Double Shift: Chapter 1: PAYCHECK BLUES 

WHAT It's ABOUT : Aided by mentors and spirits, an orphaned young bluesman comes of age in 1970s Chicago.

AUTHOR NOTE:  The Black history of Chicago’s West Side is real; this story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. But if you see yourself as a human being in here anywhere, it means this writer has done her job,


1  Double Shift:  A Short Revolutionary Blues Story By “Barrelhouse” Bonni McKeown : Chicago IL March 2020 

“Double shift?” Discontent…

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Double Shift: Chapter 2: ILLINOIS CENTRAL and BUS 20 

2  Double Shift: A Short Blues Story by Bonni McKeown


Marcus crammed the shorted paycheck into his pocket as Friday’s five o’clock whistle sent the Midwest Barrel workers out into the street. By the gate stood Lenny, inhaling a cigarette. Maybe the weasel had been right. “What’d I do to deserve this?” 

“What you did,” drawled Lenny, “was be born poor and black. “Midwest Barrel looks for people that fit our description.” 

“Why’s that?” Marcus asked. Lenny watched him pull his jacket sleeves over his long…

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Double Shift: Chapter 3: ALL OUR LEADERS 

3   Double Shift: A Short Blues Story by Bonni McKeown


Around eight, after the street lights came on, Marcus walked the few blocks to the address Lenny gave him. The place was dark. Around the back, he bypassed the wooden fire escape and found an unlocked side door. He climbed a narrow stairway, stepping not too quiet, not too loud.  At the top, he sucked in his breath and knocked on a cracked door. 

A muffled voice: “Who sent you?” 

“Lenny sent me.” 

“Oh.” Low gruff voice; bolts slide open. “Someone here…

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Double Shift, Chapter 4: JAILHOUSE BLUES 

4. Double Shift: A Short Blues Story by Bonni McKeown

The paddy wagon rolled up at Twenty-sixth Street and California Avenue—the Cook County Jail, a concrete building topped with cyclone wire, containing several thousand miserable people. A squadron of cops led the handcuffed West Side drug packers from the paddy wagon through the steel gates and down a concrete block labyrinth.  

In a holding cell, the captive crew sat staring at each other, shivering in their underwear, afraid to speak. When morning…

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Double Shift, Chapter 5: PUSHUPS, DRUMS and GUITARS 

5. Double Shift: A Short Blues Story by Bonni McKeown


During Marcus’s first week in the pen, he wound up in the hole, in solitary confinement. The guy serving soup in the chow line dipped him out only half a bowl and sneered when Marcus asked him to fill it. Marcus hurled his half-filled bowl to the floor. The resounding splatter brought in the guards, swarming like flies.  

In the hole, food was more plentiful and worse tasting. It came in gray trays shoved through a slit under the door. Lack of human…

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Double Shift: Chapter 6: DUKES in TRAINING 

6  Double Shift: A Short Blues Story  by Bonni McKeown

As the budding band's first rehearsal got underway in Everley Prison's music room, Marcus found Streeter bopping out a thick beat on the bass drum, awkwardly tilting the sticks to manage stray hits on the tomtoms and rat-a-tats on the snare drum.  His drumming sounded like the clatter of dirty silverware at the end of chow hour. 

“Get off them drums, Streeter,” Richie hollered. “That ain’t your thing! Why don’t you get the mic to work so’s I can do some…

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Double Shift: Chapter 7: SHOWTIME 

7  Double Shift: A Short Blues Story  by Bonni McKeown

The day of the Everley Soul Brothers concert, the staff moved the exercise cages to one side of the stockade and set up folding chairs in the prison yard. Mr. Blackwell kept glancing at the front row, where the warden sat with his suited entourage of deputies and department heads. The yard felt almost like an outdoor arena—except for the guards standing in each of the gun towers, bearing sniper rifles.  Inmates in drab blue filed into the yard and sat…

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My Austin Weekly News Blog "West Side Blues" 

Local neighborhood papers these days are rare, but since I've had the privilege of writing a blog and news articles for the Austin Weekly News. Mainly I write about  people, arts and culture of the West Side of Chicago.  Austin is located on the far west of the West Side.  It turned very quickly from a white working class area into a Black neighborhood in 1970, right as the Great Migration era was ending and jobs were beginning to leave the city.  People here have survived in a slow economy ever since. The…

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Chicago still isn't promoting blues on West and South Side 

Three years ago in 2017, I spearheaded, with West Side  travel agent Crystal Dyer, a series of community talks on West Side blues and culture.

This was after a Crain's Business article showed the city is losing millions for failure to promote its local music.

In 2020, Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched "Year of Chicago Music" and spent thousands of dollars on a cute logo, "Music in the Key of Chicago."  The program was set to highlight 18 days of downtown festivals of various genres, which arenow in question due…

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The New Normal. Time for some Rhythm 'n' Rage! 

The New Normal



The fraying of nerves

as democracy crumbles--

“The new normal.” “Get used to it.”

Work til you’re 85, chained and indexed,

Minimal wages.


Get used to schools that teach nothing

but how to stand in line.

Get used to poison rivers

Smelling like licorice.

Get used to city hall

abandoning neighborhoods

to build stadiums 

Roman circuses. No bread involved. 

Get used to Daddy Mega Warbucks

sucking in tax dollars,

exhaling fire: bombs and drones;

Get used to Big Brother

perching on your…

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