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Delmark does it right with blues on Sunday morning and late at night

Music's on the menu at the Delmark blues brunch
Music's on the menu at the Delmark blues brunch
Robin Zimmerman

Chicago’s iconic Delmark record label turns 60 this year and shows no signs of slowing down—especially on an almost-summer Sunday. Instead of lolling around and resting on their laurels, Delmark is throwing not one—but two— blues-flavored bashes on June 9.

The first is the annual Blues Brunch that features a full (and free) morning of live music at the Jazz Record Mart at 27 E. Illinois Street. Here, surrounded by founder Bob Koester’s impressive collection of vinyl, you can hear some of the label’s finest gather for impromptu jam sessions lasting from 10am until noon.

And while you won’t be getting any fancy fare— just sweet rolls or a cup of coffee—blues lovers with an appetite for ambiance and atmosphere will certainly appreciate what Delmark is serving up and the diverse crowd they draw. Standing knee deep around the record bins, you’ll hear a cacophony of languages ranging from Brazilian and Dutch to the distinctive “dis, dems, and does” of Chicago.

While the brunch is a much-anticipated mainstay of Blues Fest weekend, Delmark is ready to close out the festival with a bang this year. After the final notes at Grant Park, the party moves south to Reggie’s Music Joint for the “Blues Fest Closing Night After Party.”

Yes, it might be tough to get motivated after three straight days of trekking around the festival, but this event will be well worth the Monday morning weariness. Beginning at 9:30 pm, the Guitars of Delmark will take the stage with a lineup consisting of Jimmy Johnson, Lurrie Bell, and Toronzo Cannon. You can get in for a song, too. Tickets in advance are $10 and $15 at the door. Reggie's is located at 2105 S. State Street.

Cannon is shooting out of the gate for both gigs as he is also one of the featured performers at the Blues Brunch. Mississippi Heat, Linsey Alexander, Mike Wheeler, Tail Dragger, Rockin’ Johnny, Dave Specter, Kate Moss and other special guests will be joining Cannon. Sadly, Eddie C. Campbell will not be cranking out his sizzling rendition of “Summertime” this year as he is still recovering from the effects of a stroke.

While Chess Records may have gotten more press for its influence on the Chicago blues scene, Delmark has also hit the mark with fans of both blues and jazz. It’s been billed as the country’s longest running independent label, although Koester himself claims that the distinction belongs to New Orleans’ based Jazzology.

First place or not, this Second City institution certainly deserves kudos for its long playing history in the face of downloads, digital music, and other threats to the once dominant record industry. So if you’re downtown for the 30th Annual Chicago Blues Festival, make sure to stop by and congratulate Koester and company at the Blues Brunch. And if you get a second wind, the after-party promises to be a wonderful way to close out a blues-fueled weekend.


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