Today started out with packing up for the long ride home but first we had a couple of things on our agenda. Navy Pier was first up. It’s a 3,300-foot-long pier housing over fifty acres of parks, shops, gardens, attractions and experiences. A Rolling Stones Exhibit attracted some, the giant 40 gondola Ferris Wheel gave others one of the best views of the city while others shopped and enjoyed the first sunny day of our trip. With a devious plan to tire everyone out for the long bus-ride home, we couldn’t see all of it but between the 46 of us, we gave it a darn good try!
Our last visit of the trip was to Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven. Chess Records produced and released the music of artists like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Etta James among others. The Stones even recorded at Chess Records at least twice. Willie Dixon, who went to work for Chess in 1952, eventually took over from founders Leonard and Phil Chess and established the Blues Heaven Foundation for young musicians. Following Willie’s death, his widow Marie purchased the current location and opened it as the home to the Foundation in 1997. Marie passed in November but the Foundation lives on. Today Willie’s grandson, Keith Nelson Dixon, gave us a great tour and entertained our students with stories of the artists who have come through Chess Studios. The next time you’re visiting the SHDHS Music Room, look up on the walls for a Chess Studios poster that Keith signed for us.
Many thanks to our driver, Jacques, who battled some challenging traffic every day to get us where we needed to be.