Kelly Leonard, "Chicago Live!" co-executive producer and Second City executive vice president, reflects on his memories of Chicago's golden era of entertainment and its influence on "Chicago Live!"
"Chicago Live!" will open its new season Feb. 2 in a brand-new home — Second City's Up Comedy Club. The venue itself is evocative of a golden era in Chicago entertainment, when clubs like Mister Kelly's and the Cloister Inn hosted cutting edge comics, young jazz greats and the audience members seemed as cool as the acts on stage.
I am too young to have experienced those venues first hand, but I had a handful of live recordings from those clubs — Anita O'Day, Mort Sahl and Dave Brubeck — that I "borrowed" from Dad's office when he held down the midday radio shift at WGN Radio years ago. Being the son of Roy Leonard had its privileges and one of those was access to an amazing amount of vinyl records. Since his was really the only show on WGN that played any sort of music, the record companies would ship over stacks of LP's every single week. The six Leonard brothers would split up the latest releases — brokering and trading like we were grizzled street merchants. Since I was the youngest, the hottest pop albums were long gone by the time they got to me — but some real gems were still left: great re-issues of jazz greats and lesser-known singer-songwriters or bands just beginning to break.
That was kind of the magic then — being able to grab a piece of history while constantly being introduced to what was brand new. That's also what I love about "Chicago Live!" The show is unabashedly sentimental about Chicago's past and storied legacy. At the same time, every episode features conversation with the Chicagoans who are propelling the city forward through their art or their civic duty or their sheer brilliance.
I hope you can come by the Up Comedy Club in February to help us inaugurate another season of "Chicago Live!"