One club I enjoyed going to was the Washburne Lounge aka the Upstairs Lounge, at the corner of Hoyne & Washburne on the West Side. It was called the Upstairs Lounge because it had a very high ceiling and, when they added a second rest room, it was like a box that stuck out into the room from the wall but had its own ‘roof’ about seven feet above the floor. Therefore, there was about six feet between the roof of the rest room and the ceiling of the club. There was a ladder up to the roof of the rest room and that’s where the drums were set up —upstairs.

The band varied somewhat but it was generally Sam Johnson on drums and vocals, Roosevelt Bloomfield on bass and a guitarist. Sometimes the guitarist was Big Bad Ben Murphy, who also sang. Lester Dorsey, another drummer (who played on Jimmy Dawkins’ debut album on Delmark) would often be there, sitting in or just hanging out.

Every time I was there, about halfway through the night, the door would burst open and a harp player named Lester Davenport (who later had albums released on Delmark and Earwig) would burst in, point at Lester Dorsey and yell “You stole my name; you stole my name!”, and then pretend to charge at Lester Dorsey. Patrons would leap up and grab him, yelling “Hold him. It’s Mad Dog Lester!” (Mad Dog Lester became his nickname). This happened regularly every week, and it never ceased to be hilarious to everyone in the club.

I was in the club once when a small man with a twisted arm came up to me and introduced himself as Little Willie Foster. I said “Little Willie Foster? The man who cut “Falling Rain Blues” (a wonderful slice of raw Chicago blues released in 1955)? And he burst into the song, just standing there at my table, sounding just like the vocal on the original record. He left the club without performing and I never saw him again. (Note: Little Willie Foster is not the same man as Willie Foster, the Mississippi harmonica player).

Bruce Iglauer