Chicago’s Alligator Records celebrates 50 years of blues

Chicago Scene

Chicago’s Alligator Records is known throughout the music world.

Rolling Stone magazine called it “prestigious” and “scrappy” and “home to some of the world’s foremost blues and roots rock talent … and is regarded by fans and the media alike as the top contemporary blues record label in the world.” 

But it’s more than a record label, it’s family. 

Founder Bruce Iglauer beams with pride in reflecting on what has been an amazing 50 years in Chicago blues. And he wasn’t going to let a pandemic dampen the celebration.

“These people are my family. I haven’t seen them in almost a year,” he said. 

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A diner in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood among two friends before the pandemic was the jump started talk of a celebration. Governors State University Center for the Performing Arts’ Director Lana Rogachevskaya and Iglauer broke bread and explored how to celebrate the organizations’ upcoming respective birthdays.  (The Center for Performing Arts marks its 25th anniversary season at the same time Alligator Records hits 50).

“Blues is a feeling (and) a musical genre with origins in American slavery and Jim Crow. Its continued popularity is in its universal appeal,” Rogachevskaya said. “Communally held and lived through, blues uplifts, nourishes, and sustains the human soul.  ‘Sweet Home Chicago Blues’ participants will feel the healing power of blues sounds and stories while being together.”

This conversation reemerged in 2020 with an additional goal of employing Chicago artists while serving blues fans from all over the globe. 

The Center for Performing Arts and Alligator Records are celebrating with an online streaming video concert starring four of the label’s most popular artists.

Legendary harmonica player Billy Branch returns to the Center for the third time with his band The Sons of Blues. In addition, “Sweet Home Chicago – An Online Blues Celebration” will feature three special guests; Grammy-nominated vocalist Shemekia Copeland, slide guitar master Lil’ Ed Williams, and beloved Chicago blues guitarist and songwriter Toronzo Cannon. The Sons of Blues will serve as the house band for the show, backing each of the headliners.

Iglauer will serve as emcee, sharing stories about the label’s history.

This once-in-a-lifetime concert, recorded on the Center’s stage to the empty 1,171-seat house, and made it’s debut as a ticketed streaming event on March 13 at 7 p.m. Ticket holders will have the opportunity to purchase through March 29 and will be able to access the concert on demand through April 11.

For tickets and more information, go to The event will stream on the Center’s YouTube channel:


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