Chicago Jazz and Dance History
Chicago was the hotspot for Jazz back in the day- No doubt about it.
Chicago boasted over 3 dozen ballrooms and countless dance halls, making it inedibly recognized as a leader in the Jazz music and dance “craze” from the 1920s onward.
The Aragon Ballroom was an immediate success and remained a popular Chicago attraction throughout the 1940s. The Aragon's proximity to the Chicago 'L' (elevated railway) train provided patrons with easy access, and often crowds in excess of 18,000 would attend during each six-day business week. Each night, powerhouse radio station WGN broadcast an hour-long program from the hall to audiences throughout the Midwestern United States and Canada.
The sister ballroom to the Aragon, perhaps the most elegant of Chicago's ballrooms, the Trianon, even had its own station, WMBB, reportedly for World's Most Beautiful Ballroom.
According to legend, the secret tunnels under the nearby Green Mill bar, a Prohibition-era hangout of Al Capone, lead to the Aragon's basement.
Edgewater Beach Hotel's Beachwalk, on the North Side. Before Lake Shore Drive was extended north of Foster Avenue in the 1950s, the hotel sat on lakefront property. Patrons could kick off their shoes and dance into the surf.
The hotel was known for hosting big bands such as those of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Xavier Cugat, and Wayne King, which were also broadcast on the hotel's own radio station, a precursor to WGN with the call letters WEBH.
The Savoy Ballroom in Chicago, United States was opened on Thanksgiving Eve, November 23, 1927 at 4733 South Parkway. Originally featured primarily Jazz artists, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, and Woody Herman.From 1927 until 1940, there was continuous music supplied by two bands per night. When one band took a break, the other would go on. During these years, the Savoy was open seven days a week. Although most of the Savoy's patrons were black, growing numbers of white Chicagoans visited the Savoy.
Great musical stars made their homes in Chicago, two of the earliest and most notable being Louis Armstrong and King Oliver. Both were instrumental in putting Chicago on the Jazz map, and the others soon followed.