Aragon Ballroom (Chicago)
Exterior of venue (c.2018)
|Former names||Aragon Ballroom (1926-66; 1968-2014)|
Cheetah Club (1966-68)
Aragon Entertainment Center (2014-19)
|Address||1106 W Lawrence Ave|
Chicago, IL 60640-5026
|Opened||July 15, 1926|
|Construction cost||$2 million|
($29.2 million in 2019 dollars)
|Builder||Plotke & Grosby|
Construction was completed in 1926. The Aragon was designed in the Moorish architectural style, with the interior resembling a Spanish village. Named for a region of Spain, the Aragon was an immediate success and remained a popular Chicago attraction throughout the 1940s. The Aragon's proximity to the Chicago 'L' (elevated railway) train provided patrons with easy access, and often crowds in excess of 18,000 would attend during each six-day business week. Each night, powerhouse radio station WGN broadcast an hour-long program from the hall to audiences throughout the Midwestern United States and Canada.
The ceiling looked like the sky, the clouds moved across the stars.
A fire at an adjacent cocktail lounge in 1958 forced the Aragon to close for several months. After the reopening, crowds declined significantly, to the point that regular dancing ended in 1964. A succession of new owners used the Aragon as a roller skating rink, a boxing venue, and a discothèque, (the Cheetah, a spin-off of the New York disco) among other uses. There were also occasional efforts to revive it as a traditional ballroom.
The Aragon hosted nearly all of the top names of the big band era. During the 1970s, the Aragon was home to so-called "monster rock" shows; which were marathons of rock and roll acts often lasting six hours or more. The shows gained a reputation for attracting a tough crowd, leading to the nickname, "the Aragon Brawlroom."
In 1973, Latin promoters Willy Miranda and Jose Palomar, who had promoted Hispanic dances and concerts in Chicago for years, became owners of the Aragon. They soon teamed up with rock promoters Arny Granat and Jerry Mickelson (owners of Chicago-based Jam Productions, which by 2017 claimed to be the "largest independent producer of live entertainment in the United States"), who used the hall for their rock concerts.
World championship boxing made its way to the Aragon Ballroom on December 15, 1982, when the World Boxing Association's world Cruiserweight champion, Puerto Rican Ossie Ocasio successfully defended his title by beating challenger Eddie Taylor by a 15 rounds decision.
In the late 1990s, Luis Rossi (former owner of La Raza newspaper), Ivan Fernandez, and Mercedes Fernandez purchased the Aragon. In September 2014, Mercedes Fernandez sold all her interests in the Aragon. Under the name "Aragon Entertainment Center", the hall continued to host a variety of Spanish language and Vietnamese language shows as well as English language rock concerts. It still hosts occasional boxing events.
In 2015, the theatre was used in the filming of Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, doubling as the theatre where Thomas (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Martha Wayne (Lauren Cohan) get shot. The sign for the venue and the marquee was temporarily reconstructed, and removed once the filming had been completed.
The Aragon has hosted the following Chicago bands: In 1968, it had Shadows of Knight. In 1969, it separately hosted Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, The Buckinghams, and The Five Stairsteps. In 1973, it hosted Muddy Waters, in 1975 it had Styx, and in 1976 it had REO Speedwagon (from Champaign). In 1978 Van Halen kicked off their first World Tour here. In 1979 it hosted the Clash, Bo Diddley and the Undertones (on the same bill)! In 1982 it hosted the Jam and the Professionals, then—over two consecutive nights -- the Clash, the Elvis Brothers and Defunkt. In 1983, it had Cheap Trick (from Rockford), and in 1984 it had Ministry. In 1997, it had Smashing Pumpkins and Local H (from Zion) separately. In 2004 it had Chevelle. In 2005 it had Twista with Ludacris (raised in IL), (and separately) Fall Out Boy (from Wilmette), Plain White T's (from DuPage County), Disturbed (from the Southwest Side), and Wilco. In 2007, it had OK Go. In 2009, it had jam band Umphrey's McGee (from South Bend). In 2011, it had Rise Against, and in 2013 had Alkaline Trio. Rapper Lupe Fiasco performed there in 2013. In 2013, it had EDM group Krewella (from Northbrook), and DJ Kaskade (also from Northbrook) in 2017. In 2015, K. Flay (from Wilmette) performed there. It's hosted the following bands from Wisconsin: Steve Miller Band in 1969, BoDeans in 1994, and Garbage in 1998. Tommy James & the Shondells from Niles, MI played there in 1968.
The 2009 Deluxe Edition of R.E.M.'s Reckoning album includes a live concert taped at the Aragon Ballroom on July 7, 1984, and broadcast on WXRT in Chicago.
On October 23, 1993 grunge band Nirvana played The Aragon for their final show in Chicago. They played the song "You Know You're Right" which was recorded and bootlegged for 9 years until they decided to release the studio version on October 8, 2002
On August 22, 1995, a Soul Asylum concert was recorded at the Aragon for the Album Network and two songs were released on the "Promises Broken" CD single.
- 1925 Article about Aragon Ballroom, Chicago Daily Tribune
- 1925 Article about Aragon Ballroom, Chicago Evening American
- Hear Dick Jurgens perform live from the Aragon Ballroom in December 1950
- Animated History of the Uptown Chicago Entertainment District
- Aragon Ballroom History-Jazz Age Chicago
- Obama Celebrates Birthday in Chicago
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
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- Chicago Cheetah Club Opener. Jet. 3 November 1966. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- Behrens, Jack (2006). Big Bands and Great Ballrooms: America is Dancing Again. AuthorHouse. p. 204. ISBN 978-1425969776. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- Connors, Joe (April 17, 2017). "INTERVIEW: Jerry Mickelson – founder of Jam Productions". Chicago Music Magazine. Archived from the original on September 18, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
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- "Who We Are..." Jam Productions. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
- "Ossie Ocasio vs. Young Joe Louis". boxrec.com. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
- "Proof Batman v Superman Will Kill Off Bruce Wayne's Parents". www.cinemablend.com. November 12, 2014. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
- "Aragon Ballroom Sign Returns to Dilapidated Look After 'Batman' Makeover". DNAinfo Chicago. Archived from the original on 2016-05-08. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "What's On". Aragon Ballroom: An Independent Guide. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
- "Aragon Ballroom". Live Nation. Retrieved 2016-09-18.