The Checkerboard Lounge on Chicago’s South Side was a blues institution. Originally located in a tough part of town on 43rd Street, in 2005 it moved to the more upscale Hyde Park area of the city.
The club opened in 1972, with Buddy Guy as its first act, and on November 22, 1981, it hosted its most famous night when Muddy Waters and his band were joined by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Ian Stewart from the Rolling Stones, along with Buddy Guy, Blues harmonica legend Junior Wells, and guitarist Lefty Dizz for a night of pure blues.
The Stones were on tour in the US and having played St. Paul, Minnesota the previous night, they were in Chicago to play three shows at Rosemont Horizon beginning on November 23. Instead of having a night off, they went to the Checkerboard Lounge to pay homage to the man who had given them their name and inspired them as teenagers.
According to L.C. Thurman, the former owner of the Checkerboard Lounge, “A week before the Rolling Stones came to town, their manager came to check out the place. He told me, ‘The Stones want to do a show here with Muddy Waters.’ He gave me $500, and that’s how I knew he was for real.” The day before the gig Buddy and Junior were asked to play. Despite the small stage and the low-rent PA, the night proved to be quite something.
It was to be the only time that the Stones ever played on stage with Muddy, and it was fitting that it was in Chicago; Muddy’s home for decades. The Stones joined Muddy onstage during “Baby Please Don’t Go.” They then played “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Long Distance Call,” and “Mannish Boy,” before the evening came to a close with “Champagne & Reefer.” Any stage that has Buddy, Keith, Ronnie, and Muddy playing guitar on it is hallowed ground.
As a footnote, in September 2015, the club that called itself “The Home of The Blues” shut its doors for the last time. Among others that had played the club were Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chuck Berry, and Robert Plant.
This article is being republished today in celebration of the anniversary of the show. Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones: Live at the Checkerboard Lounge DVD can be bought here.