Chicago’s West Side has a deeply-rooted history of blues and soul music. What if we could promote it to help develop a local tourism industry?

A public discussion during Chicago Blues Festival week aims to kick off a dialog on how the neighborhoods of Austin, North Lawndale, and Garfield Park could benefit economically from promoting their home-grown blues.  Travel agent Crystal Dyer is hosting the free program Wednesday June 7 from 6 to 8 p.m at Gone Again Tours, 5940 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago IL 60651.

 Chicago area heritage musicians still play today, often in obscure holes-in-the-wall for very little money, competing for limited spots in downtown clubs, or exporting their skills overseas.  At home, blues is an undervalued cultural asset.  Crain’s business magazine in January pointed out the city is losing money for failure to promote it.


On a panel to introduce various sides of the subject are:

State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, Vice Chair of Tourism and Hospitality Committee, IL House of Representatives:  Economic overview of Chicago area neighborhood tourism.

—Crystal Dyer, travel agent for 18 years and owner of Gone Again Travel & Tours: Current practices in tourism marketing.

Larry Taylor, West Side blues bandleader, singer and drummer: Values of blues music and the ground-level economics of musicians’ lives 

—Rickie Brown, West Side Historical Preservation Society: Ideas for collecting and displaying West Side history 

Dr. Janice Monti, retiring Sociology Dept. chair at Dominican University, who has hosted six blues symposia and has led blues tours to the Deep South: Reaching blues tourists 

Bonni McKeown, author of the Austin Weekly News blog “West Side Blues” and producer of the feature movie-in-progress, “The Rhythm and the Blues”


The program June 7 is free and open to the public.  Light refreshments available. The Gone Again travel agency store is just across Austin Ave. from Oak Park, less than a block from the Austin and Chicago Avenue bus stops.


CONTACT: Crystal Dyer,   773-417-8808

or Bonni McKeown,   773-209-4712


"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years.  She has led classes for young and old on...