You're just as likely to see men topping off their suspender-and-fur-coat regalia with Fedoras as you are to spot clubgoers sporting White Sox caps at this South Side blues club. Ranging from R&B to reggae to pure blues, the sounds get bigger throughout the night as unexpected guest musicians are invited to "sit in" for a few numbers.
A real live juke joint, Lee's Unleaded Blues resides near virtually nothing, and for those who rarely tread on South Side territory, it's a trek and then some just getting there. But slide into the free parking lot directly behind the club, roll your fine self in by 8:30 p.m., and you're assured cushy seating and a good view of the stage with no cover charge to speak of (though there's an easy-to-fulfill two-drink minimum). While there's a good amount of swank and sass ricocheting between the black-painted and mirror-adorned walls and deep red carpeting, there's a sense of down-home familiarity wafting in the air. Find the current owner, Stanley Davis, cozying up to the bar on any given night. He says his "girls" make every drink by hand and the well-seasoned doorman is always looking out for you.
The crowd, which ranges from University of Chicago students to retired folk, shows its appreciation with hip shaking and shimmying, especially when the singers mingle on the floor mid-performance. The crowd really gets going on Thursdays, Davis says, when two R&B and blues singers reveal their stripes as a burlesque dancer and a body contortionist.
About 30-years-old (including the days the club was know as Queen Bee's) and going strong, Lee's Unleaded is no secret to well-informed international travelers and music-loving Chicagoans; the entryway boasts a showcase of framed articles that feature Lee's, including "National Geographic" and "Men's Journal."
Centerstage Reviewer: Jessica Herman