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Preserving Legends Means Fostering New Ones, Too

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 5, 2007 8:23PM

This morning we read that Buddy Guy’s Legends 2007_01_buddyguy.jpgwill be closing in June to make way for a Columbia College student center. Sun-Times reporter Dave Hoekstra got the goods from the man himself and officials with Columbia and the city. All parties seem confident that the space will re-open somewhere, with the city going out of its way to let people know how important Guy (and by extension, the blues scene) is to the city.

On one hand, we’d like to look at this development as a sign that the city has finally wised up to the need to preserve its musical heritage. Guy’s stature as de facto Chicago blues ambassador is undeniable, and Legends is a destination for all the conventioneers and other tourists who stay downtown and want to experience the Chicago blues scene (let us not dwell upon the red herring of "authenticity"). So we’re not at all surprised that the city is saying it will do everything it can to make sure the club re-opens.

On the other hand, the Chicago music scene isn’t just the downtown blues clubs. The problems re-opening the Checkerboard Lounge are just one example of the previous struggles club owners have had with the city’s archaic licensing department. A more instructive development will be how helpful the city is in helping Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase find a new home somewhere. (Ironically, the Sun-Times says Segal is talking with Columbia College “about an arrangement that will keep him and his son Wayne in business.”) Call us curmudgeons, but we wonder if, say, the closing of Rosa’s would have elicited the same fawning quotes from the city. As we’ve said before, preserving the city’s musical heritage is more than just highlighting the stuff people already know.

But for now, we’ll be Johnny Optimism and believe that this is the dawning of a brand new day for the city and music club owners. Even the ones without a marquee name attached to them.