After spreading from the South in the 1910s, Chicago became the nation’s jazz center in the ‘20s. Most live music was found in South Side African-American clubs between 31st and 39th streets on State Street-- a half-mile strip known as “The Stroll.” The Apex Club, Dreamland Café, Plantation Café and Royal Garden showcased performers like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Fletcher Henderson and Earl Hines, later joined by the Loop’s Moulin Rouge Café and the College Inn. Among other jazz stars of the ‘20s was a group from Austin High School that began playing a type of improvisation known as “Chicago style” jazz. One Austin High group member, Benny Goodman, came from an impoverished immigrant family of 12, but reached jazz stardom and was dubbed “the King of Swing” less than a decade later.
Open since 1907, the Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway) is one of Chicago’s oldest existing jazz clubs and still draws a nightly crowd. In the early days, silent movie stars such as Wallace Beery and “Bronco Billy” Anderson, who made Western films on Chicago’s North Side, frequented the Green Mill. Over the years, performers have included comic Joe E. Lewis and Louis Armstrong. Jazz, from traditional to modern, can be heard today at Andy’s (11 E. Hubbard), known for its music at lunch, cocktail hour and late night. Other jazz establishments include The Velvet Lounge (67 E. Cermak), Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western), Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland) and the Backroom (1007 N. Rush).