Dr. Lenin “Doc” Pellegrino, founder and proprietor of Kingston Mines, the city’s largest and oldest continuously operating blues club, died Thursday at age 92, his family said.
“Dad now belongs to ages . . . Farewell sweet prince,” his son, Frank Pellegrino, posted on Facebook.
Dr. Pellegrino was a physician practicing on the West Side in 1972 when he acquired the adjoining cafe of the one-time Kingston Mines Theatre Co. in Lincoln Park in 1972, and then moved it to its current location at 2548 N. Halsted, fashioning it into the famed blues club.
Kingston Mines’ two stages have hosted such blues greats as Magic Slim, Koko Taylor, Carl Weathersby and Sugar Blue, as well as Billy Branch, Junior Wells, Mike Wheeler, Joanna Connor and many more.
The bands knew Dr. Pellegrino to be a champion of the genre, helping to keep the blues’ hallowed Chicago status alive. Tributes to the man whose bar was synonymous with the Chicago blues scene poured in on Kingston Mines’ Facebook page.
“He was always so kind to the musicians, everyone on the staff, as well as guests that would come and visit his amazing club,” former employee Jeannie Oakes wrote. “I met some of my closest and dearest friends while working at Kingston Mines, and was introduced to the greatest music and musicians on earth because of his vision.”
His daughter Lisa Pellegrino, who manages Kingston Mines, said he was “a civil rights worker, a doctor, a blues lover . . . and a very liberal person.
“He is survived by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews,” she said. “He will be missed and he will miss being with us.”
Dr. Pellegrino was a World War II 10th Mountain Division ski trooper, and a Purple Heart recipient, his family said.
He continued to live above the club as he got up in years, occasionally coming down in his wheelchair, and he treated all his musicians and guests like family, fans said.
His motto: “Hear Blues. Drink Booze. Talk Loud. You’re Among Friends.”
Offering blues seven nights a week, his club has remained a destination for both tourists and townies, most recently being named the Chicago Reader’s 2016 Best Blues Club, the Chicago Music Awards 2016 Most Popular Blues Club and the 2016 Torch Bearer of Blues in Chicago awards.