This week in history: Duke Ellington surprises Chicagoans with a free concert

Ellington, born April 29, 1899, made train delays pleasant for Loop riders on July 11, 1973, when he played a free concert in First National Bank plaza.

SHARE This week in history: Duke Ellington surprises Chicagoans with a free concert
Duke Ellington plays a free concert in Chicago’s Loop on July 11, 1973.

The caption of this photo from Duke Ellington’s concert reads, “The luckiest of Ellington fans among the thousands in First National Plaza Wednesday reach out to shake hands with the Duke.”

Chicago Daily News

As reported in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Imagine waiting on the Washington/Wells “L” platform and hearing the jazzy sounds of “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” drifting over the rush-hour traffic below.

That was the reality for Chicagoans in 1973 when Duke Ellington, who celebrated his birthday this week, played a free concert on July 11, 1973 for over a thousand people in the First National Bank plaza in the Loop.

Ellington, “in rare whimsical form” according to reporter Ray Townley, played an hour-and-a-half set of his favorites that “literally dripped with nostalgia.” The band wasted no time getting the crowd up and moving.

This Week in History sign-up

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Want more “This Week In History” content delivered to your inbox? Sign up for our Afternoon Edition newsletter for a rundown of the day’s biggest stories every weekday and a deep-dive into Chicago history every Saturday.

“A number of people even jumped up on the stage to demonstrate their funky two-stepping before the approving eye of the Duke,” Townley wrote.

At one point, Ellington remarked to the crowd, “Do you know, ladies and gentlemen, that the First National Bank is affording me a chance to indulge in my mistress?”

Ellington paused for a moment to let the crowd “conjure up the wildest scandals,” then he grinned.

“Music...” he said. “Music is my mistress.”

The Latest
With the 11-inning victory, the Cubs are now 5-11 in extra-inning games.
“Regardless of whether you’re going back-to-back or winning a championship, it takes a different mentality each time and the thought that it’s an entirely different season,” Candace Parker said.
Steele said he hopes to feel comfortable with a “bona fide” third pitch by next season.
Gavin Sheets’ two-run pinch double in the seventh and Yoan Moncada’s go-ahead single in the eighth propelled the Sox to their fifth victory in a row.