A trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete for us without going to a real Blues Club. When I was searching for campgrounds that were still opened at this time of year, I called the Illinois Beach State Park and spoke to Peter. Lucky for us, as Peter turned out to be a musician who knew the Chicago music scene intimately. Growing up in Detroit, he had even jammed with Eric Clapton and the Cream. When we arrived at the park, Peter had left a package for us containing two CDs, a list of several clubs with descriptions of the venues and type of clientele, as well as the train schedule to Chicago from the local Zion station. What a guy!
Since they were unable to join us, we said goodbye to Joyce and Steve and grabbed a cab to the north side of town. I love Chicago. Even the cabdriver was friendly and interesting. A Palestinian married to a Baptist girl, Farid, who recently became an American citizen, loves everything American. We had a lively and informative conversation about the Middle East situation. On a cab ride.
We chose to go to Kingston Mines, voted Chicago’s best blues club 13 years in a row by the Chicago Music Awards. We grabbed a great seat at one of the community tables and settled in to wait for the band that would perform on the Main Stage. The woman across from Manny saw his Walt’s Wharf sweatshirt and asked if we were from Seal Beach, California. We used to live there, he explained. Within minutes, Shannon and her husband Gary, who live in San Diego, and Manny and I were talking like old friends. Is it the Chicago air, or is the world a friendlier place than I remember?
The club had two rooms with alternating groups. There was nothing scheduled in our section for another 45 minutes. Frequent visitors to Chicago and to Kingston Mines, Gary and Shannon encouraged us to check out the music on the North Stage. We were so glad we did. Joanna Connor and her acoustic blues were rocking the house. Her hard hitting sound, a blend of jazz, rock and soul, along with her dynamic style, Joanna is a mesmerizing performer, reaching right down deep into my soul. I was captivated.
Lucky for us that Gary and Shannon had saved our seats as the Main Stage was packed when we returned to see Carl Weathersby, an old time blues performer with a silky soulful style. As often happens, the back up band was as good as the headliner. The harmonica player, donning a Blues Brothers style fedora and shades, wore an ammunition bandolier packing harps and almost stole the show.
Shortly before midnight, Manny and I had to leave to catch the last train back to Zion. We bid farewell to Shannon and Gary with promises of visiting them in California.
We hopped on the 12:35 double-decker train and arrived back in Serena’s welcoming warmth at 2:00 am. We were exhausted, yet exhilarated after a thoroughly wonderful day thanks to all of our new, old friends.