The Earl of Old Town

1615 N Wells St.

As folk music exploded throughout America during the 1950s and 1960s, The Earl Of Old Town became Chicago’s key venue for local and national artists after Earl J.J. Pionke launched it in 1966. Pionke, who was born in the neighborhood, opened the club originally as a bar in 1962 with its only music coming from a record player. But four years later he bought out his two business partners and established the plain room as a haven for live folk music. The Earl also benefitted from radio station WFMT’s continued support. John Prine, Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc, Fred Holstein, Terry Callier and Michael Smith were some of this city’s stars who crafted their sound at this venue. Visitors like John Denver, Odetta and Kris Kristofferson made this venue their Chicago touring stop. The Earl Of Old Town closed in 1984 but its spirit lives through the artistry of the many singers and songwriters who Pionke embraced.


– A.C. 


Caption: Former location of the Earl of Old Town. 


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