Joliet: A Historical Prison and Rock and Roll History

 The first Illinois Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction was delayed because of the pandemic. When they rescheduled, I was ready to go experience this exciting night – and spend some time checking out the city of Joliet.

I took my friend Lisa along. It had been quite a while since we had traveled together, but we certainly had a lot of trips behind us.

Our first stop was at a place I’ve never been to in any city, a prison. We spent about two hours on a private tour exploring one of the most famous in the country. Old Joliet Prison, which was featured in the Blues Brothers movie.  


Given the importance of keeping a lot of the historical artifacts, the accessibility to every building wasn’t available to me. I still felt I got to see a lot from the outside in my scooter. I let Lisa do the deeper exploring and picture taking.

It was even more interesting to hear about how important these structures were to the development of the prison system in the state, and one might say to the United States. The first prisoners arrived at this facility in 1858 and it was a functioning place of incarceration until 2002.

We also learned about two books that tell a lot of the story, Joliet Prison Blues and Old Joliet Prison: When Convicts Wore Stripes, both by Amy Kinzer Steidinger. The boxes depict a lot of the treatment of prisoners, which was criticized in later years.

After we left the prison, we were more than ready for lunch and headed to downtown Joliet. Lunch was at Chevre Latin Café.

It was a nice day to sit out on the patio. The food was both excellent and unusual. We shared some empanadas, then Lisa had the Café Steak Bowl, and I had the Chicken Bowl with Plantains. We were too stuffed for dessert, but we ordered lattes and picked up Cheesecakes by James next door to bring back to our hotel. We settled on one cherry and one turtle.


Before we went to the hotel, we met up with some other journalists at the Bishop Hill Winery for tastings. We didn’t stay long because I was tired and wanted to put my feet up before the night’s festivities.

We quickly checked into Harrah’s Joliet Hotel. It was a nice hotel. It wasn’t quite like some of the previous Harrah’s properties I had stayed at, but had a few restaurants and a large casino. It was also within walking distance (in my case mobility scooter) of everything we would be going to that evening and the next day.

I always like a reason to get dressed up and I did so for the event, as did Lisa.  It was being held at the Rialto Theater, a beautiful and historic building in Joliet. The Illinois Hall of Fame was the brainchild of Ron Romero, the President & Founder of the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum on Route 66. He was (and is) determined to bring publicity to the huge collection of music that has come out of the state.

Many people don’t realize how many top performers come from Illinois and this first induction class was certainly a good sampling: Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Chicago, Buddy Guy, Muddy Water, Dick Biondi, Larry Lujack, Ides of March, The Buckinghams, WLS Radio, and Chess Records.


The show was phenomenal, with representation from all the Hall of Famers, including Kevin Cronin from REO, and the full bands of The Buckinghams and the Ides of March. The rest were video acceptances, and live tributes by those such as Blues legend John Primer.*

It was quite an evening. I never saw so many people standing and singing for so long. Everyone knew the songs and it was one big giant singalong, especially for moments such as The Buckinghams singing “Kind of A Drag.”

If I hadn’t been so tired from the long day, I would have loved to get to know some of the performers, but it would have to wait for the next one. Lisa and I headed back to the hotel. We hadn’t really had dinner in the rushed evening, but there was the cheesecake. Yes, both pieces were delicious.


*For more specifics on the concert, check out this story.

I was hosted on this trip, but opinions are my own. 


Popular posts from this blog

Denver Beer and Connecting with Friends

Last Day in Champagne-Robots & Bars in the Trees

My Thoughts as I Disembark the American Queen Steamboat Cruise