Musical recommendations for visiting Chicago - stores, attractions etc

Discussion in 'Music, Movie and Hardware Store Guide' started by VatiBobo, Jul 19, 2018.

  1. VatiBobo

    VatiBobo A Scotsman in Canada Thread Starter

    Hello all. I will be visiting Chicago next month for the first time and wondered whether you could provide any recommendations. I'm interested in both record stores and music related tourist locations.

    Are there any record stores which are must visits? I'm mainly interested in rock, blues and folk, and would ideally be looking for somewhere that sells both new and good quality used vinyl. Somewhere relatively central would be a plus, as it would make it easier to combine a visit with doing regular tourist stuff with the family.

    One of the things I'd thought of doing is visiting the old Chess Records studio. From what I see online, the most famous location now operates as a Willie Dixon museum. For any that have been there before, is it worth seeing? Is it solely dedicated to him, or does it also cover Chess more generally? I was a bit surprised that there didn't seem to be a proper Chess Records museum given how famous and significant it was.

    Any help on the above (or any other recommendations you can provide) would be greatly appreciated :righton:
  2. Dylancat

    Dylancat Forum Resident

    Cincinnati, OH
    Go to Buddy Guys Legends for a show
    Also Andy’s Jazz Club
    hutlock and VatiBobo like this.
  3. eeglug

    eeglug Forum Resident

    Chicago, IL, USA
    I went to Chess/Willie Dixon Museum a few months ago with visitors. It's not just about Dixon but Chess in general. If you're well versed in this area of music, the tour will be pretty basic and underwhelming to you. The first floor houses a modest collection of photos and album sleeves. Our guide had some basic history about Chess and interesting stories from various people that have been associated with Chess and Dixon; she personally knew some of them. They bring you up to the actual room where the studio was, which is mostly empty now. They are trying to restore the control room but they've barely started. There is another room with miscellaneous instruments, including (bizarrely) an EMS VCS3 synth owned by Willie Dixon. Overall I'm not sure it's worth it but my gang enjoyed it a lot as casual fans.

    BTW, for general tourist stuff, Glessner House is near to Willie Dixon. We did both comfortably in one day.

    Another stop that might be worthwhile to you is the Chicago History Museum (at Clark & North, just south of Lincoln Park Zoo) which currently has an exhibit on electric blues in Chicago called "Amplified". Besides the usual displays on significant events/releases, there is an interactive mixing station. There's also a 'play the blues yourself' booth where you play a Variax guitar along with a blues backing track (for non-musicians it steps you through how to play along).

    For record stores, Reckless Records sometimes has good used can search their online database for specific items ( Note that they have 3 different stores, the downtown loop store is smaller than the other 2 which are slightly harder to get to but still doable by transit. (If you go to the History museum, you can hop on the Clark 22 bus just outside and head north towards the Reckless Records on Broadway, which is bigger than the downtown store. If you stayed on the 22 just a little further you'll get to Wrigley Field.)

    There are probably other good places for used vinyl but I'm no longer in that crowd.
    VatiBobo likes this.
  4. Yankeefan01

    Yankeefan01 Forum Resident

    Tonawanda, NY, USA
    If you're a guitar player or just like vintage guitars, amps etc. check out Chicago Music Exchange. Really cool and large vintage guitar store.
    VatiBobo likes this.
  5. VatiBobo

    VatiBobo A Scotsman in Canada Thread Starter

    Thanks for the tip! I was just reading about Buddy guy's club - seems like a good place to add to the itinerary.

    Thanks for the reply! I think I may skip the Dixon museum this time unless we happen to be in that area. The history museum exhibit sounds really good, though. That may be an easier sell as there will other exhibits there that will be interesting for my wife and kids. Will check out Reckless Records. Thanks again!

