The city of Houston has a rich blues history, but that doesn’t mean the good times are only in the past.
New Orleans is the city of jazz. Atlanta owns hip hop. But Houston is filled with blues history. Though not always thought of as a musical hub, visitors to the city will find it teeming with blues culture, past and present. Travelers can visit historic blues landmarks, like Dowling street, and experience blues music as it lives today in bars, clubs, and other venues across the city.
The blues have always been the music of the South. Rich with emotion and soul, blues music celebrates the darker side of life. One of the most popular musicians in the heyday of blues in Houston was Lightnin’ Hopkins. Self-taught and famous for his distinct style, Hopkins recorded with many Texas blues labels in the 40’s and 50’s. But his home base was always Dowling street in the Third Ward of Houston. Today, communities like the Houston Blues Museum and the Houston Blues Society honor musicians like Hopkins and many more by working to preserve the city’s blues history.
Speckled across Houston’s Third and Fifth Wards, many of the once-popular blues joints of the mid-1900’s are now simply memories. Miss Ann’s Playpen, Etta’s Lounge, Second Shady’s Playhouse, and El Dorado Ballroom are places that once welcomed the time’s greatest blues musicians and their fans, hungry for a good time. While these spots are no longer the blues and jazz joints they used to be, Houston still has a lot to offer blues fans looking for fun in the city.
Playing the blues in a historic venue in Houston
The blues aren’t just a thing of the past. You can still experience the soulful sound of the blues in Houston, as long as you know where to go. Here are four awesome clubs, pubs, and lounges to get a taste of real Houston blues:
If you’re looking to get down to the blues any night of the week, Shakespeare’s Pub is your go-to spot. This local dive bar serves up major blues talent every night and cheap but tasty beer. The best part? No cover charge.
This bar and venue is an authentic piece of Houston— funky, cozy, and filled with character. Come for the music, stay for the company.
On Dowling street and close to where Lightnin’ Hopkins used to spend his days, this chill lounge offers live blues and great atmosphere. The drinks are affordable and you’ll be sure to get a lively Houston welcome. Be prepared to stay out late if you go to D Bar! You might not want to leave.
The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club
This club is a quintessential Houston spot to see real blues music today. Historic but definitely not stuffy, The Big Easy is one of the best places to see some no-nonsense blues. The cover is one of the lowest you’ll find, and the acts that come through are unmissable. It’s a classic dive bar where locals and visitors alike can get together and enjoy great music. If you only go to one bar in Houston for music, make it The Big Easy.