Billy Branch and Willie Dixon
Billy Branch and Willie Dixon come together in 1982 at Theresa’s Lounge in Chicago to perform Little Red Rooster. Although this track has been covered by many people, Willie Dixon is credited as the songwriter. After that, Howln’ Wolf is he first musician to record it live while The Rolling Stones made it a rock hit. Before there were clubs like Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S. Rosa’s Lounge, and Buddy Guy’s Legends, there were joints like “Theresa’s” where the granddaddies of blues played regularly and helped define Chicago as the blues capital of the world.
Life wasn’t much easier in Chicago than it was in the fields of Mississippi. Many young musicians had to adapt the Delta Blues into an urban form of music that reflected their angst. As a result, bars opened up on the South Side, showcasing new music every night of the week. One such establishment was “Theresa’s Lounge,” which just happened to be one of the best of ’em thanks to the efforts of taverness extraordinaire, Theresa Needham. Her style and regular bookings of blues legends Junior Wells and a young Buddy Guy himself made Theresa’s one of the best places to see the blues since the day it opened. While the space lies abandoned in a building on the South Side today, the legacy remains. The lounge opened in December of 1949 within the confines of a basement in an apartment building.
According to Marc Pokempner, a photojournalist who spent time in Theresa’s taking pictures of musicians and patrons. He described the scene as: “regulars came just about every night and they treated the place like their living room. They’d be drinking, singing, and having a good time in a way that none of my parents’ friends ever did.” Theresa’s attracted a predominantly black, middle-aged, working class crowd from the surrounding ghetto neighborhood. The appeal reached global proportions as time wore on and people became aware of the caliber of music offered nightly at Theresa’s. For more information on Theresa’s Lounge, here’s a great article to check out: https://www.chibarproject.com/Memoriam/Theresa’s/Theresa’s.htm
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