    I just started learning a couple of months ago, so would definitely be interested in taking a look there. I checked out their website and they have an amazing selection. Thanks for the tip!
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2018
    Yankeefan01 likes this.
  6. 12" 45rpm

    12" 45rpm Forum Resident

    New York City
    Reckless records is all over the city. Prices are reasonable. Good thing is they have their entire inventory from all stores online. You can buy from there and they will ship for cheap or you can pickup instore..
    VatiBobo likes this.
  7. dr jazz

    dr jazz Forum Resident

    park ridge,il,usa
    If there is anything at the chicago theater or auditorium theater might want to consider. Both are beautiful with a lot of history. Both downtown
    VatiBobo likes this.
  8. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    If you're there on the weekend, go over to the Music Direct warehouse. They open it for weekend sales. Worth checking out. The prices are pretty fair.
    VatiBobo likes this.
  9. Fortysomething

    Fortysomething Forum Resident

    I know the OP probably already visited but for any new readers of the thread looking for info, there's a cool new store in the Andersonville section of town called Rattleback Records.

    They just opened - seem to have a really nice mix of stuff.
  10. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    Green Mill
    Reckless Records
    Empty Bottle
    Beat Kitchen
    Aragon Ballroom
    Wiener Circle
    Johnnies Beef
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
    recstar24 likes this.
  11. Celticray

    Celticray Forum Resident

    Richardson, TX
    You do have to go to Legends...and catch a Cubs game!!!!
    Get great pastrami at Mannys 1141 S Jefferson St

    And go visit Al Capone at the Green Mill Green Mill and catch Patricia Barber on a Monday night : )
  12. Fortysomething

    Fortysomething Forum Resident

    When I ordered something recently, and picked it up there (one of the individual Kate Bush reissues), they told me that people can pretty much check out the warehouse any day of the week they are there.
  13. VatiBobo

    VatiBobo A Scotsman in Canada Thread Starter

    Yeah, that's right. You can go along during the week to buy things direct from them. I did that when I was there. You can walk through to the reception, tell them what you want and pay there. While they picked the items, I was able to browse the discounted records in their used and returns area and also got a tour of one of the listening rooms. I think that the previous poster was referencing the fact that they have big used record sales at the weekend, but you can definitely go at other times too.

    It's funny to see this thread bumped - I had forgotten about it and don't think I updated it after I went. I spent all my records budget at Music Direct (got Tom Petty's Live Anthology, the 45rpm 2LP of Muddy Waters' Folk Singer and some MFSL stuff) so didn't end up going to most of the stores that I had planned to. I also visited Buddy Guy's Legends and did the tour at the old Chess Records studio. My family and I really enjoyed Chicago and would definitely recommend it.
    recstar24 likes this.
  14. First time flying to Chicago Friday (first time out of country in 15 years!) and noting all these places.
  15. VatiBobo

    VatiBobo A Scotsman in Canada Thread Starter

    I feel a little jealous :laugh: Really liked Chicago. Lots of stuff to do (with kids or without), lots of good options for buying music and lots of good places to eat. It's also very easy to get around using one of the Ventra cards that you can load money onto and use on the trains and buses.
    DangerousKitchen likes this.
  16. With the CDN to US $$ exchange, was it worth the trip to Music Direct? I was thinking the better value/selection was used records.
  17. VatiBobo

    VatiBobo A Scotsman in Canada Thread Starter

    The exchange rate certainly works against us. The items that I got were ones which weren't easy to get in Canada, so that made it worthwhile and, if I remember correctly, the prices were okay. One thing to factor in with them is that they have to set you up in your system to buy from them even when you are there, so I'm pretty sure that I was charged taxes just them same as if they were sending it to me. You may be able to get some bargains in their used and returns section. Some records have just have minor cosmetic issues (e.g. sleeve damage) or damage to the shrinkwrap which stops them being resold online. They have a lot of MFSL records and other regular stock in that section, plus a huge section of older used stock. It does take about 30 or 40 minutes to get there from the downtown area (by elevated train then bus) but it was pretty easy to get to.

    The other record stores seem to have a healthy used section, so may be more worth your time if there isn't something that you specifically want from Music Direct. Reckless Records has a search function so that you can get an idea of what used stock they have in their stores (Reckless Records Chicago: New & Used Records, CDs, DVDs, games & more - index.php ).
  18. I've already pre-ordered a dozen records from Reckless!
    VatiBobo likes this.
  19. Fortysomething

    Fortysomething Forum Resident


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