Self-described vinyl junkie and Roosevelt High School alum Mike Wolstein sent in this absolute gem. Released by Chess Records in 1958, Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” topped the charts and was listed as #272 on the Rolling Stone list of the greatest songs of all time.
It took a while, but Mike tracked down which Chicago public school was memorialized in rock and roll history:
The cover of this 1958 Chuck Berry EP (extended play – a 7″ record having 4 songs) depicts a couple walking up the steps of a high school. When I first saw the cover, back in 1976, it looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. It was definitely a Chicago school, due to the old English script above the doorway.
Well, about 15 years later I got in my car and drove all over the north side, trying to locate this school. After 100 miles and about 20 schools, I gave up. Then, I realized I’d missed one school — one I had actually attended!
I hopped back into the car and drove over to Von Steuben. Lo and behold, that picture was taken at the very spot where I’d sit every morning at 8AM waiting for the bell to ring! (I attended Junior High there when Hibbard became overcrowded).
Chess Records was located at 2120 South Michigan Avenue at the time of the recording. The company was of course owned by Leonard and Phil Chess, who were Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Chess brothers attended South Side public schools, so why did they put a photograph taken at Von Steuben High School on the cover? Does anyone know the story or recognize the couple in the photo?
Mike also sent in two photos taken in Albany Park during the Big Snow. Let’s hope we don’t see this again anytime soon.
The photo above shows Lawrence Avenue looking east from St. Louis. The second photo was taken south on Bernard from Lawrence, and that is Roosevelt High School at the far end of the street.
Acknowledgment: Thanks to Mike Wolstein for sharing his discovery of the photo of Von Steuben High School on the Chuck Berry record cover. His contribution to this blog proves, once again, that if you dig deep enough into the history of Albany Park and North Park, eventually you’ll learn everything about Chicago.
UPDATE! Thanks to reader Alan Raffel for writing in about Leonard Chess’s connection to Albany Park. You can read Alan’s comment below.
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