Urban Djin: Tales From Maxwell Street – Vanities

Urban Djin played for Buddy Guy’s Legends for over 7 years, delighting our lunch crowds with a shining smile and a one of a kind sound. Unlike other musicians he would walk amongst the tables in his classic red cowboy garb enjoying the interaction of the guests. He was one of a kind performer, person, and friend, we miss his joy at Legends everyday and no matter where ever he travels he has a home here.

The following is a collection of experiences Urban had while living in Maxwell street from 1982 to 1996. Maxwell Street was a community unlike any other made up of musicians, food vendors and more, you could find just about anything there. It was the heart and hub of Chicago blues, hosting many of the greatest musicians to ever live. Whatever Maxwell Street became in its heyday it was a mecca of wonder that will never replaced but it will always be remembered.

(Continued from Gabriel, Blow Your Horn)

Vanity of Vanities!  All is Vanity!

But, did I ever lose a lot that day! Let me tell you about some of the cool stuff that was in that huge closet that went down with the front third of the building.  I must have had close to a hundred pairs of shoes. At least a dozen suits. Racks of vintage shirts and pants in an astounding array of colors and styles. Long sleeves, short sleeves, prints, weaves, solids. Western wear? You bet!  There was even an outrageous tuxedo from the forties that fit perfectly. I had options for every conceivable occasion. Was I into shopping? No, not at all. I was never going to buy anything other than socks and underwear for the rest of my life, and it had all been free. You see, I had found the vintage clothing mother-lode.

Maxwell Street had once been a garment district, among other things. My loft had been a sweat shop. When I moved in there were still fixtures hanging from the ceiling above where the sewing machines had been.  When I first explored the unlocked fourth and top floor I thought it was a crawl space with a bunch of old clothes laying around and spilling down the stairs. In truth it had twelve foot ceilings and an eight foot tall pile of old clothes and shoes over the entire 5,000 square feet. Hundreds of thousands of articles of clothing from the thirties through the sixties. Many tens of thousands of shoes.  Much of it had dry rot, or was moth eaten, or damaged in some fashion. Many of the shoes were impossible to match up with a partner.  But much of it was perfect or easily repaired.  And many of the shoes were tied to their mates by the laces.

I called in my friends Mickey and Brenda who had a little resale shop. Veteran rag pickers, they spent almost a month sifting through it all.  Must’ve hauled out five or six hundred garbage bags full of every imaginable type of garment. And everything they found that looked like it might fit me went into a pile for my inspection. There was so much that I had to be very selective. And I still needed to build a 400 square foot closet with many hanger poles just to store it all.  Truly an embarrassment of riches!  And after it was cleared of all that was salvageable, that fourth floor made the best haunted house for Halloween parties. The runaway teenagers who stayed at the Max Works had a blast being zombies and goblins and with a little careful lighting it really looked spooky. And there were real pigeon and rat skeletons! And the building was actually haunted, but that’s another story.

And it all came crashing down on that February morning. End of an era. Along with the clothes I lost some musical instruments and gear, a couple of steamer trunks full of bolts of extraordinary fabric from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. (Oh! The cowboy suits I would have had made!) and all sorts of other cool stuff that one only accumulates by virtue of living in the middle of a giant flea market. A city bulldozer pushed all the debris into big piles and then loaded the piles into dumpsters. But for four years I had been quite the clotheshorse. I even wore something stylish when I went to the grocery store or did my laundry. Now I can’t be bothered, except when I’m performing. There’s just no way I can recapture the sartorial glory of those days. So I don’t even try.

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BG is a free magazine bringing you stories about Buddy Guy's Legends, blues music, and music generally. Please direct submissions to buddyguyslegends@gmail.com for consideration.

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BGadmin

BGadmin

BG is a free magazine bringing you stories about Buddy Guy's Legends, blues music, and music generally. Please direct submissions to buddyguyslegends@gmail.com for consideration.