It has long been one of the spiritual homes of the blues in America, and it can be said that it is a place where a unique type of blues music was born. In the 1920’s many African-Americans migrated to Chicago from the southern states, particularly the Mississippi Delta, and Maxwell Street was usually where they stopped. Here these itinerant blues artists would rub shoulders with established city musicians and gradually their various musical styles mingled to produce a sound that became known as ‘Chicago Blues’. One of the earliest Maxwell Street locals was Papa Charlie Jackson who recorded more nearly 80 songs in the late 1920’s. He teamed up with Big Bill Broonzy when he came to Chicago in 1920 and they began to play on Maxwell Street. Broonzy later became part of the Lester Melrose group of blues artists recording on the Bluebird label and would go on to help several younger musicians such as Memphis Slim and Muddy Waters.

Big Joe Williams
was another artist closely associated with the street and was the one who, perhaps, remained closest to his Delta roots. John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson, who was the principal harmonica player for Lester Melrose, often accompanied him on harp. Little Walter (Marion Walter Jacobs) also started his career on Maxwell Street. When Sonny Boy Williamson died Little Walter became the ranking harmonica player in Chicago when still a teenager. The music and special ambiance of ‘the street’ has continued to this day although the famous Maxwell Street market closed in 1994 to make way for urban re-development. One of the people making a major contribution to ensuring that the importance of this historical area of Chicago is not lost is Jimmie Lee Robinson. Born on Maxwell Street in 1931 and brought up in that neighbourhood, with contemporaries such as Freddy King, Jimmy Rogers and Earl Hooker, Robinson is one of the living legends of the street and has been a leading force in efforts to preserve the Maxwell Street neighbourhood.