The Green Mill

Season: One

Episode: Six

Date: May 2016

For nearly 110 years, Chicago has been home to one of the world’s oldest and greatest living shrines to jazz, the Green Mill. Located in Chicago’s historic Uptown neighborhood, it sits between the Aragon Ballroom, the Riviera and the long shuttered Uptown Theatre—but stands apart from any other jazz club in the world.

There is no music as rich, as expressive or as difficult to define as jazz. It is deeply personal, yet played to be heard and affect the listener. It has attitude. It is often ostentatious, but just as often, sullen and sentimental. From ragtime to gypsy, traditional to avant, big band to bebop, it is steeped in as many different traditions as layers of improvisation. Jazz is deeply complex, totally original and altogether timeless.

The Green Mill is a classic, where both jazz and Prohibition history know no equal, in Chicago, or anywhere else in the world. Legends such as Billie Holiday, Al Jolson, Von Freeman, Franz Jackson, Wilbur Campbell, and Clifford Jordan have all played its hallowed ground. Here their legacy lives on in the weathered hands of seasoned masters, and new generations of young hip virtuosos leaving their mark on the club’s rich history.

That history runs deep. The Green Mill first opened its doors in 1907 as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse, a bar and beer garden for mourners from the nearby Graceland and Saint Boniface cemeteries. In 1910, the bar was sold to a local real estate developer who renamed it the Green Mill Gardens—in homage to Paris’ famous “Red Mill,” The Moulin Rouge—where it soon became the epicenter for Chicago’s pre-Prohibition entertainment and boozing.