Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Billy Branch

It was a Monday night, and some people arrived dressed as if they were going to or coming from church. Anytime I spend in a “Blues Club” is figuratively my church. You see, my church is filled with music and laughter and happiness. There is a certain camaraderie amongst Blues people that transcends religion, race, economic status, or intellectual level. Anyone who goes to Artis’ for the music becomes part of a family, and after all isn’t that what church is - just one big happy family?

When in town on a Monday, “Billy Branch and The Sons Of The Blues Band” call Artis Lounge home, as do various Blues fans. On most Monday nights it is standing room only because on Monday nights Blues royalty hold court there.

I met Billy Branch and Rosa just as they were unloading their car trunk. Billy yelled over something about taking a minute to move his car because he was taking up two parking spots. We exchanged pleasantries and proceeded through the side door. As far as Blues clubs go, the place is not much. But, that does not matter! It is the people and the music, the drinks and the laughter that make Artis’ something special.

At first glance, it just seemed like any other corner bar with which Chicago prides itself. I found a seat located along the back wall and started to peel back the layers of the club. A floor to ceiling front window was decorated with engraved musical notes that seemed to dance with reflective neon lights. Outside this window, a Chicago Transit Authority bus squealed to a stop with a familiar whoosh sound of its air brakes. As the front and back doors swung wide open, out would pop another patron of the Blues.

 Red, blue, and green neon lights reflected off that front plate glass window which reminded me of yesteryear. These lights were located high above the bar and were situated smack dab in the center of the club. Bottles of soon to be consumed liquor glowed white from strategically placed lights under their very own glass shelf.  Recessed multi-colored bulbs hung high above, and their 200 watt shine illuminated those who were sitting at the bar. Above and to the side hung a sign that read, “You must have a drink sitting or standing.”

Ball caps, fedoras, berets, and newspaper boy hats started bopping when the first S.O.B. notes landed on anxious ears. Women started that “slow sway-rocking” from their chrome and black vinyl bar stools. Three piece suits mingled amongst the younger blue jean crowd. The Monday night “services” had begun.

Clarence and Artis have a very hip, a very cool, and a very Blue place. You can call it a lounge, a bar, a club, a tap room, or even a “church,” but I’m just going to call it my “Home Sweet Home, Away from Home.”

Artis Lounge is located at;
1249 East 87th Street
Chicago, Illinois