Scenes from the Road

Blues Bus, Chicago's Maxwell Street, 1992

This photo was taken in 1992 on Maxwell Street in Chicago. This may be a familiar sight to many. It's the famous Blues Bus. Painted blue, it was operated each weekend at the Maxwell Street Market in the 1980s and 1990s by a couple of old gentlemen from Mississippi. They sold crusty blues tapes by everyone imaginable -- from Isaac Hayes to Muddy Waters, from Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker to Poonanny.

The tapes cost around $3 each or, as was the Maxwell Street custom, you could probably weasel three tapes for something like six bucks. The tapes never lasted too long though, because they spent the years in the searing Chicago heat or the freezing cold. Then, at the market on weekends, they were subjected to the vagaries of the weather outdoors -- blazing sun one minute, a downpour the next. The tinny blues music the bus' proprietors loved could be heard playing from blocks around, blaring from cheap, blown-out speakers inside.

I had occasion to venture aboard this incredible vessel one time when no one was around and it was absolutely filthy and disorganized in there. I fell through the rusty floor near the back and had a hard time finally getting out. I never went back inside.

--Photo and story by Steve Sharp

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