The address was 3503 S. State St., but Mezz Mezzrow thought he was in heaven when he met Sidney Bechet at the Deluxe Café.

White and in love with the music born in Black communities in Louisiana, Mezzrow was transfixed by the saxophone playing of Bechet, a jazz musician from New Orleans.

“His slurs and moans and his true conception of harmony were wonderful,” Mezzrow recalled. “Later he explained to me that his tonal inflections were suggested by the moo-cow and the barnyard.”

What could Mezzrow make of that bucolic imagery? He was from Humboldt Park, where the clanging of streetcars echoed off two-flats and rang through empty lots.

Bechet was intensely aware of the importance of music to Black culture, something he noted in his memoir, “Treat it Gentle.”

“You know, the Negro doesn’t want to cling to music,” Bechet explained. “But if you have a feeling for the music, you can understand him and that’s why he keeps it so important to himself.”

Mezzrow embraced that idea more than most white musicians of the era. “When he fell through the Mason-Dixon Line he just kept going,” said Eddie Condon, a white guitar player in 1920s dance bands.

Mezzrow married a Black woman. Convicted of possession of marijuana, he asked to be assigned to the Black cellblock of a New York prison. “I’m colored even if I don’t look it,” he told the assistant warden.

“I guess we can arrange that,” the official replied. “We need a good leader for our band.”

A clarinet player, Mezzrow and his idol often performed together, and cut some 50 records as the Mezzrow-Bechet Quintet. He founded King Jazz Records for Black musicians ignored or mistreated by the major labels. A 1946 Tribune review of his autobiography “Really The Blues,” said: “He became a leading figure in the jazz world of Chicago during the days when Chicago was distorting the Negro’s concept to something quite different.”

The Tribune largely ignored the rise of Black jazz and blues music in Chicago from the Jazz Age through the 1940s and beyond. Bechet’s name rarely appeared, for example, as the paper instead wrote about white performers such as Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman and the Original Dixieland Band. This happened even as the contributions of Black musicians were recognized and lauded by the larger musical world.

“The future (music) of this country must be founded upon what are called Negro melodies,” said Antonin Dvorak, a Czech composer who taught at the National Conservatory of Music in New York. “These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil.”

Tribune readers weren’t alone in being oblivious to the arrival of the blues. In 1964, when the Beatles first toured the U.S., they were asked what musicians they wanted to see. They replied Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. Where is that, a reporter asked?

“You Americans don’t seem to know your most famous citizens,” the Beatles observed.

In 1941, the folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Waters singing a lovelorn song that references “riding the blinds,” a dangerous practice by hoboes of perching between cars on a moving train:

Well, I’m leaving this morning

If I have to ride the blinds

I feel mistreated girl

You know now, I don’t mind dyin.

“Here was a poem as artful, as carefully structured as an eighteenth century love lyric, yet marvelously shaped for singing,” Lomax recalled in “The Land Where the Blues Began,” his memoir of lugging 300 pounds of recording apparatus through Mississippi.

Blues songs tell stories, and a recurrent theme is deprivation: a loved one’s betrayal, denial of voting rights, economic opportunity, and by lynch mobs, even the right to live.

In the 1930s, myriad Blacks moved north, only to find they hadn’t escaped Jim Crow. Their disappointment made the blues as poignant in Chicago’s ghetto as in Mississippi’s cotton fields.

The “Mecca Flat Blues” is about an apartment building on the stretch of South State Street where Mezzrow met Bechet. Constructed as luxury accommodations for visitors to the 1893 World’s Fair, the Mecca was cut up into tiny flats for African Americans.

Muddy Waters moved to Chicago in 1943. By 1964, when the Beatles proclaimed him a famous American, Waters name had rarely appeared in the Tribune. One mention noted a club date; another reported the shooting of his sideman.

Other blues luminaries were similarly ignored, among them Little Walter, who by cupping his harmonica and a microphone found a way to blast out the blues just as Bechet heralded jazz with a saxophone; and Howlin’ Wolf, whose booming voice won him a European appearance with the American Folk Music Festival the year the Beatles were in the U.S.

They and other Chicago blues artists wrote a redemption of Dvorak’s prophecy. Their workshops were off the Tribune’s radar: Waters performed on Maxwell Street, his electric guitar powered by an extension cord dangling from a second-story window.

Waters would be singing, “I Just Want To Make Love to You.” Nearby pushcarts were loaded with secondhand goods. Vendors’ hot dogs and Polish sausages perfumed the air. But people danced to Waters’ beat, as if hearing it in a fancy ballroom.

“My race, their music,” Bechet once said, “it’s their way of giving you something, of showing you how to be happy.”

Blues were about a rough life that Chicago’s audiences and singers shared, as guitar player Lucy Gibson recalled of an evening at Silvio’s, a West Side tavern. An angry girlfriend accosted Howlin’ Wolf, who was performing.

“She struck him in the leg with a butcher knife!” Gibson said. “And he kept on singin’, and went right out the door to the hospital, and never said a word!”

Willie Dixon wrote many of Wolf and Waters’ songs plus myriad more blues standards, as a report of his 1992 funeral observed.

“A horse-drawn hearse carried Willie Dixon on his final tour of the neighborhood that lived his blues,” the Tribune wrote. “And for one last time he transformed the pain of its streets into a celebration fueled by the joy of his music.”

The 6-foot, 6 double-bass player had been virtually unknown to Tribune readers before becoming house accompanist at the Gate of Horn on the Near North Side, where he provided rhythm for folk singers. The nightclub’s 1956 opening quickly showed that white performers and folkies were beginning to listen to Black blues.

In 1962, when the Rolling Stones got their first gig and had to come up with a name, they took it from Waters’ 1950 record, “Rollin’ Stone.” In I981, the Stones demonstrated their debt to Waters with a joint appearance at the Checkerboard Lounge on East 43rd Street.

Bechet had hoped for a similar acknowledgment ever since hearing Negro spirituals sung by white vocalists on New Orleans’ excursion boats that wouldn’t employ Black performers.

Thinking himself forgotten, Bechet went to Paris in 1951 and discovered he still had fans there. “America had just about forgotten about jazz until Europe went all crazy for it,” Bechet recalled.

In France, Bechet reconnected with Mezzrow. The two had an off-and-on relationship, as the prickly Bechet often questioned Mezzrow’s fiscal integrity. But Mezzrow defended Bechet when critics wrote that he was past his prime.

“There are plenty of people who think Bechet is simply marking time,” said Mezzrow. “But you know I think it is playing with the French rhythm sections who don’t push him enough.”

At Bechet’s 1959 funeral, his widow decreed there would be no jazz band as there had been at their wedding, eight years earlier.

The Tribune reported that event under a headline: “Negro Musician To Wed An Old German Flame.” The story noted that 200 musicians would march through the streets of a resort on the French Riviera. It estimated the bride to be 10 years younger than Bechet, explaining: “He was born in New Orleans when no one bothered about birth certificates.”

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