The conclusion to John Scales’ life was pretty blue. In a more expressive sense, the blues are alive and well at 840 Hutchinson.
(Dr. Seuss house quote)
That’s Terry. He’s the current homeowner, a Grammy award-winning songwriter, and one of the coolest, most eccentric guys I’ve had the opportunity to meet. He oozes the Blueses. He helped Blues legend - Muddy Waters - put the Unk in Funk
(Unk in Funk song)
Now it’s one thing to read about a certain home through newspaper articles, but its another to get it first-hand, go inside the homes and speak with homeowners. But how? I decided to write a letter, state my case, and ask if they wanna sit down and talk about their home. I put that letter in every mailbox along Hutchinson Street. Luckily, Terry was kind enough to reply.
He grew up on the west side back in the 60s at the corner of Farragut and California. Back then, there weren’t any video games and only a couple TV channels. So for fun, him and his childhood friends rode their bikes to the lake. They’d usually go swimming at Foster Beach, but Terry always made sure he rode past his favorite house, never imagining that one day he’d own it.
I asked him what it was like in Uptown back in the day. He mentions the first job he had working across from the Aragon Ballroom. Keep in mind, when listening to this next bit, Terry is only 12 years old.
(Job at Parking garage)
He graduated from the University of Illinois. I asked him what he went to school for, he said (“For staying out of Vietnam” quote *found in beginning of ‘College’ clip*) He majored in Communications and Advertising. After graduating, he got a job scripting commercials for brands like Charlie the Tuna, Jolly Green Giant, Morris the Cat, Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup, and Kleenex Tissues.
Then he moved to San Francisco. He caught his big break and started writing Levi’s commercials. Then he started writing music for those ads. Some of you might remember catchy radio hits like this...(Chambers Brothers - Levi’s Cords) Why can’t we still have jingles like that? I think Terry needs to get his old gig back. Bring some relief to the overly obnoxious radio commercials nowadays.
(:44-1:00 into College clip - Already written 3 songs for Muddy)
22 years old! And working with one of the most iconic Blues legends ever. Shortly thereafter, he found George Thorogood playing for drinks at a Blues bar in Boston. Terry loaned George the money to buy his first electric guitar. He also loaned him his couch to live on for the whole summer. George and Terry ended up writing the Boston Celtics basketball fight song. It was the first ever vinyl recording of George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
(Boston Celtics fight song)
Muddy Waters was Terry’s biggest inspiration. He adored him. (College/LA/Muddy 2:04-2:28 mark)
Guys like Muddy, Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon, they laid the groundwork for bands like the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones. Mick Jaegger and Keith Richards were obviously huge admirers. After performing at Soldier Field in 1978 they played with Muddy at a club called the Quiet Knight, located right off the Belmont red line stop. I mean, Buddy Guy opened for the Rolling Stones this summer. They played Champagne and Reefer together, a song written by Muddy. Bands like the Rolling Stones are icons, but theyre humble enough to give credit where credit is due. Despite all of this, guys like Muddy Waters aren’t household names.
(College/Muddy clip 2:28-3:19)
In this next clip, Terry’s is flipping through his book titled ‘In The Belly of the Blues’. The book contains never before seen photos Terry took throughout his career when he hung out with legends.
(1:16 - 2:03 College clip - Muddy Waters)
(1:48 Play ‘Electric Man’ by Muddy Waters starting :15 and going til :56)
(Bus Driver :30 til :55)
I then asked him what Muddy Waters was like and if he got the recognition he deserved..
(College clip 2:08-3:22)
What I noticed after sitting down with Terry is how passionate he is when talking about Blues legends, even when a listener like myself is some nobody with no business hearing his stories. But that’s the thing, as many times as he’s told these stories over the past forty years, he still tells them with the same vigor as if he went to that backstage bathroom yesterday.
I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never met a person that’s done so much with their life so far..
(Terry’s Accolades clip) He is also a screenwriter and playwright with many of his topics dealing with Civil rights. He taught a class about writing for television at Northwestern. He’s dipped his hand in soooo many areas that I had one last question to ask him...
(What don’t you do? *College/Muddy clip* ‘Vote Republican’ 3:20-end)
I’d like to thank Terry Abrahamson for inviting me into his one-of-a-kind home and sharing with me stories only he could tell. Your hospitality was second-to-none. I didn’t expect the episode to go this route. I was hoping for little tidbits of the home I could scrounge together and hope for the best. But interviewing Terry about his past and his connection with the home made it that more entertaining to listen to. I hope you all feel the same.
I’d also like to thank Chicago Public Library for their online resources to Chicago Tribune newspaper archives. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to share these facts and crazy tales about 840 Hutchinson.
I’d like to thank Terry Abrahamson for inviting me into his one-of-a-kind home and sharing with me stories only he could tell. Your hospitality was second-to-none. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the episode to go this route. I thought I’d get little tidbits of the home and hope to piece an episode together. Luckily, Terry’s colorful nature and his connection to his home made the episode that much more entertaining.
The amount of knowledge your neighbors have on their own homes is astounding. What I learned: All you have to do is go out there and ask. Usually they’ll be like Terry: one who’s willing to open their door, hand you a beer, and share their spiel. All you have to do is try, and I promise itll make you appreciate Chicago that much more.
If These Walls Could Talk, You Will Want to Listen