“The Ray’s Music Exchange mural in Bronzeville that celebrated Black musicians and drew “Blues Brothers” fans from around the world for the past 40 years is no more, demolished with the building it was painted on after vandals set fires last month. There never was an actual store called Ray’s Music Exchange. The mural on the Prairie Avenue side of the building at 300 E. 47th St. was painted during the production of “The Blues Brothers” in 1979 and remained until last week, when May 31 fire damage to the building forced the city to demolish the empty store and two others attached to it. The building with the mural was actually home to pawnshop Shelly’s Loan & Jewelry from 1946 until about 18 months ago.”
“In a famous scene, the Blues Brothers visit Ray’s Music Exchange and talk to Ray Charles about an electric piano, prompting him to come out from behind the counter to play “Shake A Tail Feather” while people dance on the street in front of the mural. The dancers were all people from the neighborhood, the Shelly’s employees said. Ever since the movie was released, people from around the world would visit, some even “shaking their tailfeather” on 47th Street in front of the store, employees said.
“The mural was refurbished in 2000 but had faded by the demolition. It was the focus of a proposal by community groups looking to revamp it and use it as the anchor to include it in the 2020 Year of Chicago Music that was started earlier this year by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
“Bernard Loyd, founder and president of Urban Juncture, a Bronzeville business incubator, said the demolition signals more than just the loss of a building. ‘It’s a huge loss in respect to what the mural represented. Unfortunately, it is also a marker of how we are not invested in this culture that is so rich and has such a big place in this community,’ Loyd said, noting 50 years ago there were at least a dozen blues clubs along nearby 43rd Street.’We were working with Chicago Blues Revival and other partners to restore that mural and really celebrate blues across Bronzeville.’
“City historian Tim Samuelson said with the 40th anniversary of the movie this year, there were talks with star Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, brother of deceased star John Belushi, to come to Chicago to celebrate the movie and visit the mural site. That led to the realization no one is sure who the original artist is.
“‘They were going to come in, they were going to do different things around Chicago and were interested in visiting some of the movie sites,” Samuelson said. ‘They contacted me about it and the big question that came up was, ‘Who actually created the mural?’ It was a product of the movie studio’s art department, but there had to be an artist behind it. We came up with some possibilities, but most were dead and one who might have been involved was in poor health and couldn’t communicate. There could have been multiple players involved.’ (Chiarito, 6/16/20)
Read the full story and see all the photos at Block Club Chicago.
Iconic Ray’s Music Exchange Mural From ‘Blues Brothers’ Dance Scene Lost After Building Burns During Unrest; In the famous scene, the Blues Brothers visit Ray Charles, who plays “Shake A Tail Feather” while people dance in front of the mural, Bob Chiarito, Block Club Chicago, 6/16/20