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Democrats Get a Taste of Late-Night Blues Scene

August 28, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ Each night, after the Democratic convention hall empties, the clubs fill up. A taste of the blues, after all, is as much a part of Chicago as a taste of Polish sausage.

``This is something I wanted to do before I went back to Arkansas,″ said Mary Anne Salmon, who runs Clinton’s campaign in the president’s home state. ``I’m a big blues fan.″

For others at a private party that slipped into this morning at Blue Chicago, the story was the same. The blues, offered Carl Weathers, a labor representative from Washington D.C., ``They never let me down.″

From the southern edge of downtown to the touristy River North district, delegates and other conventioneers sipped drinks, swapped stories and swayed to the music in the city that electrified the Mississippi Delta sound. Acoustics gave way to amplified guitar in this lakeside burg that boosted the careers of blues giants Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters.

``This is all right,″ said Anthony Blok, who works for the government of Aruba. ``I’ve been going out a lot,″ he added. ``And staying late.″

While most politicians merely listened, at the popular Buddy Guy’s Legends spot downtown, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson sang ``Stray Dog Strut,″ hoping to promote his group of moderate ``Blue Dog Democrats.″

Fellow Blue Dog, Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee, swung to the sound Tuesday night. ``I enjoy it, but I have a tin ear,″ he admitted.

Among the more inveterate club hoppers has been first brother Roger Clinton. ``I’ve been a performer and singer for 24 years,″ he said, ``but it’s always the political stuff″ that brings him recognition.

At nightspots across the city he’s been a kind of phantom presence, seemingly always one or two steps ahead of the current crowd.

``I heard Roger Clinton sang with the band a little earlier,″ one club goer said at Blue Chicago. Delegates in the convention hall were overheard comparing notes, saying they knew someone who had spotted the president’s brother riffing a mean guitar on the Navy Pier on Sunday night.

Sitting front row center at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night, Roger Clinton told reporters he was performing at clubs all week long. Among the gigs: the George magazine party hosted by its founder, John F. Kennedy Jr.

``I gotta see John-John,″ Clinton said. ``Rog-Rog and John-John.″

As the crowd filtered in to Blue Chicago from the United Center convention site, Maurice John Vaughn and his band picked up the pace. Ties were loosened, beers disappeared and politics gave way to classic blues. A swinging ``Kansas City″ opened the set.

``I might take a plane. I might take a train. But if I have to walk I’m going to get there just the same,″ the song promises.

``I’m going to Kansas City. Kansas City, here I come.″

At tiny tables scattered around the bar, heads bobbed above crisp white shirts and evening dresses, even as President Clinton chugged toward Chicago aboard his ``21st Century Express.″

Convention City, here he comes.

``It’s a hell of a town,″ said Woody Bassett of Fayetteville, Ark.

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