpeter and vocalist left the city in 1925 when he was 24 and made his way up to Chicago where he joined Joe King Olivers Creole Jazz Band and built his most influential recordings. While he and his wife Lili Harden merely lived this two-story greystone in Bronzeville until 1929, his tenure during that time was hugely influential. Leaving Oliver, Armstrong recorded using his own name with his Hot Five and Hot Seven groups, both of which devoted jazz a new sophistication and modern energy, and his soloing on sungs like West End Blues and Hotter Than That having an impact on musicians for decades. Visitors who want to walk in his shoes can easily leave this address and make their style to 315 E 35 th Street, which once housed the Sunset Cafe, a jazz club owned by an Al Capone associate. Today its a neighborhood hardware store. Be nice to the staff and theyll let you peek into the raised back office, formerly the stage, where the wallpaper from the original bandstand is still intact.

7813 S South Shore Drive, home of Kanye West

Kanye West Photograph: Karen Minasyan/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Chicago-raised rapper and producer grew up in this modest, two-story frame house in the South Shore, a middle-class community that runs along Lake Michigan. Born in Atlanta, West moved to Chicago where his mother became English department chair of nearby Chicago State University. He lived in this house before moving to suburban Oak Lawn for high school. In a 2011 video promoting his Watch the Throne tour, West and Jay Z tour the grounds of his former home. He commemorates the houses locating on Gotta Have It with the lyric: Made a right on 79 th, Im coming down South Shore Drive/ I remain Chi-Town. To date, the house is boarded up and in dilapidated condition.

2945 Maros Lane, Olympia Fields, home of R Kelly

2013 BET Awards – Show
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 30: Recording artist R. Kelly performs onstage during the course of its 2013 BET Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on June 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.( Photo by Mark Davis/ Getty Images for BET) Photo: Mark Davis/ Getty Images for BET

The R& B superstar lived in this south suburban mansion until he lost it to foreclosure and relocated downtown, reportedly to a 73 rd -story condo in Trump Tower. Kelly constructed the 16 -room house in 1997, but it went on the market in 2011 for $1.6 m after Kelly failed to make mortgage payments. A Cook County sheriffs public auction in 2013 situate the price of the home at $950,000, but there were no bidders. The mansions saga ends on a musical note, however: Rudolph Isley, the founding member of famed R& B group the Isley Brothers, bought the house for $587,500 in late 2013, according to the Chicago Tribune, and lives there with his wife.

While in township, make sure to also check out these sites:

Northeast corner, 47 th Street and Prairie Avenue

Home of Rays Music Exchange in Bronzeville, the fictional store in the 1980 movie the Blues Brother. The mural, featuring the likeness of Muddy Waters, BB King and Ray Charles, is still there for you to try out your dance moves. Dont try to buy any music inside the building remains a pawn shop.

2120 S Michigan Avenue

Home of Chess Records, the famed record label that recorded all the greats of postwar blues including Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Howlin Wolf, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon and many others. Willie Dixons Blues Heaven Foundation now controls the building and offers tours.

1449 S Michigan Avenue

John Lee Hooker Photograph: Insure Corbis Website/ CORBIS

Home of Vee-Jay Records, the second most active record label during the postwar heyday, responsible for putting out records by Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Gene Chandler and even the Beatles.

Roosevelt Road and Indiana Avenue

Home of the Illinois Central Station, the railway hub considers the Black Ellis Island because it brought thousands of southern blacks from the Delta( including Muddy Waters) to the industrial north trying work and escaping Jim crow statutes during the Great Migration of early last century. The develop station stood on the corner between 1893 and 1974 when it was demolished.

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