Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Thousand Stories in The Chicago City


I have played my fair share of clubs in Chicago, some nice, some not so nice and  I do hang out with a lot of real deal players whom tell me all sorts of stories. Recently I heard an alleged story about a Chicago blues artist that was run out of a blues club by his wife. It seems this artist bought his girlfriend to the gig thinking that his wife was not going to attend. Wrong!  During the first set his wife walked in. When this blues man saw his wife he quickly dropped his guitar to a loud amplified thunk and out the back door he ran. His wife ran after him toting a pistol while screaming his name and some other non writable phrases. I guess it was the firearm she yielded that spooked him and the rest of the patrons for that matter. Unlike other parts of the country (Memphis-Nighthawk) it is illegal to carry a gun in Chicago and mace for that matter. Maybe the city should rethink that policy. If everyone carried a gun and people knew everyone did, would that ease the shootings?  I mean if you pulled out a gun would you think twice about using it if you knew the guy you pulled it on could pull his quicker? A lot of Chicago blues artists still carry guns to this day. The people who lived long ago in the Wild West may have had it correct. I know that guns do not hurt people, but rather people do.  Chicago recently had a senseless death of a teenager committed by a thug yielding a two by four. For our foreign readers, that is a piece of lumber that is 2 inches by 4 inches by 8 feet long and is commonly used to build houses.  

I have witnessed many incidents in Chicago blues clubs over the years and some of them now seem unreal.  Around 1985 I played a north side bar with Smiling Bobby. This bar has been in operation since the 40’s.  It was a polka bar back during WWII. It was a small club so the band had to set-up right in front of the bathrooms. If you went to the bathroom everyone in the club knew it. Pretty strange to be playing “Help Me” when someone was in the can. Sometimes you could even hear the toilet flush if the band stopped playing at the right time. The bar stretched out in front of the band about 30 feet and ended about six feet from the front door. This one night I remember well.  At the end of the bar was a little guy quietly drinking beer, quietly until he finished the third.  After that third beer he started cussing at the top of his lungs. He was almost as loud as the band. The owner of this club asked him to leave and he refused. The guy told him the usual standard two word cuss phrase and it wasn’t “Let’s dance.” That really ticked off the owner so he picked the guy up and threw him out the front door. He literally threw him out. The guy landed in a heap on the concrete sidewalk. The crowd applauded and we continued our performance. About half an hour later the door burst open and there is the guy with a knife. He lunges at the owner’s throat, misses and cuts his cheek wide open. The guy then turns around and calmly walks out the door. The owner was not feeling any pain, because he drank alcohol like the rest of us.   He grabbed a bar towel to cover his face. He then walked calmly toward the bathroom like nothing had happened.  I knew that is were he was headed and in the time it took him to put the towel to his face and get to the bandstand I had turned off my amp, grabbed by case, put the guitar to bed and out the back door I went. I was done for the night.   Too much blood squirting for me to stick around.

Another incident occurred about six months later at the same club while I was outside packing up and it was a Friday night gig. I think it was around 2:00 am. I heard automobile tires squealing, car doors slamming and  then suddenly about five or six shots rang out.  After a brief silence the car doors slammed and the tires squealed again. I still wonder what happened that night. I know at least this much about that incident, it wasn’t the authorities, because after all was quiet the sirens started up in the distance and got louder as they approached the area. That was pretty scary folks. I found out later that there was a four square block area (about ½ a square mile) that was considered a safe zone. Outside that area it was gangland.  You had to travel about a mile through that area to get to the expressway.  Once you got to that expressway it was pretty much smooth sailing. Come to think of it I ran a lot of late night stoplights driving that last mile.    

Terrance Lape   AKA
Copyright 2009